- Is rhetoric an antiquated perspective on communication now that we have new media?
- Do we need an entirely new rhetorical theory to account for the strategies, powers and constraints of discourse in new media?
No, old rhetorics still apply as the old media of orality and writing and symbolic communication are subsumed and restructured within the new.
In addition, rhetorical theory has grown and will grow new branches that account for the expansion and adaptation of rhetorical practice into these technologized realms.
Tomas Albaladejo writes intelligently of the expansion and adaptation of rhetoric to varieties of new media: — (paragraph breaks inserted)
The historical and systematic communicative strength of rhetoric enables it to deal with new kinds of discourse, since they keep the essential components of rhetorical discourse.
Cyber-rhetoric or the rhetoric of digital discourse (Albaladejo 2005a) could be considered one of the latest steps in the evolution of rhetoric. Digital discourse is a complex construction consisting of linguistic, visual and phonic components, which has a rhetorical foundation and manifestation as a whole.
In addition to the rhetorical shape of digital discourse, one must also take into account the rhetorical construction of all written and oral texts contained in web sites, as well as the rhetorical discourses hosted by them, as in, for example, Martin Luther King’s discourse /I have a dream/, which can be read, heard and seen on the World Wide Web.
Nevertheless, cyber-rhetoric is basically nothing other than rhetoric.
Cyber-rhetoric is rhetoric, as the rhetoric of written discourse is rhetoric, and the rhetoric of journalism and other mass media is rhetoric.
The different prefixes, adjectives and nominal complements added to the noun rhetoric are used in order to delimit an area within the wide field of rhetoric, and they must not be understood to be a way of proposing or promoting a rhetoric different from rhetoric as a comprehensive system that was historically founded and developed. They are rather a way of enriching rhetoric by stressing its plurality and suitability for the different kinds of discourse and the different means of achieving communication.
One of the characteristics of the development and evolution of rhetoric is the expansion of its area of practice and study within the field of communication, together with the fact that rhetoric has never been withdrawn from the spaces where it has previously worked.
Thus, today we can hear oral discourses, such as those delivered in courts and parliaments, but we can also read written rhetorical discourses, like editorials or leading articles in newspapers, and we can also see, hear and read digital rhetorical discourses.
Rhetoric has carried to new communicative areas the experience that it has obtained in the areas where it has formerly worked.
In this way, rhetoric has enriched itself and has provided tested and renewed tools for the practice and study of discursive and persuasive communication.
Adaptation to the needs that have arisen in the ongoing evolution of communication has always been a challenge for rhetoric, but this is the key to its usefulness.
From p. 27-28 of:
- Albaladejo, T. (2014). Rhetoric and discourse analysis. In I. Olza, O. Loureda, & M. Casado-Velarde (Eds.), Linguistic insights: Language use in the public sphere: Methodological perspective and empirical applications (pp. 19–51). Bern; Oxford: Peter Lang.
This phrase echoes:
“rhetoric has enriched itself and has provided tested and renewed tools for the practice and study of discursive and persuasive communication” (Albaladejo, 2014, p. 27)
Rhetoric is not dying in a new media environment.
It is expanding, enriching itself and providing tested and renewed tools for both rhetorical practice and rhetorical study.