Anne Frances Wysocki: Writing New Media

Anne Frances Wysocki and company’s Writing New Media has been an enjoyable and valuable read this past week. Foregrounding issues of materiality, multimodality, and even intellectual property, it’s full of both theoretical and practical content for writing teachers/scholars. Most notably, the book contains curricular suggestions for integrating new media focused reading/writing assignments into the classroom. These activities range in depth and complexity, and most can be adapted to a wide range of classes that rhet/comp scholars can find themselves teaching. Not only do I feel like this book will be on my exam reading list, there are also a number of texts referenced within that may end up on my reading lists. All in all – fantastic, valuable read whose core ideas and activities do not feel outdated in today’s technological/compositional environments (important given that this book was published over a decade ago). In fact, I’d love to see an updated edition of this book soon, to address additional/further concerns surrounding new media that have developed since its initial publication.


That quick overview of my impressions/thoughts/takeaways aside, I’d like to reflect on this text briefly in the context of my dissertation work. As I envision it now, my diss will focus on making delivery a (the?) central concern for rhet/comp scholars. Delivery has been chronically undertheorized, ignored for a large part of rhetoric’s tumultuous history, and while many scholars over the past few decades have called (explicitly and otherwise) for closer attention to be paid to delivery, from what I’ve seen, this work has been scattered and marginal (though this is slowly changing). As I’m thinking currently, I want to centralize delivery as the core, defining canon of the rhetorical arts since delivery colonizes every other canon; that is, we encounter concerns of delivery at every moment of the composition process. Given that I’m still in coursework, I’m a little while off from having something more concrete or realized than those scattered thoughts, but hopefully that bit of background helps me frame where I’m coming from as I reflect for a minute on Writing New Media. 

In the introduction, Wysocki makes two important moves when it comes to new media texts and the composition classroom. First, Wysocki feels that the field of new media studies, no matter the disciplinary entry point or perspective, has been historically concerned with either analyzing individual texts or writing about broad contexts and functions, with little-to-no scholarship that “[helps] composers of texts think usefully about effects of their particular decisions as they compose a new media text, [helps] composers see how agency and materiality are entwined as they compose” (6). She claims that writing teachers are in a unique position to facilitate meaningful conversations around composition/reception of new media texts, particularly because we are skilled in “[helping] others consider how the choices we make in producing a text necessarily situate us (or can try to avoid situating us) in the midst of ongoing, concrete, and continually up-for-grabs decisions about the shapes of our lives” and, thusly, “can bring to new media texts a humane and thoughtful attention to materiality, production, and consumption, which is currently missing” (7). This move is essential for my work on delivery; I intend to argue that the exact things she says writing teachers bring to new media studies are all under the domain of delivery. Wysocki highlights how writing teachers can bring attention to “materiality, production, and consumption”; yet each of these concerns deals directly with delivery. We’re so quick, as a field, to tether delivery to the consumption of a text, that we have been blind to the ways delivery is present in the production of our texts via the material concerns of the medium and modality. From the moment of exigence, a rhetor considers how to best reach her desired audience, which includes considering what practices of reading and meaning-making that audience will bring to the text. Such considerations shape decisions related to the material production of the text. Thus, delivery colonizes every part of the composition process, since the audience as well as the socially agreed upon conventions of a given genre are always already present, shaping the text in practical, material ways. And as writing teachers, we know this; we already help our students consider such things as they are composing. It’s about time we rightfully identify these material considerations as belonging to delivery so, as a field, we can begin to centralize delivery in our theory and practice.

Second, Wysocki’s definition of new media isn’t grounded in, and doesn’t rely upon, the digital. Instead, she defines new media texts as “those that have been made by composers who are aware of the range of materialities of texts and who then highlight the materiality” (15). Further, “what is important is that whoever produces the text and who- ever consumes it understand—because the text asks them to, in one way or another—that the various materialities of a text contribute to how it, like its producers and consumers, is read and understood” (15). This definition/understanding leaves room for a wide range of textualities to be considered a new media text, which is hugely important for my dissertation. My argument will be grounded in the claim that delivery has always mattered, has always been concerned with such things as materiality, we just haven’t needed to consider it as explicitly as other rhetorical canons because our composition technologies were limited. While Wysocki doesn’t frame her observations as concerns of delivery, she does notice the same rupture as I have: “we have a time of opening here, a time to be alert to how these choices of material very much articulate into the other structures that shape writing and our lives— and that being alert to these choices can help us shape changes we might want” (10). Digital technologies and new media texts, then, have exposed the importance of delivery, as well as the blind spot surrounding it, that has developed in our field over the passing millennia. By positioning new media texts as those that foreground their materiality, traditional textualities (print and performance, for instance) can still be considered new media. One example I anticipate turning to to exhibit this is the work of novelist Mark Z. Danielewski, particularly his groundbreaking novel House of Leaves. This novel, by calling attention to the materiality of the print novel, created a work of fiction that can ONLY be effectively delivered as a print novel; in other words, the text calls attention to, and relies upon, the delivery system of printed pages bound together in a portable, hand-held form. Wysocki’s definition of a new media text will, without a doubt, become critical for framing my understanding of delivery, precisely because it harkens back to an Aristotelian notion of discovering the available means of persuasion; discovering the best available means of persuasion means considering the material concerns of a given modality, which immediately takes the conversation into the realm of delivery.

