This entry follows Richard Toye’s conversation on the footprints of rhetoric in our modern world. As we have discussed in class, it is hard to unsee the works of rhetoric once you’ve obtained the vocabulary and frameworks to examine the everyday events, tools, and interactions in our lives. The purpose of the second assignment in this course, the rhetorical analysis of a digital technology or internet communications, serves to augment that experience.
It is easy to normalize the tools we use on a daily basis such that they become (in a sense) invisible to us. For instance, we don’t necessarily pay attention to the colors of the menus and tool bar on our word-processing software when we compose in them. Also, we tend not to focus too much on the font style, size, spacing, and paragraphing when writing papers.
These are instances that demonstrate the pervasiveness of rhetoric in writing technology. There are reasons––rhetorical reasons––for why these designs are made to fade into the background of the activity of writing. One reason, as we might guess, is to increase productivity. With the menus and tool bars being less intrusive to the writing process, writers may focus their attention on the writing itself––not the other texts and shapes surrounding the writing. This would presumably allow the writer to write more or better. This functional appeal is rhetorical at its best because it serves to enhance user experience (think pathos) and thus making them want to use them more often (or choose one word-processing software over another).
Some examples I have drawn from the blogging (used to be a writing-intensive activity) world are these:
Composing dashboards and spaces are becoming more “distraction-free” so bloggers can be (arguably) more creative using the open canvas they are served by their respective blogging platforms.
And that is just one among the countless examples where rhetorical decisions play crucial roles in the design and uses of technology. More importantly, culture and context underlie all of these rhetorical decisions. For examples, we can see how design evolves from time to time based on people’s expectation and preferences, as seen below.
You may also read the interesting article on the evolution of blogging on HubSpot.
As you analyze the technology you’ve chosen for your second assignment. Consider the various facets of the rhetorical situation and rhetorical appeals, if you are using them, as you examine how your selected technology is built, used, and marketed.
For purposes of discussion, I pose these questions:
- Toye asks his readers to perform a rhetorical analysis of his book at the end of the conclusion section. What do you think he hopes to find?
- How might you compare rhetorical analysis to other forms of analysis, such as psychological and behavioral analyses, physical examination, social studies, etc.?
Toye, Richard. Rhetoric: A very short introduction. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. [Chapters 4 & conclusion]