Rhetoric has enriched itself in new media — Albaladejo


  • 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.

Supporting group research projects with free online communication technologies


Fall 2011 Student Hackathon CodingIn this blog post and an informal, face-to-face lunchtime “brownbag” seminar for faculty members held today on campus, I will present some principles and examples of free online applications that have worked well in my team-intensive professional communication and social research methods courses.

The main purpose of the workshop is to share instructors’ insights and specific experiences with communication technologies for student team research projects, starting with my own. Each technology has had its strengths and weaknesses, and some of these can work together or even be set up to function within or “through” the Blackboard course management interface we use at our university.

The relevance to rhetoric is that teams require appropriate forums for their collaborative everyday communication, and the forums can structure, enable and limit the kinds of informative and persuasive acts that learners and researchers need to engage in during a short-term university course.

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The Rhetoric of WordPress Blog Plugins


Now that I have had some experience this year with building several self-hosted WordPress blogs and sites, I have become very interested in the rhetorical tools enabled by plugins that enhance WordPress for organizational blogs and websites.

Plugins make blogs more functional than the “naked” version of WordPress.  For a person who is not an expert in HTML or PHP, they are tools given for free by those who do write the code, and they enable customization for the rest of us who are just beginner to intermediate blog administrators. Continue reading

WordPress blogs as organization or association newsletters


Hey guys, I captured the mouse!A functional option today for an organization’s newsletter is to set up a free public blog on http://wordpress.com/ or to host a WordPress blog on your own website (if you have one).

Blogs are quite professional nowadays (no longer merely online diaries). They are respectable forums for academic associations. The Rhetoric Society of America has a blog (The Blogora) at http://rsa.cwrl.utexas.edu/

Blogs are even used by many nonprofit organizations as the basis for free websites. See this example of a website — the Trent Centre for Community-based Education http://www.trentcentre.ca/ — you wouldn’t even know it’s based on WordPress software unless you scroll down to the very bottom and see the notice “proudly powered by WordPress.”

The rest of the post explains how it can work for your association, why WordPress is a good choice, and how it can be used to automatically distribute content to members who may prefer to browse its content or stay up to date via Facebook or other social media platforms rather than (or in addition to) an email subscription to your blog. Continue reading

Website rhetoric of mayoral candidates


View from Calgary Tower.

View from Calgary Tower. Photo by palestrina55 on Flickr

Many decades ago society started talking about how televised debates were beginning to influence election campaigns.  Now we have new questions about how new media influences them, such as — What makes effective website rhetoric for a mayoral candidate nowadays?

The city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada is going to have a municipal election in October 2010.  Although it is only June, nine candidates have put their hat in the ring, and they all have websites already. Tony Seskus, a Calgary Herald journalist, contacted me yesterday (June 24, 2010) for my input on the candidates’ sites.  I provided to him some of my general findings and advice, and critiques and ratings of all nine candidates’ websites, and a memorable image clip from the site.

As I posted this on my blog, I added two final sections that help readers think about the theory and criticism of website rhetoric — what methods are needed, and how my theoretical framework for analysis relates to what ancient and contemporary rhetoricians have said.

If there is interest in this topic, I may give an update in October/November on how the candidates’ sites looked on voting day, and see if my ratings have any correlation to the results of the election.
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Teaching a web-design service-learning course


Create Refine Show

Image: T. Smith, 2009. With subject's consent.

Nearing the end of an adventure

In a few days my students in Communications Studies 463 will be completing their final websites and collected experiences and reflections.

Their thoughts will be presented publicly on campus on April 14th to an audience of approximately 30 people in addition to their class of 27 students and 4 instructional team members.

My post today responds to several of the common themes of their reflections:

  • transformed expectations about what the course should/would be like
  • the unexpected workload that comes with increased accountability to stakeholders in addition to the usual fear/respect for the grade
  • the technology challenges and learning
  • the teamwork challenges and learning
  • the unusual roles of the instructional team members as collaborators
  • the unfamiliar assignments that are a “hybrid” of academic, public, and organizational genres suiting our hybrid partnership and bridge-building aims.
  • the joys and fears of producing a real website for a real public while being evaluated by one another and supporting one another.

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University website rankings and course sites


Coms 463 Google Site course homepage clip

Coms 463 Google Site course homepage clip, T. Smith, 2010

The trend toward ranking university websites, outlined in my previous post,  has implications for course websites and online curriculum.  How does an instructor’s posting of course content on the university’s web  server contribute to these rankings?

Is the public posting of course websites going to be encouraged as rank-boosting activity?  Course information on the main university server is likely to get a lot of hits from its captive audience of students.

However, do universities trust their professors to post content that might be visually or verbally inconsistent with their organizational ethos? Continue reading