So there you have it, some of my quick, initial thoughts and reactions to Writing New Media. I can tell already that this book will become an important one for supporting some of my work on delivery going forward. Good read!

All quotes taken from:

Wysocki, Anne Frances, et al. Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition. Utah State University Press, 2004.

Response: “Hypertext and the Rhetorical Canons” – Jay David Bolter

I like Bolter’s focus on the rhetorical implications of hypertext. I think there are a few ideas in here that could stand as a way in to discussing delivery in the context of both digital AND printed texts and finding a model that fits both. While Bolter puts a lot of great ideas forward about hypertext, I again feel, like many others I have been reading, he is a bit short sighted when it comes to the larger understanding of rhetorical delivery.

While I had originally intended for this post to be a collection of notes, I found myself responding quite a bit while gathering my collected quotes. So it’s turned into a hybrid notes/response post. So it goes.

“Although word processing remains the most popular use of the personal computer, it is not fully electronic writing….the goal of word processing is still to produce attractive printed output. The flexibility exists only during the process of composition. Once the document is put on paper, it is no more fluid than any other printed text, and the reader of the document still confronts a fixed and finished structure of words…With the word processor the writing process has changed, but the product has not.” – 97
(Note: I would argue that printed texts are not always fixed, and the reader does’t always confront a finished product in which he or she has no part. Since my model for delivery applies to printed and digital texts, this point is probably going to emerge in my thesis. My argument for the flexibility on printed text? Danielewski’s House of Leaves and Only Revolutions.)

“When a text is written to be read on the computer screen, then both writer and reader can take advantage of the flexibility of the new medium. A text that is meant to be read at the computer no longer needs to have a single, linear presentation. It can instead consist of topical units (paragraphs, sections, chapters) that are related in a variety of ways. This structure of topics is then offered to the reader, who can decide which topics to view and in what order.” – 98
(Note: same note from above applies here.)

“[With hypertext] graphs, pictures, and maps can be linked to verbal text and made available for the reader to explore…Thus, words, graphics, animation, sounds, and video can all be disposed as units in a hypertext” – 98
(Note: What Bolter calls units appears to be functioning similarly to what I call a mode of composition.)

“The text itself, what the reader sees on the screen, arises from the interaction between the link structure and the reader’s decisions. There is, however, a further level of flexibility; the reader can add new topics and new links to the web. In other words the reader can join in the process of writing the evolving hypertext.” – 98

“In an obvious sense, a printed text exists and remains the same, whether it is in the readers’ hands or sitting unread on a shelf. The printed text is present with or without the reader’s action. However, a hypertext is not present at all until the reader call it onto screen.” – 99
(Note: I disagree. A hypertext is present before the reader calls it onto the screen. Just because it is not currently being looked at doesn’t make it any less present. It’s present in virtual form, but it is still present; it still exists.)

“On a diskette or in computer memory, a hypertext is only a potential text, a structure of possibilities that reader must activate.” – 99
(Note: Like above, I take contention with this claim. I think a hypertext is a text with multiple potentialities. The finished form is activated by the reader, but all of the materials that comprise the text are still there; they simply are without a path.)

“the electronic text itself is defined in the act of delivery.” – 100

“Electronic technology disrupts both literary theory and composition theory. It disrupts literary theory by admitting a whole new body of materials (interactive texts) that need theoretical treatment. It disrupts composition theory by providing new facilities (for interactivity and multimedia presentation) that will need to be incorporated into the pedagogy.” – 100

“hypertext brings together the canons of delivery and arrangement, in the sense that the arrangement of a hypertext, the order in which the topics appear on the reader’s screen, is determined in the act of delivery.” – 100
(Note: Relationship between the act of delivery and the time of delivery? Can these be separate? Do they overlap? When a single text is delivered repeatedly across multiple times, is it a single act of delivery? Or is each occurrence its own act?)

“With hypertext, arrangement means shaping or making the argument appropriate to its context. And hypertext further blurs the distinction between arrangement and invention. Hypertextual readers participate in invention, to the extent that they determine the argument itself based on choices made.” – 100

“There is another sense in which hypertext redefines invention: it does so by redefining the notion of a topic…Hypertext is by definition topical in the sense that it requires the author and reader to conceive of text in elementary units that are located in a writing space…A topic is a verbal or visual element that has unity or coherence: It is meaningful in a variety of contexts depending on the path that the reader follows in arriving at the topic. A topic is also a place, usually both the destination and the anchor for a number of links.” – 101

“Topics can be fashioned out of topics, and we can see a string of topical units as a topic int he Aristotelian sense, a formal structure in which the links from one element to others provide rhetorical direction and force.” – 101

“The link itself raises expectations in readers, just as the footnote does in readers of a printed book. It is the task of the writer of hypertext to prepare the readers’ expectations in the first topical unit and, if the readers follow the link, to satisfy those expectations in the second unit.” – 101

