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.