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Spring 2010

Instructor:  Michele Polak 

Email:  polak@hws.edu

Office/Hours:  205A  Smith Hall  TTh 1:30-2:45p & by Appt

Office Phone:  781-3181

Section 01/3659  1:25-2:50p  M, F  9 Rosenberg

WRRH205:  Rhetorical Bytes

Digital Rhetorics & Writing With New Technologies

Course Goals, Description and Expectations

As students of rhetoric, we know that the traditions of rhetorical argument began in orality before moving to print form with the written word.  For many rhetoricians, alphabetic text became a dominant discourse of rhetorical argument, the written form favoring that of speech in composition courses.  Carolyn Handa writes in the Introduction to Visual Rhetoric in a Digital World:  A Critical Sourcebook, “Rhetoric’s association with the written word is arbitrary, a by-product of print culture rather than the epistemological limits of rhetoric itself” (2), making a case for a shift in our familiar literacies of rhetorical argument.


With the rise of new technologies in the latter half of the last century, however, new forms of media have enabled rhetoric to take on new meanings with greater exploration, challenging the writer to learn different ways of interpreting ethos, using pathos and situating logos.  Purpose may seem more direct and also more abstract, while audience moves from the personal to the public leaving Kress to ask, “Does the category of genre remain important, useful, necessary; does it become more or less important in the era of multimodal communication?” (39).  In this course, we will explore these new forms, new genres, and new literacies that bring new technologies into our writing classroom.  Through analyzing basic theories of visual rhetoric and design, we will use different elements of digital applications to provide us with new venues for designing, interpreting, and executing rhetorical argument.


There are a variety of rhetorical aspects that can be found in new media forms, from Facebook, to mp3 players, to wikis, to online videos.  While instructions on how to use digital technologies are important aspects of some classes, we will focus in this course on the kinds of arguments made on and by these technologies.  We will study the impact of different interfaces on writing and persuasion, and will create compositions using a variety of media.  This semester, you will have the opportunity to develop skills in analyzing digital technology, composing in various forms of digital media, understanding writing about new technologies, and considering the broader cultural impact of digital rhetorics.  Along with critical analysis and writing skills, we will work together on designing strategies for both visual and audio platforms for a variety of audiences. 


I have designed this course with your needs as contemporary rhetoricians in mind, with a sampling of theorists to read for foundation and projects that will enable you to put the theories we learn into practice.  The topics of exploration in this course, however, remain yours for choosing.  While I will provide ideas and guidelines to help keep you structured, it is in your best interest to decide early how you want to organize your needs for this course—consider what you will be taking from what you learn about writing with new technologies into the workplace and beyond.

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