“Topics and links in a hypertext define formal shapes. For example, there is a ‘footnote’ shape: A link leads from one topic to another, and the second topic is linked back to the first…This shape can be extended to create a ring of topics, in which Topics A leads to B, which leads to C, and so on, until the final topic leads back to A. A star shape would consists of one of topic with multiple branches that emanate like rays from the center. Also, there is linear presentation, in which each topic leads to the next as in a printed text…Many other shapes are possible, and each will have a certain rhetorical effect. The word ‘shape’ could be translated into Greek as schema and into Latin as figura, which reminds us that ancient theory regarded figures of thought and speech as rhetorical shapes.” – 102 [sic]

Hyperbaton is a general figure of rearrangement. It is the departure from normal word order for rhetorical effect…Hyperbaton is also the controlling figure of hypertext. In the process of delivery, a hypertext makes almost constant use of hyperbaton. The topics of the hypertext appear in a variety of ‘unusual’ orders, because there is no normal order, no single order defined and sanctioned by the author. Readers fashion hyperbaton as they read.” – 102

“hyperbaton places demands on the reader. It demands a suspension not of belief, but of the desire for syntactical completion: The reader must hold one element in mind while waiting for the other elements that will complete the expression.” – 103

“hyperbata are chosen by readers and, if the hypertext is well organized under a rhetoric of departures and arrivals, readers should be able to maintain their orientation. Hyperbaton is the reason for creating pedagogical hypertexts or textual databases in the first place. Readers want to be able to violate the conventional order of a printed text.” – 103

“With hypertext, however, the rubrics of style and delivery become two equally valid perspectives from which to understand the interactive experience of reading a multiply linked text.” – 104

“Hypertext systems are peculiar in that they work by a kind of oscillation. In creating a hypertext the writer moves back and forth between two different activities: adding topical materials and creating a linked structure of those materials.” – 104

“Authoring a hypertext requires oscillating between two rhetorical worlds, one familiar and one new.” – 104

“In reading a hypertext, however, readers must do more than merely turn pages. At the end of each topic, readers must make a decision to follow a particular link, and at that moment of decision, the text is no longer transparent. Readers become aware that they are seated before a computer and need to act in order to make the text move. In other words, the readers stop reading the words and become conscious again of the hypertext as a structure. They begin to look at the text rather than through it, and this shift in perspective, however brief, interrupts the traditional narrative flow.” – 105
(Note: Obvious connection an reference to Lanham here. It may be worth taking a look at how Brooke, Lanham, and Bolter converse in a future response.)

“Neither in print nor in manuscript did the author have a convenient way to command that the reader’s attention be drawn back to the textual structure itself.” – 105
(Note: Again, I disagree and turn to Danielewski’s House of Leaves and Only Revolutions as contemporary examples of why this is not true.)

“in terms of content rather than technology, the oscillation between looking at and looking through was a familiar technique in ancient rhetoric. Narration was a recognized part of oratory, and in a narrative passage the goal of the orator was to draw the scene as vividly as possible. A good orator could make the audience lose itself in the story. At other times in the speech, the orator’s task would be to keep the audience aware of the circumstances of the speech itself – the trial or assembly, the audience’s responsibility as jurors or participants, the orator’s own position and authority. A good orator would be able to manipulate the audience by taking them back and forth, focusing now on the story behind the speech, now on the speech itself or the legal proceedings. But a good orator would never make the audience aware of the techniques of manipulation, the ways in which the orator brings about the oscillation.” – 105
(Note: There could be something here with texts composed in one mode vs texts that are multimodal. Is it easy to hide the manipulation when only working with one mode? Does this manipulation become harder to hide the more modes that are present? Could be worth further investigation.)

“With hypertext, however, the author must cede some control to the reader, and the ceding of control occurs precisely at the joints int he text, the moments when the reader is invited to choose a link…The reader becomes aware of the text as text and of the author’s attempt to structure the experience of reading. No longer lost in the text, the reader begins to look at the text in a critical way.” – 106

“that is precisely what the hypertextual author must accept: The reader will be repeatedly stepping into the ruptures of the text and examining their structure.” – 106

“For both Cicero and Quintilian, the purpose of delivery was to add emotional color to an argument and so make the argument persuasive…As Quintilian put it, the voice served as an intermediary to transfer the appropriate emotion from the orator to the listener…The goal was a kind of emotional unity between orator and audience.” – 106
(Note: connection to pathos here)

“In hypertext the reader can identify with the author, but this identification happens because the reader begins to take control of the text and therefore to usurp the role of the author. Furthermore, in the ancient conception, delivery comes after the text is formed; it is performance in the sense that an actor performs from the script of a play. As we have seen, in hypertext there is no text prior to delivery; as an individual reading experience, the text comes into existence in the act of delivery.” – 106
(Note: Yes to the second half of the last sentence (as an individual experience), but the text still exists prior to the reader’s intervention. It just exists in a fragmented form.
Also note: Delivery happens when the text is brought to an audience, but considerations for delivery are part of the process from the beginning of the text’s formation.)

