Abstract Introduction Ch. 2—Toward a Virtue Ethics in Digital Rhetoric Ch. 3—The Practice of Equality as a Virtue Ch. 4—Care in Remix and Digital Sampling Ch. 5—Generosity in Social Media Technology Ch. 6—A Virtue of Patience in Environmental Networks Ch. 7—Future Applications of Hexeis in Networked Societies Key Takeaways References About the Author

Rhetoric, Technology, and the Virtues by Jared S. Colton and Steve Holmes

Reviewed by Jonathan Marine

Two shelves of marble busts of Roman philosophers from the Capitoline Museum in Rome
"Enlightened among the Philosophers..." by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. (2010a) is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Practice of Equality as a Virtue


The third chapter, "The Practice of Equality as a Virtue," employs a Rancièrian framework to examine closed captioning practices on YouTube as a way to inform the hexis of justice vis-à-vis equality. The argument goes: if we conceive of closed captioning as habit that is meant to enact equality (and thereby on some level justice), then Jacques Rancière's politics of dissensus can help us to make salient who counts in society through individuals verifying their equality by resisting "partitions of the sensible" (p. 50, quoting Rancière). Jared Colton and Steve Holmes's end game argument for enacting "social justice as the active verification of their own and others' political equality" equates to assuring that closed captioning practices are racially, rhetorically, and socially sensitive—a far more complex task than one might imagine (p. 51).

On a more heuristic level, their overarching claim is that through the cultivation of a Rancièreian hexis we can move past passive resistance so as to redress inequality through continual, and one might say habitual, verification of equality. Calling on the work of Nicole Ashanti McFarlane and Nicole Elaine Snell (2014) and Sean Zdenek (2015), Colton and Holmes highlight the racial insensitivity which commonly ensues as a result of current captioning practices before contending that individual agency is underutilized in fostering a hexis of equality because individuals may be unwilling to resist the Rancièrian police order through enacting their own individual agency to "continually reverify [and] disturb these partitions" (p. 73).


Chapter three, the first of four case studies of virtue ethics, presents a common move in Rhetoric, Technology, and the Virtues: supplementing virtue ethics through the selective addition of other modern theoretical frameworks. In their own words, the authors' efforts are to "update this particular hexis [by] retain[ing] Aristotle's general conception of a hexis… but updat[ing] his understanding of justice through scholarship more directly related to the concerns of contemporary theorists and digital rhetoric" (p. 61). By augmenting Aristotle's conception of the hexis so as to account for equality as a virtue, and then supplementing this idea with Rancière and other modern scholars' conceptions of justice, the authors are able to present a rugged but valuable framework within which to guide action in the increasingly complex digital landscape which abounds our world.

A captioner who vows to provide just and rhetorically-attuned closed captioning—even in lieu of corporate support—will, to Colton and Holmes's minds, have embodied this composite conception of the hexis of justice through their commitment to equality. The authors admit that this same hypothetical employee will thereafter have to "continually verif[y] equality across various digital rhetoric situations" so as to ensure they do not foment "additional partitions of the sensible" (p. 73). In other words, this is an ongoing effort, but by avoiding advocacy of the passive redistribution of social justice, rhetors can instead call attention to verifying other people's equality, and in doing so embrace an Aristotelian hexis of justice.