Blue Net

Chapter Two: Digital Rhetoric: Theory


Spider Web

This chapter offered a significant contribution to digital rhetoric in relation to both classical and contemporary theorizations. Beyond a mere application of existing theories to digital texts, the recontextualizations illuminated the complexities of rhetoric that emerge in digital environments: what was once static becomes dynamic through interaction among users and texts. The ecological theory in particular holds potential, as the natural metaphor illustrates the fluid, dynamic, cyclical nature of information flow. Interestingly, the language of ecosystems evokes the organic essence of textual circulation as mediated by people and technologies, especially as the digital presence can be interpreted as inorganic, mechanical, and inhuman. The ecological metaphor further raises the questions: to what extent can and do digital texts evolve, and to what extent are the texts in circulation significant or insignificant within larger networks?

As the boundaries between the classical canons of rhetoric become fluid and porous, as invention collides with arrangement in the (re)creation of appropriated texts, the individual user’s agency in transforming the digital praxis, at least at the level of individual experience, comes to the fore as a salient question. Significantly, arrangement becomes a nonlinear process, as navigation through hyperlinks invites multiple pathways and tagging interlocates related terms. Furthermore, as Douglas Eyman wrote, users’ ability to customize interfaces “erodes the distance between rhetor and reader, producer and user” (p. 69). Yet as texts are circulated and reappropriated, to what extent can we trace the origin of a text? To attain agency in our digitized states is to blur the lines separating the author and the reader, the human and the machine, the original and the derivative, as texts travel and circulate through networks.

Continue to Chapter Three Overview.