“But a hypertext, even by a single author, is always the work of two voices – because, at the points of linking, the (apparent) authorial voice falls silent and readers have at least a limited opportunity to raise their voices.” – 106

“Hypertexts are by nature polyvocal. Contemporary literary critics have argued that all texts are polyvocal, but what might be metaphorically true of printed texts becomes true at an operational level for hypertext.” – 107

“In the figurative sense, what we mean today by the voice of a text was in ancient terms persona or ethos.” – 107

“Memory meant more for Plato than mere repetition; it meant possession, making an idea one’s own, and neither the author nor the reader of a written text could possess that text in the proper, Platonic way.” – 108

“As Plato put it, if reader interrogated the text, they would only receive the same answer again and again. The text could not adjust itself to the needs and limitations of each reader, as of course an author could do when delivering a lecture from ideas held in memory.” – 108
(Note: I disagree. I think a printed text is constantly shifting in its relationship with the reader. As the same reader is different each time he or she approaching a text [because life has happened and changed the reader, even if only in the subtlest of ways], so are the answers communicated by a printed text.)

“The real purpose of a ‘friendly’ interface is to diminish the apparent cognitive distance between memory and the external source of information, to close the gap between the mind and the writing space. The ultimate goal would be to create a seamless connection, in which readers pass without effort from what they remember to what can be found in the writing space. The readers would then be able to ‘remember’ all the information stored in a vast hypertextual database.” – 109

“Like the ancient memory system, the hypertextual network is operative: That is, it is meant to be used to spin out the text. But the text that it spins is not predetermined. A hypertext is a network of possible lines of thought, rather than a fixed representation of a single line.” – 110

“There exists, then, a tension between the visual and verbal rhetorics of hypertext. Two different modes of communication confront each other in the same space and are therefore constantly pulling the author or reader back and forth between the pole of purely alphabetic writing and the pole of the purely pictorial.” – 111
(Note: Why a tension? Or rather, what is the benefit of this tension? Tension allows space for critical understanding. Also, the author and reader are not pulled back and forth between these modes of communication; rather, an individual experiences both simultaneously and ha to navigate the tensions that arise from this.)

” Achieving a new balance between verbal and visual presentation will be a principle task for writing pedagogy and rhetorical theory in the coming decades.” – 111

Quotes taken from: Bolter, Jay David. “Hypertext and the Rhetorical Canons.” Rhetorical Memory and Delivery. New York: Routledge, 1993. 97-111. Print.

Response: “Composition and the Circulation of Writing” by John Trimbur

I like that this article is predicated on the idea that the current composition models in schools doesn’t necessarily serve how we want our students to think about and engage in writing. I’m not sure Trimbur really gets to any real conclusions in order to help mitigate this, but his insistence on including how writing circulates into the composition process is important. It’s a clear call to prioritize delivery.

Notes and reactions:
“My point here does not have to do with what amounts to a fair policy on late papers but rather with what is contained in my usual response or, better put, what is silenced when I say ‘I don’t want to hear it.’…If my response is a typical one-and I believe it is reasonable to think so- then we might stop to consider what is at stake and the extent to which such pedagogical practices erase the materiality of writing. To say, as I have, ‘I just want the paper,’ suggests that the student’s words alone are what count and to identify writing with the creative moment of composing, thereby isolating an education in writing from the means of production and delivery.” – 189
This is problematic. I think back to my own composition instruction, and there have been countless moments where I’ve uttered this response. Granted, working with high schoolers, deadlines were more so a function to teach responsibility, accountability, and time management: life skills many students, sadly, do not receive at home. But the side effects of such an imposition on the writing process are profound. It pulls focus to the content of the piece and hides questions and concerns of production.
One contention I have with how Trimbur frames this, however, is that he separates production from delivery in this statement. I don’t see delivery as being different from production in such a way. Questions of production often become concerns of delivery. This isn’t to say that every question related to production is in the realm of delivery; rather, delivery is a central concern in any rhetorical consideration, and many questions of production are questions about delivery. In other words, inherent in any concerns of delivery are questions about production.

“the isolation results in part from the pressures and limits of classroom life and the overdetermined social relations between teachers and students. But there is also a conceptual separation of the canons of rhetoric operating in writing instruction that has isolated delivery (and memory, as well) from invention, arrangement, and style.” – 189
This is something I will have to look into deeper. Part of my thesis will be to look back at historic understandings and portrayals of delivery. No doubt this canonical separation has affected an understanding of what it is to compose. I think part of my work will be to show how there is a give and take between the canons, a flow, a symbiosis, that is centered around delivery.

“By privileging composing as the main site of instruction, the teaching of writing has taken up what Karl Marx calls a ‘one-sided’ view of production and thereby has largely erased the cycle that links the production, distribution, exchange, and consumption of writing. This cycle of interlocked moments is what Marx calls circulation.” – 190
Trimbur uses circulation and delivery interchangeably in his article, and this is the excerpt to best support his reasoning. I personally think they cannot be used interchangeably, because circulation is simply one aspect of delivery. That being said, concerns of circulation ARE concerns of delivery, so I understand Trimbur’s choice. However, I would caution against using these terms interchangeably outside the context of this paper because delivery is concerned with more than just circulation.

“In writing instruction, however, delivery has been an afterthought at best, assigned mainly to technical and professional communication and associated largely with such matters of document design as page layout, typography, visual display of information, and Web design. Delivery, that is, appears for the most part to be a technical issue about physical presentation whether in oral, print, or electronic forms.” – 190
So here we have a second concern of delivery. Traditionally, delivery is concerned with “physical presentation.” Add to this circulation/distribution, and we already can see how delivery touches a vast majority of the composition process.

