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 black and white bath house mosaic in Ostia Antica, representing three men
"Roman Philosopher" by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. (2010b) is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Care in Remix and Digital Sampling


In the fourth chapter, "Care in Remix and Digital Sampling," the authors argue for a virtue of care predicated on Aristotle's notions of empathy via reciprocity. Jared Colton and Steve Holmes flesh out the unrealized drawbacks of rhetorical remixing practices that are insensitive to the cultures and traditions from which the remixed material is drawn using the musical artist and DJ Moby as a case example. It is, of course, compelling to reconceive of digital sampling as a rhetorical practice, and so too of the ethical challenges inherent to remixing—particularly in composition—within the broader context of our digital, multimodal world. The authors advocate for a more ethically aware "logic of the digital" (p. 74) by calling on Adam Banks, Roland Barthes, and Mikhail Bakhtin so as to "ask rhetoricians to place themselves in an empathetic relation with those they are responding to (i.e., sampling from)" (p. 76). Their point is that uncredited sampling risks "uncritical cultural appropriation" that doesn't provide full recognition of the contexts from which the remixed content are derived (p. 78, citing Banks, 2011). And they go on to utilize Adriana Cavarero (2011) to sketch a hexis of care that finds "political and ethical value in acts of caring and wounding" predicated on "ontological vulnerability" by striking a balance between creative freedom and cultural sensitivity (p. 81).


Admitting that Aristotle did not view care as a specific virtue, they supplement their conception with other, modern scholars like Cavarero and Shannon Vallor to implicitly link Aristotle to the ethics of care through the hexeis of empathy and reciprocity. Colton and Holmes ask digital rhetoricians to develop an "ethical disposition of care" (p. 83) and "heuristic of vulnerability" (p. 86) in order to make empathic sampling habitual. The question, put simply, is how? The author's focus, via Adam Banks's (2011) "digital griot," is on the risk of paralysis for digital rhetors in lieu of concern for the more serious matter of the damage of unethical remixing to the marginalized and uncredited communities from which they are drawn. After contending that "the sampled-from are not completely passive," the authors encourage digital rhetoricians to realize "no creative work exists in a vacuum; rather, it is a coconstitutive relationship that simultaneously contributes to the recognition of each person's uniqueness and agential capacity to affect others" (p. 87). But what should we actually do in order to sample with care?

Perhaps it is the fact that "Aristotle does not directly mention the hexis of care" (p. 89), and Cavarero is merely a "tacit virtue ethicist" (p. 90), which limits the endeavor to a "first step toward embracing the complexity of ethical justification" (p. 91). Surely, we need more than just "rhetorical engagement" to make habitual the concern for the care and wounding of others (p. 93)? And the authors are aware self-reflexivity is not a "guarantor of ethical action," merely the initial step toward "embracing the complexity of ethical justification" (p. 91). Theoretical and habitual orientation would likely be an acceptable resolution if not for the book's insistence that the "larger purpose in this chapter is to show how ethical problems of digital sampling… can be addressed productively" (p. 94). The insinuation here is one of producing more effective engagement with ethical sampling problems. That hardly seems possible when the chapter rounds out with the rather restrained call to action for digital rhetors to "consider their ethical relation to other communities" (p. 94), if only because consideration is only a first step toward producing a habit of the hexeis of care.