two pictures: one of a mircophone the other of an 18th century woman writing

Rhetorical Roots and Media Future:

How Podcasting Fits into the Computers and Writing Classroom


Further Literature Review: New Media & Sound Rhetoric in Computers and Writing

We want to know what worlds are evoked in sound: how melody, image, noise, beat, genre, fanfare, and band persona prepare a participating listener or user to experience a soundscape, a created world of sensual information. We argue that new media increasingly create these sensory experiences by marshaling a variety of technologies not as a virtual world qua “consensual hallucination” but through a sense of “worlding” that abandons the distinction between “real” and “virtual” as a generative resource.

(Rickert & Salvo, 2006, p. 297)

New media in general is, of course, a common topic within, if not one of the defining topics of, computers and writing. The rhetoric of oral/aural texts are more specifically discussed by several scholars in the area and related areas, including authors in the Computers and Composition special issue “Sound in/as compositional space” (Ball & Hawk, 2006). Jeff Rice (2006) summarized the general argument of the special issue, by stating

the time has come for the additional term of media to be included; in particular, we must now consider the aural logic of digitality that sounding out generates in new media. It is not just through language that we fashion experience and knowledge, but through all media. (p. 278)

In his article, Rice “asks that rhetoric and composition add to its concerns with visuality an interest in the role aurality plays in digital composing" (p. 266). With increased access to sound in/as texts, through faster Internet connection speeds and computers, aurality can become a larger part of our new media texts—and an area we should not ignore. If we can bring the same attention to aural texts and aural components of text as we have visual texts and visual components of text, we will have a rich understanding of the various types of media that can make up a new media text and even better understand communication. Rice stated, drawing on Ong, that “These new media are not just new efficient gadgets. They are part of a shift which is inexorably affecting our very notion of what communication itself is (Ong, 1962, p. 227)” (p. 276).

Thomas Rickert and Michael Salvo, in the same special issue, announced that “We want to change the way you think about sound” (2006, p. 297).  They do this through arguing that “musicians have been at the forefront of the multimedia revolution” (p. 296), and  “contemporary re/mix/digital music culture offers vocabularies, models, and practices for new media writing and culture generations beyond the tradition of text-based composition or the singular work of art” (p. 297). So, we need to catch up with musicians and others who have considered the rhetorical power and communicative abilities of aurality.

Bump Halbritter furthered the argument that oral/aural rhetoric is not just voice or speech. He (2006) argued that music should also be considered part of our rhetorical and new media toolbox. As Halbritter stated on page 317, “Scholarly attention to visual rhetoric has helped composition teachers and theorists envision new possibilities for composing in new media. Careful consideration of musical rhetoric may enable us to hear new possibilities for integrated-media composition as well.”1

Thus, it is key we consider more than the text and visuality of new media and rhetoric. We must expand our understanding of new media and of rhetoric to consider aurality, from voice to music, and, of course, podcasting. As Collin Gifford Brooke (2009) stated, “In short, we can move from text-based rhetoric, exemplified by our attachment to the printed page, to a rhetoric that can account for the dynamics for the interface” (p. 26).

Brooke allowed us to take step back and look at new media and rhetoric more generally, as he “attempts to stage an encounter between rhetoric and technology; each functions as a lens through which we might consider the other, and neither is left untransformed by the encounter” (p. xii). Brooke focused on the rhetorical canons in order “to restore the dialectical character of the rhetorical canons.… As actions, as practices, the canons always occur within a particular technological context…the context of new media” (p.xiii). As I also argue throughout this article, Brooke stated that “Among other things, new media invites us to rethink (or reinvent) the canons of classical rhetoric” (p. xiii). But, rethinking the canons through new media is not a one-way relationship. As we seek to understand new media through the (old) canons, Brooke pointed out that the canons too must change “in the context of new media” (p. xii). He stated,

To put it simply, the canons speak to the need for invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery, but our available information technologies (from voice and gesture to YouTube and MySpace) both constrain and enable the way that those needs are actualized in discourse. (p. 196).

Brooke also gave us—teachers, researchers and students of writing, rhetoric, and composition—a challenge; a challenge in which I place this article and the companion article in the Praxis section. He stated that we:

are indeed uniquely positioned to contrite to discussions of debates about new media. Such contributions, however, depend on our ability to rethink some of our own cherished and unexamined assumptions about writing; new media will transform our understanding of rhetoric as thoroughly as our training and expertise in rhetoric can effect a similar impact in discussions of new media. But this presumes that we recognize the various contributions that information technologies make to rhetorical situations. (p. 5)

Brooke’s challenge was taken on even before his book was published, by scholars such as Steven Krause (2006), Andrea Lunsford (2007), Barbara Warnick (2005), and, of course, the authors in the Computers and Composition special issue on sound including Tara Shankar, Rice, Halbritter, and Rickert and Salvo. It is a challenge we should embrace and extend. Especially since, as Rickert and Salvo (2006) addressed, “In looking to theorize, historicize, and bring into pedagogical practice sound itself, as the call for papers that inspired this essay asked, we find ourselves playing catch-up to innovations and techniques that have long been in the wind in the world of music.” It is also our obligation—as Brooke (2009) suggested that "to contribute to such change seems...the least of our obligations as writing teachers and researchers” (p. xix).  Not only it is an obligation, but bringing “what we know to bear on new media is the next logical step in the growth in our discipline” (p. xix).


Ball, Cheryl E., & Hawk, Byron. (Eds.). (2006). Computers and Composition [Special issue: Sound in/as compositional space], 23(3).

Brooke, Collin Gifford. (2009). Lingua fracta: Towards a rhetoric of new media. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Halbritter, Bump. (2006). Musical rhetoric in integrated-media composition. Computers and Composition [Special issue: Sound in/as compositional space], 23(3), 317–334

Krause, Steven D. (2006, Fall). Broadcast composition: Using audio files and podcasts in an online writing course. Computers and Composition Online [Special issue: Sound in/as compositional space]. Retrieved November 14, 2009, from

Lunsford, Andrea A. (2007). Writing matters: rhetoric in public and private lives. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.

Rice, Jeff. (2006). The making of ka-knowledge: Digital aurality. Computers and Composition 23(3) [Special issue: Sound in/as compositional space], 266–279.

Rickert, Thomas, & Salvo, Michael. (2006). The distributed Gesamptkunstwerk: Sound, worlding, and new media culture. Computers and Composition [Special issue: Sound in/as compositional space], 23(3), 296–316.

Shankar, Tara Rosenberger. (2006). Speaking on the record: A theory of composition. Computers and Composition 23(3) [Special issue: Sound in/as compositional space], 374–393.

Warnick, Barbara. (2005). Looking to the future: Electronic texts and the deepening interface. Technical Communication Quarterly 14(3), 327–333.


1 For further discussion of music as rhetoric in new media, please listen to Episodes 4–6, where I discuss music as part of arrangement, delivery, purpose, and tone