“Public forums are diffuse, fragmented, and geographically separated. Speech is both literally and metaphorically broadcast through expanded means of communication. To my mind, delivery can no longer be thought of simply as a technical aspect of public discourse. It must be seen also as ethical and political-a democratic aspiration to devise delivery systems that circulate ideas, information, opinions, and knowledge and hereby expand the public forums in which people
can deliberate on the issues of the day” – 190
This could be helpful in my thesis. If we look at the content/information itself as being primarily concerned with logos, than it’s through delivery that ethos and pathos are mitigated. The same content can be delivered in multiple ways, and how that content is delivered is shaped by ethical and emotional appeals. More so, these appeals are dictated largely by the audience in question, which complicates the equation further.

“My argument is that with the democratic evolutions of the modern age, delivery must be seen as inseparable from the circulation of writing and the widening diffusion of socially useful knowledge” – 191

“While these kinds of assignments do begin to address the problem of circulation in interesting ways, they depend nonetheless on a dichotomy between schooled and “real” writing that rejects
the private space of the classroom/home in the name of an unproblematical, immediately available public writing…Moreover, counterposing the ‘real world’ to the classroom draws upon a gendered separation of spheres that fails to see how the public and private merge in the domestic space of the middle-class family.” – 195
This is in response to “real world” writing assignments. While the family metaphor feels a bit much to me in this essay, what this quote does highlight is the merging of public and private space, which goes well beyond middle-class families. Given current technological conditions, I would argue that the lines between public and private space have blurred, problematizing these categorizations in ways previously impossible. For example, from the privacy of one’s own home, an individual can engage with social networking; this brings the public sphere into the home. Conversely, technology with app integrations allows for an individual to interact with elements of his or her home (lights, thermostat, even deadbolts) using a smartphone from anywhere in the world, granting control of the domestic even when working within the private sphere. With the boundaries complicated as such, the idea of writing as either a private OR public activity is antiquated. Instead, we need an understanding of texts that focuses on its dual nature of being both public and private at once. What does this mean for “school” and “real world” writing?

“The problem remains: how to imagine writing as more than just the moment of production when meaning gets made. How can we see writing as it circulates through linked moments of production, distribution, exchange, and consumption?” – 196
Composing with delivery in mind forces the composer to engage in the process of production, distribution, exchange, and consumption.

“By Johnson’s account, the notion of circulation enables us to see how cultural products pass through a range of meanings and uses as they are taken up at various points in the social
formation.” – 196
And this range of meanings should be anticipated, to a degree, by the composer. This echoes what DeVoss and Ridolfo dub “Rhetorical Velocity.”

“Imagining cultural forms and products circulating through a continuous cycle of relatively autonomous but interlocked moments has some important consequences. For one thing, it enables Johnson to challenge the assumption that the meaning of a message or cultural product can be inferred directly and unproblematically from either its moment of production or its textual manifestation without taking into account the conditions of circulation… And it also calls into question the tendency inherited from literary studies to constitute cultural forms and products simply as “texts” that can be analyzed, critiqued, and demystified by the expert readings of specialist critics” – 197
I agree with the first part of this statement: the meaning of a text cannot be inferred simply from the product itself. The process of meaning-making must account for conditions of not only circulation but composition as well. Meaning is not isolated within the text itself (like the new critics believed). It is a complex process that involves a wide variety of considerations. However, I do think all cultural forms and products are texts that can be analyzed and critiqued (though not necessarily demystified). Now, this analysis doesn’t have to be done by an expert; in fact, the one of the primary aims of education should be teaching people how to read and analyze all forms of text because this is essential to navigate daily life. But everything we are surrounded by communicates a message, thus it is a text in some form.

“My point is that by fixating at one moment on the circulation of cultural forms-by imagining culture to be a ‘text’ capable of being read-cultural studies writing assignments and classroom practices once again (and in loco parentis) called on the active meaning-making student to
give an interpretive account.” – 199
Yes, but interpretation is imperative to how we understand the world. Period. We should be calling upon students to make meaning in their interpretations, but this action hardly fixates on one moment. On the contrary, in order to make meaning, in order to interpret, one must engage in an endless series of moments that begins before the textual product itself ever comes into existence, and once it does, extends infinitely into the future, growing and changing in time.

“By assigning all the agency to the audience, the ‘new revisionists’ have made it virtually impossible to mount any kind of critique of the media-to ask, for instance, how corporate control of the means of communication promotes certain cultural forms and marginalizes others, not to mention how the ‘active audience’ itself is packaged and sold as a commodity (the ‘market share’
of viewers) to advertisers. The problem is not just that the ‘new revisionists’ have overemphasized the agency of the audience and popular practices of consumption. In effect, by doing so, they have severed the relation between production and consumption altogether, viewing the use of cultural norms and products in isolation from the social conditions that formed them” – 201
Yes, this does highlight the danger of assigning all agency to the audience. What needs to be addressed is how the audience’s agency changes. It’s clearly not the same for every text, and I would assume that form, mode, and temporalities govern the degree of agency for a given audience.

