IDRS Review – Session 5 with Kristin Arola, Angela J. Aguayo, and E. Cram



Kristin Arola, Washington State University
Angela J. Aguayo, Southern Illinois University
E. Cram, St. Lawrence University

Near the end of Session 5 at IDRS, Anna Smith tweeted the following:

As I’ve reflected over the session in the process of composing this review, I’ve returned to Anna’s tweet, remembering Doug Eyman’s reminder in Session 1 that digital rhetoric should be concerned with texts and technologies, but also with humans and bodies.  In their presentations, Arola, Aguayo, and Cram explored ways that the digital and the human converge, ways that digital rhetoricians can learn from both non-digital and digital composing practices, and ways that our humanity can influence and trouble our relationship to screens.  Below, I provide a short summary of each presentation, and I follow up with questions for digital rhetoricians that each talk has caused me to consider.

“Ayaangwaamizin: Digital Texts, Cultural Rhetoric, and an Ethic of Care”

Kristin Arola mapped out how digital rhetorical practices might be informed by American Indian philosophy, Ojibwe gathering practices, and rhetorical sovereignty.  (You can read a storified summary of tweets posted during her presentation here.) (As of 2/2/2018 this Storify has been archived at the bottom of this page). Drawing from these discourses, Arola pointed to the Ojibwe concept of ayaangwaamizin: treading carefully when gathering.  Such a philosophy for digital rhetoric might teach us to be sensitive to the living ecologies, multiple contexts, and existing relationships of the objects we compose with.

Thinking about ayaangwaamizin in relation to digital rhetoric, I ask: how might we tread carefully when gathering media assets online to use in our own compositions?  What living ecologies do our technologies (laptops, apps, phones, cameras, microphones, software) exist within?  What relationships are we establishing with our technologies and with audiences through those technologies?  How might we better see and highlight care with contexts and relationships for digital rhetoric and digital composition, for ourselves and our students?

“Digital Rhetoric and the Rural Civil Rights Project”

Angela Aguayo illustrated that digital rhetoric is a form of communicative agency in public culture.  (You can read a storified summary of the tweets composed during her talk here.)  She shared several video projects that open up such agency for groups that might not have traditionally held power to speak and be heard.  778 bullets, for example, is a film about a 1970 police raid on a home in Carbondale, IL, thought to be associated with the Black Panther Party, and it is part of Aguayo’s the Rural Civil Rights Project, a collection of documentary shorts and audio documentaries focusing on the history of segregation and political struggles for civil rights in Carbondale.  Such documentary work holds new possibilities for invention, construction, circulation, and cultural representation with diverse rhetorics and voices.

In response to Aguayo, I ask: where is agency located when video cameras and audio recorders are used to tell oral and alternative histories?  Who should have cameras in their hands, and who should be in front of the lens?  What alternative rhetorics can be seen and heard when we use audio and video technologies to tell little-known stories and histories?  What are the combined effects of image, sound, and voice for this work?

“Protest Photography in a ‘Post-Occupy’ World: Keywords for a Digital Visual Rhetoric of Public Discourse”

E. Cram analyzed the conventions of digital protest photography, pointing out that these photos have a rhetoric of their own.  (You can read a storified summary of tweets from Cram’s presentation here.)  Included in such a rhetoric is the notion of “civic spectatorship” (Cram pointed out multiple layers of watching, from protestors photographing each other to tourists photographing protestors), “double framing” (when an image includes the camera or another screen), the layering of perspectives, indexicality, repetition, and mass circulation.

In response to Cram, I ask: how might digital rhetoricians use composition techniques like double framing and layering more purposefully in their work?  Is being a spectator part of rhetorical invention, and if so, how?  How might we pay more attention to the relationships and contexts involved in still photography?

Overall, the presentations in Session 5 highlighted Eyman’s point that the human is integral to our work as digital rhetoricians.  Far from separating us from our humanity, technologies like those discussed by Arola, Aguayo, and Cram highlight the person-infused networks, ecologies, agencies, and circulation for digital rhetoric.

Archived Storify:


  • Crystal VanKooten

    Crystal VanKooten is an Assistant Professor of Writing and Rhetoric at Oakland University in Rochester, MI, where she teaches courses in first-year composition and new media.

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