digital rhetoric Digital Scholarship

Rhetorics of the Digital Nonhumanities

After a week or so of emailing and chin-scratching, this appears to be the title of my forthcoming book: Rhetorics of the Digital Nonhumanities. UPDATE: so we now have a book cover (as you can see) and a projected publication date of January 2022.

So what’s it about? Well, it’s along the lines of what you might expect if you’ve read this blog or my other work over the last decade. But here’s a brief description. Drawing on posthuman, new materialist, and nonhuman theory/philosophy/rhetoric in connection with digital rhetoric, media study, and the digital humanities, I develop a “new materialist digital rhetorical method” and employ it to study how relations among humans and nonhumans in digital media ecologies give rise to new/shifting rhetorical capacities.

Prominent among the matters discussed (expressed in admittedly abstract academic jargon:

  • softwarized, procedural rhetorics, particularly in the form of social media algorithms, that participate in processes of “distributed deliberation” such as the basic activity of “clicking” (e.g. in order to like, share, buy, etc.);
  • close, hyper machines (e.g., smartphones) as they manage human tendencies for distraction and synthesize attention;
  • integrative assemblages of humans and nonhumans as they produce new populations of scholars with new digital rhetorical-compositional capacities;
  • electrate collective experiments as emergent pedagogical responses to the insufficiency of the concept of “digital literacy.”

In more ordinary prose:

  • how do social media shape our understanding of the world and the choices we make about it?
  • how do consumer technologies like smartphones help/hinder our ability to know what’s happening in the world and act on that information?
  • how are emerging technologies changing how (some) humanities scholars understand themselves and the work they are doing?
  • how might this new materialist perspective on digital rhetoric change the way we approach the challenge of teaching students about what we currently call digital literacy?

You probably can’t fail to notice those are all “how” questions. That’s because this is a book about know-how, about capacities. I am less interested here in declarative knowledge (know-that) than I am in describing provisional, experimental methods for expanding our capacities to act through digital media ecologies.

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