“In his formulation, the ‘active audience’ is not always ‘right’ or ‘in control.’ Instead, for Hall, viewers’ responses are open but not indeterminate, bounded by the pressures and limits of messages encoded at the point of production according to the prevailing ‘knowledge-in-use concerning the routines of production, historically defined technical skills, professional ideologies, institutional knowledge, definitions and assumptions, assumptions about the audience and so on’ (“Encoding” 129). Hall hypothesizes three by now familiar positions viewers take as they respond to encoded messages: a dominant-hegemonic position from which the viewer ‘is operating inside the dominant code’ (“Encoding” 136); a negotiated position from which decoding ‘contains a mixture of adaptive and oppositional elements’ (“Encoding” 137); and finally an oppositional position from which decoding ‘detotalizes the message in the preferred code in order to retotalize the message within some alternative framework of reference’ (“Encod-
ing” 138). – 202
This could be very useful, particularly in determining the extent of an audience’s agency. Add this to the reading list.

“One of the striking features of Hall’s encoding/decoding model is how it seeks to represent the receiver as an active agent without giving up on the effectivity of ideology in the process of communication” – 202
See comment above. Also could be useful for navigating the relationship between audience, author, and text.

“But, for Hall, as well as Berlin, the literary legacy of cultural studies and its residual textualism continue to weigh heavily on their work, and the acts of encoding and decoding, writing and reading, production and consumption remain the privileged moments of analysis without adequate attention to the systems through which cultural products and media messages circulate or the transformations they thereby undergo.” – 203
Yes, there is a lack of adequate attention paid to delivery systems, but this isn’t because of textualism. The text still must remain central because communication happens through the text. We need to incorporate into our understanding of how a text is composed and functions concerns of how it is delivered and how delivery impacts the composition and function.

“Marx wanted to explain the various moments in the circulation of commodities- the cycle of production, distribution, exchange, and consumption-not as a series of separate events taking place in a predetermined order over time but dialectically, as mediations in mutual and coterminous relations that constitute the capitalist mode of production as a total system.” – 206
Note this. A dialectic approach may be helpful to include in my work.

“The process of production determines- and distributes-a hierarchy of knowledge and information that is tied to the cultural authorization of expertise, professionalism, and respectability” – 210
Nice little soundbite. Don’t know if I’ll use it, but I want it here just incase.

Quotes taken from:
Trimbur, John. “Composition and the Circulation of Writing.” College Composition and Communication 52.2 (2000): 188-219. JSTOR. Web. 30 July 2013.

Further reading from this article (citations copied from article as is):
Hall, Stuart. “Encoding/Decoding.” Culture, Media, Language. Ed. Stuart Hall et al. London: Hutchinson, 1980. 128-38.

Response: “The World of Wrestling” by Roland Barthes

I am a huge wrestling fan. “Like…WWF and stuff?” Exactly. But not just WWE (as it is now called); small promotions, large promotions, independent wrestling…it matters little. I am simply enamored with the sport/art/medium of storytelling.

But my obsession with wrestling isn’t just for personal entertainment. The rhetorical situation of wrestling is a complex, fascinating amalgamation that is not just worthy of continued study. Wrestling’s simultaneous use of visual, linguistic, kinesthetic, and aural modes of communication make it the perfect medium to stand as the basis for understanding a theory of rhetoric that is focused on multimodal composition.

But before I can begin to theorize exactly how this will fold into my work on re-defining delivery, it’s important to turn to those who have come before me. Roland Barthes’ “The World of Wrestling” is the perfect jumping off point to begin theorizing. It’s also a unique text because one, he is focused on French wrestling (not American or even other European promotions), and two, the artform has both changed yet remained the same since he published this piece in 1972. For the purposes of this post, I plan on simply collecting my initial notes and reactions in one place that I can turn to as I develop these idea further.

Notes and reactions:
“True wrestling, wrongly called amateur wrestling, is performed in second-rate halls, where the public spontaneously attunes itself to the spectacular nature of the contest, like the audience at a suburban cinema.” – 15
This is still absolutely true of independent wrestling today!

“The public is completely uninterested in knowing whether the contest is rigged or not, and rightly so; it abandons itself to the primary virtue of the spectacle, which is to abolish all motives and all consequences: what matters is not what it thinks but what it sees.” – 15
Yes to the first part; the audience does not care that the outcomes are predetermined. This is a condition of the spectacle itself. However, the degree of agency possessed by the audience could complicate this last bit. It does matter what the audience thinks if they are unhappy with how talent is being utilized and what the outcomes are; if these are out of line with what the audience expects from the characters, this relationship becomes complicated. In this case, it matters what it sees AND what it thinks.
Side note: Does the agency of the audience change with its size and range? For instance, does the WWE live audience have more agency because the product is being broadcast globally (often live)? Does a small, independent wrestling audience have less agency because the number of affected patrons is smaller?

