map :: introduction :: core text :: authors :: what is CHAT? :: references


re-situating and re-mediating the canons:

a cultural-historical remapping of rhetorical activity

a collaborative core text


Paul Prior :: Janine Solberg :: Patrick Berry :: Hannah Bellwoar :: Bill Chewning :: Karen J. Lunsford :: Liz Rohan :: Kevin Roozen :: Mary P. Sheridan-Rabideau :: Jody Shipka :: Derek Van Ittersum :: Joyce Walker

An earlier version of this argument was presented February 6, 2005 by Paul Prior in a plenary talk at the Santa Barbara Conference, Writing Research in the Making.


Delivery problems

Re-mediating and
re-distributing delivery

The rhetorical scene

Take 1: Revising the canons

Society and socialization

Take 2: A cultural-historical remapping of rhetorical activity

Mapping Literate Activity

Using CHAT to form new canons

From the core text to the data nodes


map button


Re-mediating and re-distributing delivery

Like Welch, we propose theorizing delivery, but we are offering a different name to start and a different mix of theoretical lenses. Delivery might be reconceived as mediation. By mediation, we are thinking of Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin's (1999) remediations close to McLuhan (1994), but also of Vygosky's (1987, 1997) cultural-historical approach to mediated activity, and Bruno Latour's (1999) accounts of technical mediation—detours, delegations, and hybrids. Latour, interestingly, begins with another Greek, Daedalus, the crafty engineer.

What mediations, what kinds of detours, might delivery of a text involve? Do we write a text to be read silently, read aloud (as a speech), recorded on a DVD, or performed by various groups of actors on a stage? What typeface do we use? What color? Do we deliver the document on paper, on the screen, or in some other medium? If on paper, by mail or by hand? If by hand, do we do it ourselves or do we have someone else do it? Do we synchronize the delivery with some other event? Or perhaps we deliver it (think espionage; think, like Erving Goffman, 1974, of the stratagems of con artists) by allowing others to find it in another place. Do we need to deliver the text first to an intermediary (editor, publisher, boss) for review to get it out to a public of some size? Or do we want the text to be distributed in encrypted formats to a small select distribution list? Or do we divide up the delivery of the message so that the chances of illicit use are limited? (Think about systems to deliver the authorization codes for nuclear weapons.) As these questions begin to suggest, delivery seems to encompass two related but distinct types of issues: mediation and distribution.

In Jody Shipka's (2005) account of her activity-based, multimodal approach to composition, we see how she invites her students to conceive of their work as engineering rhetorical events, and we glimpse the truly complex means of mediation and distribution the students devise to achieve specific rhetorical effects. Moreover, her work highlights the fact that mediation is not necessarily singular, a choice of "this means or that.” It may involve a distribution of means, a configuration, a dispersion. We may pursue rhetorical goals through a variety of genres, in different media, with different distributions across a series of events and texts.

As an idealized map of rhetorical activity, the canons invite a sequential reading: The rhetor invents, arranges, crafts style, memorizes, and finally delivers. However, as in Burke's (1950) pentad or Jakobson's (1990) model of communication (which offer simultaneous, multifunctional accounts where all of the elements are always co-present though in varying degrees of prominence or relevance), current thinking about the canons (and key elements of historical practice) reject that linear reading. Invention, for example, is widely understood as a process that goes on throughout the entire work (not something done first, then funneled into an arrangement, then enacted in words, then stored in some memory, then delivered). Mediation and distribution are also phenomena that operate at each moment in the process, as the “text” is always being mediated and distributed in some fashion, actually in multiple ways.

In summary, the canon of delivery does not focus attention on the possible rhetorical configurations of distribution, mode, and other mediations. It does not alert us to take a broader view of the rhetorical landscape, to the possibility of rhetorical campaigns. Nor does it feed back easily into a recognition of the arrays and chains of distribution, mode, and mediation in rhetorical processes. On the classical map, delivery is traced on a scene of individual production rather than on fields of cultural-historical practice. Given these multiple limits, we argue that it makes more sense to begin remapping rhetorical activity, to trace distribution and mediation, than to attempt to retrofit this ancient tool to do varieties of work it was never designed to address.