Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Remediated Arguments

In Douglas’ “Rhetoric for the Meritocracy: The Creation of Composition at Harvard” he brings to light several arguments that I think echo in today’s digital age. For example, Douglas notes that Channing’s major “revision of rhetoric” involves the orator’s relationship with his audience (116). The awareness of this relationship, which at the time was in reference to print media, is now even further complicated by the Internet. Clay Shirkey notes in Here Comes Everybody that the line between author and audience is blurring thanks to co-authoring Websites like Wikipedia. Furthermore, Eliot expresses concern over the common men leaping from “farm or shop to courtroom” (126). Likewise, the Internet provides a space for current-day common men to present themselves as authorities on the Web. Eliot’s response to this “leaping” is increasing professionalism, but not for everyone—just the "gentlemanly" (127). During this time print could have been a democratizing force, as the Internet is (or is suppose to be). Yet, there are questions of access—access to education or discourse instead of technology. I think these are interesting parallels between media, and I have to wonder what impact these parallels have on the rhetoric we use for them. Or, what does it say about rhetoric surrounding a “new” medium/technology, if these same arguments surface each time?


  1. In Monday night's classical rhetoric class, we briefly discussed a similar concept as we went over Susan Jarratt's "The Role of the Sophists in Histories of the Consciousness." The purpose of reading Jarratt was to consider the relationship between cognition and literacy. This led us to discuss how the change in medium (i.e., the shift from print to Internet) has changed the way younger students, specifically those who have not yet entered college view digital literacies in a much different way than those who grew up in a more print-based world.

    I mentioned on Monday night that I wrote my M.A. thesis on related topic, and through that research I found that author Marc Prensky has written in prolific detail about what he labels "digital natives" (i.e., those Prensky places within the generation that came after the switch in medium). However, much of the criticism Prensky has received is due to the assumptions and exaggerations that he makes regarding the "digital natives." I should also say that his "digital native" work is not based on any empirical research at all. In other words, he has no justification for some of his major claims, like "digital natives" think differently than their teachers, which is why they are not doing well in school or are not paying attention.... I'm sure you have heard a similar argument.

    I'm not going to tell you about my whole thesis here. I'm sure you wouldn't want me to, but basically what I am trying to say is that I agree, it is important to consider how a new medium affects rhetoric, and I would also throw literacy in there as well. Making basic assumptions like Prensky is not going to help us pedagogically, and won't help our students either.

  2. Thinking about the relationship between audience and rhetor when writing for the Internet audience is interesting because it expands my conception of audience greatly. Granted, many Internet sources are written for a specific audience as well, as many smaller blogs and websites are not read by "the whole Internet," if that were possible.

    t brings me back to something I heard years ago when an actor said, "I finished the Internet" as a joke. It isn't possible, yet that so expands what I think of as possible concerning rhetoric on the web. There definitely are issues of access; while much of the world can access the web easily, others cannot, and it makes me look forward to the future and consider what access will look like 10, 15, 20, 30 years from now and how the web will have changed by then.