“A boxing-match is a story which is constructed before the eyes of the spectator; in wrestling, on the contrary, it is each moment which is intelligible, not the passage of time…Wrestling therefore demands an immediate reading of the juxtaposed meanings, so that there is no need to connect them…wrestling is a sum of spectacles, of which no single one is a function: each moment imposes the total knowledge of a passion which rises erect and alone, without ever extending to the crowning moment of a result.” – 16
It is this demand to immediately read and make sense of the juxtaposition of modes of communication that positions wrestling as a possible model/example for an understanding of how multimodal composition functions. I love the wording of wrestling being a “sum of spectacles,” moments that are complete in their communication but work together to tell a complete story. However, I do think there is a crowning moment of a result, but that result isn’t necessarily for the participants of the fight; rather, the “crowning moment of a result” is for the audience. Much like the theatre of ancient Greece, everything culminates to that cathartic moment; the release of built up tension, pressure, and anticipation. I would argue that this is a crowning moment of a result; it is simply that the result has been determined ahead of time to make the audience feel a particular way.
And how do you craft the story to move the audience in such a way? Delivery! It all comes back to delivery…

“The function of the wrestler is not to win; it is to go exactly through the motions which are expected of him.” – 16
Questions of agency abound here. Who has the agency: The performer? The audience? The promoter? In what combination? Are there different types of agency to consider?

“Wrestling…offers excessive gestures, exploited to the limit of their meaning…a man who is down is exaggeratedly so, and completely fills the eyes of the spectators with the intolerable spectacle of powerlessness.” – 16
Could prove too be a useful soundbite.

“This function of grandiloquence is indeed the same as that of ancient theatre, whose principle, language and props…concurred in the exaggeratedly visible explanation of a Necessity.” – 16
Barthes has also observed the classic principles of theatre present in wrestling. This quote works well with the previous as a good soundbite. Wrestling is a spectacle of excess, so every action must be done to the extreme to leave little to no room for misinterpretation.
Side Note: Subtlety in wrestling? This would be an interesting writing project: talk about how subtlety functions in a form that is not designed to be subtle.

“Each sign in wrestling is therefore endowed with an absolute clarity since one must always understand everything on the spot…the public is overwhelmed with the obviousness of the roles.” – 16
Not sure this is the case anymore. This issue is something that has changed since the public acknowledgement that wrestling outcomes are predetermined. Before this, I do think the roles of the wrestlers were obvious and needed to be. Now, audience agency no doubt comes into the question. Because every member of the audience (of a certain age; I’m sure children do and should believe in the illusion of the spectacle) is in on the story, if a particular wrestler is being misused or pushed in an unfavorable way, the audience has tools available at its disposal to “change” the story, and thus change the roles.
Examples: John Cena – Though he is the face of the company and the quintessential good guy, in many venues, he’ll draw the most boos from the crowd. This is because the audience is tired of the obviousness of his character and is craving just a bit more “reality” from the character.
Stone Cold Steve Austin – Though his actions were those of a bad guy, he became the most popular wrestler on the planet and consistently received the largest cheers because he was so good at the role he played. He wasn’t getting recognized for his work, so the audience, through their participation, forced the promotion’s hand. His character remained the same, he still performed actions that a bad guy would, but this made the audience cheer even more. Here this “obviousness” of the role becomes clouded. (We can also see this happening currently with Dolph Ziggler.)

“classical concept of the salaud, the ‘bastard’ (they key-concept of any wrestling-match)” – 17
Good to note.

“the passionate condemnation of the crowd no longer stems from its judgement, but instead from the very depth of its humours.” – 17
Note: this occurs in a discussion of the physical appearance of the wrestler and how his very look contributes to how his character should be interpreted. The physical is absolutely part of the “obviousness”; a poor “ring look” can contribute to the failure of a character.
Forces at work here: multimodality, visual rhetoric reinforced by kinesthetic rhetoric, reinforced by oral and aural rhetoric.

“It is therefore in the body of the wrestler that we find the first key to the contest.” – 17
Ties into previous quote/comment.

“Wrestlers therefore have a physique as preemptory as those of the characters of the Commedia dell’Arte, who display in advance, in their costumes and attitudes, the future contests of their parts.” – 17
I don’t know why I never made this connection! The connections to classical Greco-Roman theatre are obvious, but there are so many parallels to Commedia as well, particularly in character construction! Absolutely build upon this in the future.

“The physique of the wrestlers therefore constitutes a basic sign, which like a seed contains the whole fight, But this seed proliferates, for it is at every turn during the fight, in each new situation, that the body of the wrestler casts to the public the magical entertainment of a temperament which finds its natural expression in a gesture.” – 18
Kinesthetic and Visual modes of communication are primary in wrestling; the oral/aural and linguistic elements ultimately serve the physical.

“Wrestling is like a diacritic writing: above the fundamental meaning of his body, the wrestler arranges comments which are episodic but always opportune, and constantly help the reading of the fight by means of gestures, attitudes and mimicry which make the intention utterly obvious.” – 18
See previous quote/comment.

“What the public wants is the image of passion, not passion itself. There is no more a problem of truth in wrestling than in the theatre. In both, what is expected is the intelligible representation of moral situations which are usually private. This emptying out of interiority to the benefit of its exterior signs, this exhaustion of the content by the form, is the very principle of triumphant classical art.” – 18
I would say this is another difference between when Barthes was writing and now; given the breaking of kayfabe and the presence of real personalities coinciding with character, sometimes if that passion is missing from a real persona behind the character, the audience will not connect. Or the opposite, if the passion is genuine, than the wrestler will connect no matter what the story dictates (i.e. Daniel Bryan, Stone Cold Steve Austin).
This being said, can a wrestler “fool” the audience with a convincing image of passion, even if it is not genuine? Yes. But I think it’s much, much harder in today’s social conditions.

