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Delivery: Contemporary Composition Studies – In this section, we survey a few occurrences of how rhetorical delivery is discussed by different scholars in rhetoric and composition studies. Obviously, the need to rethink delivery is felt not only in rhetoric and composition studies (although, we would argue, our field has been most attentive in reconsidering delivery in light of changing technologies and shifting trends, especially technological trends). Jeff Rice (2003; 2006) has reminded us that folks like Walter Ong and Marshall McLuhan, for instance, were reconceiving delivery in the 1960s. In The Medium is the Massage (1967), for instance, McLuhan and his collaborator, graphic artist Quentin Fiore, explored electronic delivery systems. They opened the text with this comment: “The medium, or process, of our time—electric technology—is reshaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence and every aspect of our personal life… Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication” (p. 8). The Medium is the Massage is part textbook, part manifesto, and part guidebook for media students and scholars in a changing world. It is thick with grand claims (e.g., “‘Time’ has ceased, ‘space’ has vanished” (p. 63)) and compelling, provocative graphical content (e.g., a photograph from the interior of a car where we sit in the driver’s seat racing through a tunnel, with a cut-out of a horse and buggy in the rear-view mirror).
Two of the perhaps most compelling claims made in the text were “Our official culture is striving to force the new media to do the work of the old” (repeated throughout the text) and “electric technology fosters and encourages unification and involvement” (p. 8). McLuhan’s work deserves much, much more than this brief mention here. We certainly don’t want to dismiss the importance of McLuhan’s work, and we want to pause—as many others have done—to assert the ways in which McLuhan’s work resonates so loudly and profoundly today, almost a half-century after the publication of his work. (For readers who want to follow this particular path, we suggest, specifically, Rice's work, especially his 2003 “Writing about Cool,” where he describes digital writing in the context of hypertext, juxtaposition, and cool, and his 2006 “The Making of Ka-Knowledge, ” where Rice extends the work of Ong and McLuhan in terms of sound and the nature of knowledge.)
In what follows, we attend not to the work of McLuhan or other communications scholars but instead present a review of work anchored to composition studies, because we think it is necessary to base our understanding of rhetorical delivery on existing field conversations, specifically those that make use of the term. We do not focus on conversations of medium theory, which, although extremely relevant to rhetorical delivery, we view as historically distinct within our discipline from conversations of classical rhetorical delivery. As is clear from the dates on these recent field conversations in rhetorical delivery, a flurry of scholarship over the past 20 years has re-evaluated delivery in light of radical changes to modes of production, delivery, and distribution. Within the context of these changes to the means of distribution, field conversations in rhetoric and composition have surfaced that specifically ask how classical rhetorical concepts such as delivery are impacted by changes to the means of distribution.
We are interested in expanding considerations of rhetorical delivery to include complex elements of strategy, and are interested in introducing one specific concept in light of some of these changes, rhetorical velocity, which we will discuss in a following section. For now, we review how recent field conversations in rhetorical delivery discuss changes in the means of distribution. One early discussion occurred in 1993, where Sheri Helsley wrote:
Rhetorical delivery is enormously important in an electronic age. Word processing and desktop publishing, for example, are now readily available to student writers, and classical rhetoric prompts us to address the use and adaptation of these powerful post-typewriter presentation technologies. When we interpret delivery as presentation or secondary orality, we do important things for ourselves and our students. We restore the recursiveness and synthesis originally envisioned in the interaction of the five rhetorical canons. We move into important discussions of inevitable technologies and new structures of consciousness in the electronic age. We expose our students to the power of presentation in both encoding and decoding—an issue that has been largely ignored in contemporary education. (p. 158)
Helsley was one of the first to make the argument that the canon of rhetorical delivery would become increasingly important in the digital age. In addition, she also noted how considerations of delivery in composition education are critical to the writing classroom. With a broader, more corporeal sense of concern, Virginia Skinner-Linnenberg’s 1997 book Dramatizing Writing: Reincorporating Delivery Into the Classroom also echoed these concerns.
