Digital Rhetoric

Digital rhetoric, as Eyman remarks, is something that we’ve all been doing without really stopping to identify what it means. It’s interesting to see how he attempts to build a definition after the fact, and how the more he tries to define it, the more he realizes it is actually a compilation of multimodal works that is constantly shifting and that can apply to an immense variety of works. He has still, nonetheless, been successful at creating a foundation for the structure of digital rhetoric, and has caused me to think a little more on what digital rhetoric actually applies to. Is it any medium other than writing that tries to do the same thing as writing? Would you classify web-based advertisements under this banner of digital rhetoric?

Hicks’ interview with his daughters follows this idea, and illustrates it in a much more real life application. When asking the generation that has grown up with digital technology, effectively engaging in digital rhetoric everyday, they have a very fuzzy, broad, vague idea of what it means. Is digital rhetoric too academic? Will this term eventually shift into some type of layman’s term, popularized on the street? When his daughters are probed further and asked to expand, they are actually quite detailed in how digital rhetoric applies to their everyday lives, so the concept exists, but maybe not the terminology.

Jonathan Alexander’s blog is a further exploration into the norms and boundaries of this new mode of publishing. He uses the example of a teen who committed suicide after his sexual relationship with another male was published online by his roommate. In words and paper, we hardly slander people in the ways that this video did. It seems we have come to unspoken rules in literature that are being bent and broken by those using the digital world as a medium, to the fatal effects of certain victims involved. So how do we balance the act of free expression and protection? Anything is fair game now, news is 24/7 and definitely not local, we are privy to information, but is there such a thing as too much information?

Liz Losh’s piece has me wondering an interesting question. If we can only define things after having experienced it, how do we know that the definition is correct? Or even that it’s still relevant? What if by the time we define something, the experience has already shifted and our definition is obsolete? Especially with something such as the digital interface, that changes with the click of a button or the uploading of a picture, the same landscape is hardly the same after a few hours. As I’m going through these blogs, they are all providing frameworks to somehow understand this new term, some structure to confine it. But what if we built into its definition, the very change and flexibility that it stands for?


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