Review of Rhetoric Online: Persuasion and Politics on the World Wide Web by Barbara Warnick (2007)

 Reviewed by Drew M. Loewe | Texas Christian University



picture of warnick book

Not only does Rhetoric Online provide the start of a well-grounded research agenda for analyzing the rhetorical dimensions of online political discourse, it also models what such a research agenda might offer, both in terms of critical studies and preservation of Web artifacts. Warnick provides pathways into a robust blending of rhetorical and new media theory that serves both disciplines well. Moreover, Warnick's lucid prose and judicious hand in bringing in a well-chosen range of work in related disciplines mean that Rhetoric Online would make an excellent addition to course syllabi and qualifying examination lists.

If the book has a fault, perhaps it is this: I found myself wishing for more images to work hand in hand with Warnick’s excellent descriptions and analyses of Web artifacts. Except for typical Toulmin diagrams in Chapter 3, the book contains just a few images. While permissions and layout constraints will always affect whether images are incorporated into books, I often wished for a well-chosen screenshot or other such illustration. This was especially true in Chapter 4 where Warnick discusses artifacts such as the Bush campaign website. The site’s URL, now that the election is over, redirects to the Republican National Committee’s home page. This of course underscores Warnick’s cautions about the fleeting nature of Web-based rhetorical artifacts.

But the relative dearth of images is a minor quibble indeed about an otherwise outstanding book. Readers of KAIROS will find Rhetoric Online an important and useful work, one that could well become a standard text in rhetoric and new media.

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