Editors’ outro: What is now and what is next for digital rhetorics?



We thank all contributors of the 14th Blog Carnival––Jim Brown, Amber Buck, Amelia Chesley, Sergio Figueiredo, Jennifer Juszkiewicz, Kim Lacey, Megan McIntyre, Derek Mueller, Scott Sundvall, and Sara West––for their perspectives and engaging discussion on the states of digital rhetorics. Just before the end of summer, we shared a CFP calling for critical reflections that would help update our understanding of digital rhetorics. We are excited to curate ten blog posts that have made plausible attempts to revisit digital rhetorics’ pasts, examine its current influence, and speculate possible futures.

DRC’S First Blog Carnival

In an effort to account for our key takeaways, we wanted first to position this carnival in relationship to the DRC’s first blog carnival, “What Does Digital Rhetoric Mean to Me,” which was organized and published in May-August 2012. Entries honored the call with considerations of accessibility, networks and big data, remembrance, naming and identification, definition, and more. Then, as now, responses encompassed concerns simultaneously personal and disciplinary, collectively underscoring the wayfinding digital rhetoric scholars experience as they study digital phenomena while simultaneously leading (as least in part) digital lives.

Douglas Eyman’s entry, “On Digital Rhetoric,” was the first released in that inaugural carnival. In it, he invoked James Zappen’s 2005 characterization of digital rhetoric and then added to Zappen’s list with his own observations, as follows:

I would add, following Zappen (2005), that the primary activities within the field of digital rhetoric include

  • the use of rhetorical strategies in production and analysis of digital text
  • identifying characteristics, affordances, and constraints of new media
  • formation of digital identities
  • potential for building social communities (p. 319)


but I would add to that list

  • inquiry and development of rhetorics of technology
  • the use of rhetorical methods for uncovering and interrogating ideologies and cultural formation in digital work
  • an examination of the rhetorical function of networks
  • theorization of agency when interlocutors are as likely to be software agents (or “spimes”) as they are human actors


Eyman went on to express hopefulness about the Digital Rhetoric Collaborative and its work, especially for the potential of the DRC to contribute to an expanding arena of digital rhetoric scholarship:

I’m hoping that the DRC site will be a place where we can provide examples of each of these activities, as well as provide resources (tools, stories, potential collaborators) for both theorizing and doing digital rhetoric.

Activities Within the Field of Digital Rhetoric

What activities of digital rhetoric that Zappen and Eyman identify might be found within our discerning of digital rhetorics’ futures? The first of these activities from Zappen is the use of rhetorical strategies in production and analysis of digital text. Such is the case with Jim Brown’s Unhealthy Infrastructures, Kim Lacey’s Unintended Use and Digital Rhetoric, and Sergio Figueiredo’s The Same As It Ever Was: Invention as the Future of Digital Rhetoric. Additionally, the formation of digital identities can be found in Megan McIntyre’s I Hate My Voice, Scott Sundvall’s Look at me! Don’t Look at me!, and Amelia Chesley’s Hypermediated Workscapes and the Digital Rhetorics of Personal Branding.

Both Jennifer Juszkiewicz’ In (Partial) Defense of Algorithms and Amber Buck’s How to See the Forest for the Trolls: Studying Digital Rhetoric on Compromised Platforms examine (and perhaps even call into question) the use of rhetorical methods for uncovering and interrogating ideologies and cultural formation in digital work. And, finally, Derek Mueller’s Availability Dereliction provides inquiry and development of rhetorics of technology, though digital rather or in addition to technology may be more appropriate. Sara West’s Back to the Future? Reflections on Digital Infrastructures identifies that technology fails (but people adapt), identifying characteristics, affordances, and constraints of new media.

Identifying some of the activities that can be found in these posts is not meant to be all-encompassing, granted many if not all of the posts fit multiple activities Zappen and Eyman share. Instead, as the posts provide examples, theorize, and complicate, they may be seen as following Eyman’s hopefulness that the DRC serves as a site “for both theorizing and doing digital rhetoric.”


We would love to hear debates and discussions from readers about the ideas presented in this blog carnival. Whether you are responding to a post we shared on our Facebook page or tweets, or leaving a direct comment under a blog entry in this collection, we welcome your own reflections and reactions. Even better, share some of the posts here with your colleagues or students, and invite them to add their perspectives. A rich and varied reciprocation is what we hope to achieve through this effort. And, ultimately, as we all continue doing digital rhetorics we hope that future carnivals are as rich and varied and engaging as this one has been.

Happy reading!

About Author

Derek Mueller

Derek Mueller is associate professor and director of composition at Virginia Tech. His iPhone is probably set to Do Not Disturb.

Lauren Garskie

Lauren Garskie is a PhD student in the Rhetoric & Writing Program at Bowling Green State University. Her interests include design, literacies, digital rhetoric, and multimodality.

Jason Tham

Jason is a PhD candidate in Rhetoric and Scientific and Technical Communication at the University of Minnesota––Twin Cities. His current research focuses on making and design thinking in writing pedagogy, multimodality, and emerging technologies such as wearables and mixed reality.

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