Skinner-Linnenberg’s book is an important work for delivery studies because it provides the field with the most comprehensive historical survey of rhetorical delivery to date. Additionally, her book develops a rich understanding of how rhetorical delivery can be theorized as corporeal, bringing a host of new concerns to the writing classroom. Skinner-Linnenberg noted that in “dramatizing writing, students employ both their physicality and their noetic processes, whether they are the writers or the audience” (p. 109), and theorized extensively how teachers might make the composition classroom a more oral, physical, corporeal environment to study, write, and deliver: “Delivery in the classroom through dramatizing writing aids students to use their bodies and minds in their writing. With delivery, students can, with the help of others, study themselves, hear themselves, and see themselves as users of language” (p. 111). Theorizing that the dramaturgical elements of delivery—elements she reads as once existing in classical rhetoric—have been lost to the contemporary classroom, she challenged the field to consider “where does ethos fit into dramatizing writing?” (p. 110). In this sense, Skinner-Linnenberg is early in asking—rather, returning to—Aristotle’s question about the ethics of rhetorical delivery.
Kathleen Welch (1999) also participates in this conversation in her Electric Rhetoric: Classical Rhetoric, Oralism, and a New Literacy. Welch argued that there is an even greater political imperative to delivery at the end of the 20th century:
It is crucial to an understanding of Western literacy at the newly electrified turn of the millennium to recognize that the disappearance of memory and delivery is not a benign removal. Rather, it is part of a larger movement in the United States to pablumize the humanities in general, and to vitate writing in particular, by behaving (especially in our educational institutions) as if it were a mere skill, craft, or useful tool. The colonizing of memory and delivery reproduces the form/content binary that drives the movement to regulate writing to skills and drills and perpetuates the status quo of racism and sexism. (pp. 144–145)
For Welch, there is a clear political imperative for the teaching of memory and delivery, because she implies that to not do so is to debilitate the efficacy of the writer. According to Welch, “The elimination of memory and delivery in the majority of student writing textbooks constitutes the removal of student-written language from the larger public arena” (p. 145). This concern for delivery and student-written language is also picked up by John Trimbur (2000) in “Composition and the Circulation of Writing.”
Trimbur advanced that “neglecting delivery has led writing teachers to equate the activity of composing with writing itself and to miss altogether the complex delivery systems through which writing circulates” (pp. 189–190). He adopts a Marxist approach to delivery, one that equates rhetorical delivery with Marx’s notion of circulation because
delivery can no longer be thought of simply as a technical aspect of public discourse. It must be seen also as ethical and political—a democratic aspiration to devise delivery systems that circulate ideas, information, opinions and knowledge and thereby expand the public forums in which people deliberate on the issues of the day. (p. 190)
Additionally, Trimbur argued that the “isolation of writing from the material conditions of production and delivery” should be a concern for compositionists (p. 189). In this sense, both Trimbur and Welch see a call to delivery as a necessity at a similar technological and political moment. Trimbur’s analysis of the material circulation of delivery is that
students’ sense of what constitutes the production of writing by tracing its circulation in order to raise questions about how professional expertise is articulated to the social formation, how it undergoes rhetorical transformations (or “passages of form”), and how it might produce not only individual careers but also socially useful knowledge. (p. 214)
Across the work of Skinner-Linnenberg, Welch, and Trimbur, there is a consistent thread of technological changes alongside a re-examination of delivery in the wake of its movement into the realm of the electric. A more recent piece of scholarship by Dànielle Nicole DeVoss and James Porter (2006) acutely addresses issues of ethics, file sharing, and delivery. In “Why Napster Matters to Writing,” the authors called attention to changes in the means of distribution: “The new digital ethic is characterized by drastic changes in delivery, and reminds us of the power of delivery” (p. 36). DeVoss and Porter argue that a change in the infrastructure and systems of cultural delivery and distribution is affecting students’ attitudes toward the composition and delivery of writing.
