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

a bust of Aristotle from the Vienna Museum of Art History, Collection of Classical Antiquities
"Head of Aristotle. Vienna, Museum of Art History, Collection of Classical Antiquities" by Sergey Sosnovskiy (2009) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

A Virtue of Patience in Environmental Networks


In chapter six, "A Virtue of Patience in Environmental Networks," the authors present the critical import of the virtue of patience to ethics in digital rhetoric. By focusing on social media shaming, Jared Colton and Steve Holmes are able to show how the practice of online outrage reduces complicated social issues to merely blaming and shaming scapegoats. Anchored in Jane Bennett's political philosophy, this chapter is able to show how anthropocentrism prevents us from realizing the nonmaterial elements which may help rhetors to understand how material and human agency coconstruct these outrage-inducing online events. The chapter's argument that "shaming has some sort of rhetorical and ethical function" (p. 116) is intriguing, especially coupled with the fresh presentation of the hexis of patience, or slowness to anger, which the authors posit may help us to think through the appropriately timed reactions necessary to navigate online events worthy of shame and outrage. Anyone who has experienced the knee-jerk reactivism of social media will appreciate the concept of "slowness to anger" and its ability to augment our own dispositions so as to "privilege rationality by directing digital rhetors to view writing as a transparent expression of thought (e.g., clear, logical, objective)" (p. 118). The chapter focuses on the pharmaceutical price-gouging of Martin Shrekli and #Droughtshaming to exemplify instances of online outrage.


At times, however, the chapter's theoretical supplementation threatens to distract from the over-arching argument; one passage in particular calls on Plato's Phaedrus and The Republic in order to infer Bennett's thinking about the ancients before supplementing with Diann Baecker (2007) and Jeffrey Barnouw (2004) in order to, in essence, shape the concept of thumos to fit their rhetorical end of the habituation of patience. And one particularly odd passage cites feminist Elizabeth Wilson in turn citing a 1990 study in which "44 percent of patients with gastrointestinal problems (abdominal pain, constipation) reported a history of sexual abuse" in order to argue that "gut functionality expresses and conditions our predispositions to transact with the world in particular ways that contribute to a person's style, manner, and even character of being (i.e., hexis)" (p. 124).

It isn't that these points aren't intellectually sound or topically relevant, it is merely the dizzying pace with which we are led through these conveniently coordinated theories that augers the difficulty with which the reader is left to patch together how our gastrointestinal function's relation to sexual trauma relates to the point that "a hexis of patience is the ethical disposition to cultivate [in order] to make sure [that] we see the full range of human and nonhuman agencies at play" (p. 124). Wouldn't a hexis of patience, of slowness to anger and therefore appropriate timing of anger's emergence and application, be more fittingly conceived of within the context of kairos than—or in addition to—hexis? If patience is required and not being too quick to anger are the habits we want to develop, the more vital question of disseminating the most propitious moment for action—or in this case, anger—seems a more relevant rhetorical concept with which to frame the hexis of patience than a 30-year-old study of gastrointestinal health and its relation to psychological trauma.