Rhetorics and Technologies: New Directions in Writing and Communication

Rhetorics and Technologies: New Directions in Writing and Communication

Rhetorics and Technologies: New Directions in Writing and Communication

Rhetorics and Technologies: New Directions in Writing and Communication


Recognizing an increasingly technological context for rhetorical activity, the thirteen contributors to this volume illuminate the challenges and opportunities inherent in successfully navigating intersections between rhetoric and technology in existing and emergent literacy practices. Edited by Stuart A. Selber, Rhetorics and Technologies positions technology as an inevitable aspect of the rhetorical situation and as a potent force in writing and communication activities.Taking a broad approach, this volume is not limited to discussion of particular technological systems (such as new media or wikis) or rhetorical contexts (such as invention or ethics). The essays instead offer a comprehensive treatment of the rhetoric-technology nexus. The book's first section considers the ways in which the social and material realities of using technology to support writing and communication activities have altered the borders and boundaries of rhetorical studies. The second section explores the discourse practices employed by users, designers, and scholars of technology when communicating in technological contexts. In the final section, projects and endeavors that illuminate the ways in which discourse activities can evolve to reflect emerging sociopolitical realties, technologies, and educational issues are examined. The resulting text bridges past and future by offering new understandings of traditional canons of rhetoric--invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery--as they present themselves in technological contexts without discarding the rich history of the field before the advent of these technological innovations.


Carolyn R. Miller

In his recent book, Saving Persuasion, Bryan Garsten observes that there are two “forms of corruption” to which rhetoric is susceptible. These “twin dangers” stem from the very nature of persuasion, “which consists partly in ruling and partly in following” (2). In seeking to influence the beliefs, feelings, and attitudes of others, we may try too hard to rule, that is, to manipulate others for our own purposes. Or we may try too hard to gain their goodwill and assent, that is, to follow them by pandering to their presumptions and prejudices. In either case, truth and justice, cooperation and disclosure, will suffer.

This dilemma has the same structure as the push–pull model of technological development. In this model, technological change has two possible causes, supply and demand: it can be “pushed” along by the supply of discoveries and developments internal to technology itself (or derived from science), or it can be “pulled” by external forces, primarily market demand. Given the widely accepted premise that technological change promotes economic growth, one question that exercises economists and policy analysts is which of the two causes of change is more important and which factors government policy should target in order to promote economic growth, those that influence supply or those that influence demand.

Technology, like rhetoric, can both push and pull at us. Not only do “artifacts have politics,” as Langdon Winner has claimed, they also have rhetorics. Technology pushes or manipulates us by requiring us to do certain things and in certain ways; our communication technologies, highlighted in this collection, push us to send SMS messages with no more than 160 characters or to access a point on a scroll or a magnetic tape linearly, in one direction; a library card catalog (remember those?) requires us to seek information using one search strategy at a time. A technology pulls from us, or panders to us, by reconfirming and . . .

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