DeVoss and Porter supplement their discussion of electronic delivery with a heuristic of what might constitute a rubric for considering digital delivery and distribution. They make use of the Napster controversy as an example to argue for an “expanded notion of delivery, one that embraces the politics and economics of publishing: the politics of technology development as they impact production and distribution; the politics of information” (DeVoss & Porter, p. 25) in an ever-unfolding and ever-present digital landscape. In addition, their article provided a highly useful list of criteria to help composition scholars think about digital delivery and contemporary theories of delivery:
The choice of tools for production and the choice of medium for distribution—a.k.a, publishing practices—that is, the technical and human methods of production, reproduction, and distribution of digital “information” (broadly understood to include audio and video, as well as graphic and textual data);
Knowledge of the systems which govern, constrain, and promote publishing practices—including public policy, copyright laws and other legislation, technology design and development, publishing conventions and economic models (both micro and macro);
Awareness of the ethical and political issues that impact publishing practices—that is, who decides? What policies best serve the interests of society? What constitutes “digital fair use”? How should content producers be credited for their work? (DeVoss & Porter, p. 26)
“Why Napster Matters” indirectly expands on Trimbur’s discussion of delivery, with a call for economic analysis synonymous with Trimbur’s discussion. Further, both works of scholarship bring attention to a base-motivating factor for the movement of rhetoric, one that has hitherto not been included in 2,000 years of scholarship on rhetorical delivery.
Recent work by Doug Eyman (2007) in Digital Rhetoric: Ecologies and Economies of Circulation also examines methodological considerations for doing rhetorical research. In his recent dissertation, he sought to examine how “the interactions of texts and contexts can yield a more comprehensive picture of interaction than the traditional approach of rhetorical invention, composition, and delivery; it can also provide a map of the relationships between work and activity that are often hidden because we simply don't have the means to uncover them” (pp. 8–9). Eyman provides a wealth of methodological approaches for scholars interested in studying the overall circulation of a composition, from conference proposals, seminar papers, web texts, and more.
Nancy Welch (2005) raises a concern similar to Eyman’s for both delivery and economics. In “Living Room Rhetoric: Teaching Writing in a Post-Publicity Era,” Welch discusses a seminar she taught while the second U.S.-Iraqi war began in the spring of 2003. Her article covered issues of audience, circulation, and delivery, specifically how these concepts “add to the growing body of work that has the potential to reorient us from regarding rhetoric as a specialized techne—the property of a small economic and political elite—to understanding and teaching rhetoric as a mass, popular art” (p. 474).
Her work provides an account of Katie, a student activist involved in the composition and delivery of writing in opposition to the approaching war. Welch noted that a central compositional consideration for Katie was how she might circulate her work: “I want these poems to be out there, not just in a chapbook where my friends will read them and say, “Oh, Katie wrote a poem. Isn’t that nice” (p. 472). This concern echoed Trimbur’s call to see delivery as “inseparable from the circulation of writing and the widening diffusion of socially useful knowledge” (p. 191). Welch discusses how public spaces for sharing, posting, and hosting information (e.g., parks, telephone poles) have been locked down to prohibit communication and maintain a tidy public face. She advocates that rhetorical education should include a greater exposure to the rhetoric of mass struggle, because it offers the opportunity to learn about strategies of action. But perhaps most interesting is how her student, Katie, revisits her strategy of rhetorical delivery and distribution. By the end of the article, Katie decided that the poem needed to be hand-delivered, and this form of delivery seemed better suited for her writing and the occasion than her initial strategy of tacking the poem on telephone poles or utility boxes.
Similar to the approaches advocated by Skinner-Linnenberg, Nancy Welch lists a number of additional corporeal concerns dealing primarily with the legal status and physical safety of the rhetor involved in public acts of rhetorical delivery. According to Welch, “as students and teachers ponder in the fullest way possible the rhetorical canon of delivery, there might even be (as one student suggested at the end of the women’s studies seminar) training in civil disobedience or at the very least a guest lecturer from the ACLU” (Welch, p. 478). The list and example Welch offers provides rhetoric and composition studies with a fine theoretical synthesis of both the corporeal and the growing focus on emerging concerns for delivery, place, and location.
In the next section we would like to add to the several areas of rhetorical theory dealing with delivery (the corporeal, the legal, the composition classroom, the digital) and introduce a conversation involving the anticipation of remixing, or the strategic composing for future acts of recomposition as part of a rhetorical objective or series of objectives. We introduce this concept first as a conceptual tool useful for thinking about complex strategies of rhetorical delivery, and later as one practical for classroom discussions (an analytic) focused on the recomposition of writing as part of what Daniel Kimmage and Kathleen Ridolfo (2007) call “the amplification effect.” We see this concept of rhetorical velocity as adding to the growing body of literature focused around rethinking rhetorical delivery within rhetoric and composition studies.