How Tos & Digital Rhetoric

I have a midterm today on the communication revolutions–from the telegraph to the telephone, radio to the Internet so it seems only fitting that today’s blog post would be on digital rhetoric. As communicative technologies evolve, so does digital rhetoric. The Internet, though we think of it as indistinguishable from digital rhetoric, may also become antiquated like other forms of digital rhetoric. As a communicative technology, though, the Internet has completely changed the way we think about digital rhetoric and has opened the playing field for a variety of examples.

The form of digital rhetoric I’ve been most interested in lately are “How-To” videos by vloggers on YouTube. The one below is a “Working From Home” video, featuring tips on how to stay organized and motivated when you’re in a familiar/comfortable space such as your home.

The majority of the video features Ingrid Nilsen walking through a typical day working from home. She offers insight into how she stays focused–taking naps, keeping unnecessary technology out of reach, and creating to-do lists. The video is quite long at nearly eight minutes, but Ingrid incorporates aural, visual, spatial, linguistic, and gestural modes to keep the viewer engaged. This multimodality is also effective for viewers who prefer to learn visually or orally because, instead of having to choose between the two and missing out on content, Ingrid speaks and shows exactly what she is doing at the same time.

Throughout the video, a pleasant jingle plays while Ingrid is shown cleaning her apartment and typing on her computer. Even while Ingrid explains her day, the music continues. I’ve found that the music makes me stay focused on what she is saying. Though I do not have trouble focusing or doing work at home, I am always interested in hearing how other people organize their time and take small breaks during the day. Many viewers in the comments section state how helpful the video is, and even put out requests for future videos. Thus, the Internet and digital rhetoric have allowed Ingrid to remain in direct contact with her fans.

While it is not present in this video, most vloggers include a CTA (call-to-action) at the end of their videos. It can range from “liking” their video or posting a similar DIY on Instagram and tagging their accounts. While I prefer not to actively engage with How-To videos or post content from videos, many viewers actually do, which shows the pervasiveness of digital rhetoric in Ingrid’s videos.

Making such a basic topic appealing and engaging is difficult, and I think that’s what makes how-to videos successful examples of digital rhetoric.


Caroline Rafferty

Caroline is a Lauren Conrad aficionado with more clothes than sense. Currently suffering with a severe case of wanderlust and wondering why more people don't like jicama, Caroline is an extremely gifted napper who is a Communications major. Between reading "Into The Gloss" and listening to her "rbf" Spotify playlist, Caroline writes about anything that comes to mind. Anything.

3 thoughts to “How Tos & Digital Rhetoric”

  1. Hi Caroline! Your post reminded me of the times I used to look up “How-Tos” to learn popular songs on the piano. When I was younger, I could only play the songs in my piano booklet, and I would get really frustrated. I learned how to play Love Song by Sara Bareilles that way, and I still remember how to play it today. I think it’s interesting that how-to videos are so popular because my first instinct is to read how to do something correctly, but I think more and more people are realizing that watching a how-to video can be easier. I certainly learned that when I was younger.

  2. I wonder how much of this video’s appeal is its style, and the segments that are artistic portrayals of her tips. or even how closely her appeal is related to her presence, popularity, or even personality. Her production quality is incredible.

    Your analysis is perfect, the collaboration of visuals and written and spoken words help keep the audience engaged and able to understand her points even if they deviate from the content for a few seconds. Also her her background is plain and boring and blurred, and makes it easier for people to concentrate. I wonder to what extent viewers become used to her voice, and are unable to pay attention more thoroughly because they are familiar with it. Your CTA statement reminds me of my branding comment today, where selling oneself has a lot to do with the traffic on their page and interaction with her brand in general.

    How are her nails so perfectly manicured? Also, that last sentence made me realize WordPress should really implement an emoji keyboard!

  3. Hey Caroline,

    I love and I hate vloggers. The vlog examples you show here is actually really interesting, and I agree that these types of vides are very helpful. This video is also a great example of using different aspects of digital rhetoric to accomplish a goal in digital media. And you’re right, she makes a boring (but necessary, for any people!) topic very interesting… It’s the type of topic that can be mobilized at any point to become exigent – or really necessary to learn, for the viewer who suddenly has a lot of work, and will be working from home. Do you see yourself using these tips in your idea of a TED talk style video? I think the comparisons here would be very interesting.

Leave a Reply