By Susan H. Delagrange // Reviewed by Amber M. Stamper


Screenshot of Delagrange title page (pg. 1)

Susan H. Delagrange’s Technologies of Wonder: Rhetorical Practice in a Digital World is an intellectually stimulating exploration and a visually thrilling exemplar of the opportunities for persuasion, scholarship, and pedagogy that digital media offers to academics, teachers, and students. In the format of an innovative—and entirely free—ebook (published in Adobe PDF by Utah State University Press/Computers and Composition Digital Press), Delagrange uses the project to argue simultaneously for a revised perspective on digital composition centered on the canon of arrangement and embodied visual rhetoric and to exemplify what this might look like.

Acknowledging and critiquing the persistent bias towards the linear arrangement and logical flow of print texts that has been transposed to the digital, Delagrange offers up an alternative approach. Based in techné and wonder and embracing the full range of hyperlinking and interactive possibilities of the digital, Delagrange teaches her readers to see beyond the familiar platitudes of the digital as an equalizing, neutral tool and the formulaic principles of commercial web design and usability tools. She provides us with a vision of digital media as a wonderful opportunity to revise traditional cultural narratives and restore excitement and power to the rhetorical processes of discovery, composition, and writing and reading arguments, if we are willing to approach the medium more critically and with greater imagination.

The relevance and timeliness of this groundbreaking project has already begun to be recognized by scholars: Delagrange has received the journal Computers and Composition's 2011 Distinguished Book Award and The Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition’s The Winifred Bryan Horner Outstanding Book Award. However, I will add that even more exciting perhaps are the possibilities for digital texts composed in response to and inspired by Delagrange's work. The deceptively simple questions with which she begins her text—"What is/should be the place of the visual in academic inquiry and representation? What means are available, and what constraints are imposed, for ethical pedagogical performances in the production of scholarly digital media?”—are surely among the most persistently relevant for contemporary rhetoricians in our digital age to ask (p. 13).