Eyman: “Digital Rhetoric: Theory, Method, Practice”

Eyman, Douglas. “Defining and Locating Digital Rhetoric.” Digital Rhetoric: Theory, Method, Practice. Digital Culture Books, University of Michigan. Web. 2015.

Keywords
Digital rhetoric
New media
Intertexuality
Digital literacy

Further Reading
Losh 2009
Bogost 2007
Kinney 2007
Davis and Shadle 2007
Manovich 2001
de Beaugrande and Dressler 1981
Kress 2003

Summary
Comprehensive review of literature surrounding the terminology and historical emergence of digital rhetoric.

Eyman begins by surveying definitions of digital rhetoric to turn toward a discussion of how the term is used and practiced as more generative than mere definition. He concedes (via Bissell and Herzberg) that a multiplicity of definitions may be useful to trace how historical usage shapes contemporary usage and practice. Aristotle begins this lineage with the five canons and an emphasis on persuasion followed by political and ethical conceptualizations of rhetoric through Augustine and Ramus in the Middle Ages, a rebirth in the renaissance, and renewed interest in the mid-20th century to a resurgence in contemporary disciplines. Eyman sees rhetoric as both analytic and productive, though the digital in “digital” rhetoric affords productivity particularly. Eyman weaves through a number of contemporary definitions and theories to argue that the “digital” in digital rhetoric performs three important functions, affords a revival of inquiry in realms such as memory and delivery, and provides its study with a broad range of interdisciplinary fields from which to draw.

Eyman works through definitions of “digital” (new media) and “text” (a “communication event” or discourse) after his discussion of “rhetoric” to to arrive at a discussion of “digital rhetoric.” That discussion begins with early theorizations of the digital through hypertextual studies, and subsequently critical code, visual rhetoric, new media, computational rhetoric, digital literacy, intertextuality (Bogost), procedural rhetoric, and more.

Key Quotes:
“While many rhetorical theorists focus primarily on the analytic capacity of rhetoric, it is the value for production that I see as a key resource for the formulation of digital rhetoric.”

“What distinguishes ‘digital rhetoric’ from the larger expression of ‘rhetoric’ more generally? I would argue that we need to articulate a specific formulation for digital rhetoric for three reasons: at the level of theory, it allows for the use of and alliance with other fields not typically associated with printed text or speech; it prompts a critical view of current rhetorical theories and methods and opens up the question of whether new theories and new methods can or should be developed; and it provides the boundary condition necessary for the emergence of a new field of study.”

“Texts have rhetorical features, originate in and propel social action, and are designed material objects; these qualities provide the primary means of relationship between text and rhetoric-as-use.”

“In Virtualpolitik: An Electronic History of Government Media-Making in a Time of War Scandal, Disaster, Miscommunication, and Mistakes (2009) … Losh presents the most detailed and comprehensive definition of digital rhetoric within current literature, and her study should be considered a foundational text for the field.”

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