Blue Net

Chapter One: Defining and Locating Digital Rhetoric


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From a broader perspective, Douglas Eyman illuminated a landscape simultaneously spatial, temporal, and conceptual. Such interconnected geographies ensured that conceptions of digital rhetoric were not erased, but established through contrast with its competing conceptions, intersecting ideas, and historical precedents, and through its own terminologies, digital and rhetoric.

The chapter deftly interwove between surfaces and depths, and between microcosmic and macrocosmic vantage points. Eyman noted that one complicating characteristic of digital rhetoric is its status as a meta-discipline at once analytic and productive, at once indicative of “objects of study for analysis” and “products of digital rhetoric practices” (p. 12, 9). Yet the definition of digital rhetoric Eyman delineated seems, at least on the surface, deceptively simple considering its multifaceted pasts and presents: “The term 'digital rhetoric' is perhaps most simply defined as the application of rhetorical theory (as analytic method or heuristic for production) to digital texts and performances” (p. 44). Significantly, the simplicity of this statement belies the complexities of the field. The definition could be complicated by the multiple, conflicting notions of rhetoric as it evolved through time and space. As Eyman detailed, its boundaries are fluid and porous, and its definitions continue to evolve.

Considering that Eyman wrote the book in 2015, scholars have since built upon the definition of digital rhetoric in innovative ways, including through the lenses of gamification and indigenous feminism. For instance, in "Gamifying Collective Human Behavior with Gameful Digital Rhetoric", Mizuki Sakamoto, Tatsuo Nakajima, and Sayaka Akioka (2016) presented a framework for digital rhetoric as applied to human activities and behaviors such as crowdsourcing. In defining the term, the authors explained that digital rhetoric “provides a new abstraction for informing, persuading, and inspiring human behavior using digitally implemented virtual items, such as virtual goods or virtual clothes, that are incorporated into the real world” (12540). In this sense, the framework considers the critical connections between the infrastructures of the digital and “real” worlds, as persuasion in virtual spaces influences material interactions.

Furthermore, in "Weaving Intersectional Rhetoric: The Digital Counternarratives of Indigenous Feminist Bloggers", Amanda Morris (2017) explored the ways in which rhetoric can be enacted as an avenue for indigenous feminist bloggers to reclaim their intersectional identities and to resist binary colonial representations of their cultures and communities. As Morris wrote, “These Indigenous feminists practice in the digital space to reinforce and reclaim rhetorical sovereignty as an outcome for themselves and their communities” (p. 246). As is illustrated by this more recent scholarship, Eyman’s foundational work has opened up pathways for the continued expansion of the field in relation to its characteristics and concerns, which have expanded in social and material applications as well as cultural contexts.

Continue to Chapter Two Overview.