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Computers and Rhetorical Acts

September 23rd, 2009 2 comments

Over the last couple of years, I have become increasingly interested in the types of rhetorical acts that computers can facilitate. Electronic literature, leveraging digital technology to attain the same goals of print literature, is one medium that relies on computers. Videogames, which can simulate how “real and imagined systems work,” is another medium that leverages digital technology to facilitate its rhetorical acts (Bogost 2007). In “Rethinking Web Usability for Web 2.0 and Beyond,” William I. Wolff explains the time when he began to see the connection between web design and writing: “The purpose of the course, it seems to me now (and despite what might have been on the syllabus), was to suggest that designing a Web page was a rhetorical act fraught with real-world implications” (Wolff, Fitzpatrick, Youseff 2009). With this connection in place, I am beginning to understand more and more what it means to be a rhetorician in the digital age.

Before the advent of digital technology, rhetorical acts were greatly restricted by technology: we could speak or we could write with pen and paper. But if we think about putting down visual information or making a presentation, or designing a website, or even drawing a map, we are doing “writerly” things, we’re just using more than one or two different technologies.

First, however, we must overcome the barrier to entry. Not everyone knows Java, Pearl, Python, or Basic. Most of us don’t know html and css, and if we do, we’re not very adept at it. But once we do get a handle on html, or get a hold of Dreamweaver, NVU, or some other similar program, we can be well on our way to engaging in a highly rhetorical act. When we design a document of any kind, we have to make lots of authorial choices, such as what information to include, what information to exclude, how the information is to be arranged, the medium with which we will work, and who sees it. This is not unlike what writers do when they write an essay: they too need to decide what information will work, what information doesn’t, whether the work will be published online for free, or whether it will published in a book, for a fee. When we draw the connection between “traditional” writing and authoring in a virtual environment or website, it’s easy to argue that technology, not content, is the only discernible difference.

what if…

September 22nd, 2009 3 comments

… we took a digital camera and created a still life photo of technologies from the pencil all the way to an iphone (pencil, pen, newspaper, open paperback book, cell phone, computer keyboard, digital book, cell phones, iphones, ipods, etc.)? We could use that still life as the header of a the wordpress blog page to represent the technologies we are discussing.

Another theme with technology in the picture

September 19th, 2009 No comments

This is another theme that features a desk, but the iphone represents technology – the pen next to the iphone represents another form of literacy/technology

desk mess