“the wrestler’s gesture needs no anecdote, no decor, in short no transference in oder to appear true.” – 19
Ties back into previous observation that a wrestling match is made up of intelligible moments that build into a “sum of spectacles.”

“What is displayed for the public is the great spectacle of Suffering, Defeat, and Justice. Wrestling presents man’s suffering with all the amplification of tragic masks.” – 19
Connection to theatre. Beyond Greco-Roman and Commedia, I think this quote in particular also brings in ties to Medieval theatre and morality plays. Barthes does make some connections between wrestling and religious rhetoric, but I think theatre may be the connecting factor in this discussion.

“a concealed action that was actually cruel would transgress the unwritten rules of wrestling and would have no more sociological efficacy than a mad or parasitic gesture. On the contrary suffering appears as inflicted with emphasis and conviction, for everyone must not only see that the man suffers, but also and above all understand why he suffers. What wrestlers call a hold…has precisely the function of preparing in a conventional, therefore intelligible, fashion that spectacle of suffering, of methodically establishing the conditions of suffering.” – 19
Illusion of suffering, ties back into necessary obviousness of the gesture.

“wrestling is the only sport which gives such an externalized image of torture. But here again, only the image is involved in the game, and the spectator does not with for the actual suffering of the contestant; he only enjoys the perfection of an iconography. It is not true that wrestling is a sadistic spectacle: it is only an intelligible spectacle” – 20
Ties in with previous quote/notes.

“what wrestling is above all meant to portray is a purely moral concept: that of justice: – 21
Ties into theatre discussion.
Side note: Could be a fun side project to explore the outright references to justice that occur in wrestling. Primarily, right now with The Sheild’s success as a faction, calling themselves the “hounds of justice” and making justice their primary concern for ever appearing in the WWE.

“The baser the action of the ‘bastard’, the more delighted the public is by the blow which he justly receives in return.” – 21
Eye-for-an-eye reciprocity. There must be a balance to the actions in the ring (scales of justice?).

“Wrestlers know very well how to play up to the capacity for indignation of the public by presenting the very limit of the concept of Justice, this outermost zone of confrontation where it is enough to infringe the rules a little more to open the gates of a world without restraints.” – 21
Ties into previous two quotes/comments.

“wrestling is above all a quantitative sequence of compensations…This explains why sudden changes of circumstances have in the eyes of wrestling habitués a sort of moral beauty: they enjoy them as they would enjoy an inspired episode in a novel, and the greater the contrast between the success of a move and the reversal of fortune, the nearer the good luck of a contestant to his downfall, the more satisfying the dramatic mime is felt to be.” – 22
Ties back into the audience’s cathartic moment.

“true wrestling derives its originality from all the excesses which make it a spectacle and not a sport.” – 23
I just really like this soundbite. May not get used, but I want it available for quick access.
That being said, I believe it is a spectacle AND a sport. Ever watch two wrestlers grapple? Improv a match, or even just a sequence of moves? Wrestlers are athletes participating in a sporting event. It’s just that his even has very specific rules, one of them being that the story comes first.

“The rhythm of wrestling is quite different, for its natural meaning is that of rhetorical amplification: the emotional magniloquence, the repeated paroxysms, the exasperation of the retorts can only find their natural outcome in the more baroque confusion.” – 23
Ostentatiousness, excessiveness, obviousness. It is a spectacle because of this aspect of the show; it is a sport for the physicality.

“in America wrestling represents a sort of mythological fight between Good and Evil (of a quasi-political nature, the ‘bad’ wrestler always being supposed to be a Red). The process of creating heroes in French wrestling is very different, being based on ethics and not on politics.” – 23
This statement is worth revisiting and researching further. Given the intense global communications of the 21st century, does this still hold? No longer are our villains foreign; in fact, those who target foreigners can be bad guys now (Zeb Coulter). Granted, the Coulter example is also inherently political, so it may not be the best example. However, I think this example shows a move in American wrestling to also create Good and Evil characters based on ethics instead of (or in addition to) politics.

“Such a precise finality demands that wrestling should be exactly what the public expects of it. Wrestlers, who are very experienced, know perfectly how to direct the spontaneous episodes of the fight so as to make them conform to the image which the public has of the great legendary themes of its mythology.” – 24

“In wrestling, nothing exists except in the absolute, there is no symbol, no allusion; everything is presented exhaustively.” – 24
Ties into discussion of obviousness. Also ties into musing about subtly.
Is this complicated in 21st century wrestling? Again, is this different now that the audience has information about the “real” life of a wrestler? Can absolutes exist is such a time?

“What is portrayed by wrestling is therefore an ideal understanding of things; it is the euphoria of men raised for a while above the constitutive ambiguity of everyday situations and placed before the panoramic view of a univocal Nature, in which sign at last correspond to causes, without obstacle, without evasion, without contradiction.” – 25
Love this quote. Not sure how I’ll use it yet (too many possibilities!), but I have a feeling it will be used at some point in my scholarship.

“In the ring, and even in the depths of their voluntary ignominy, wrestlers remain gods because they are, for a few moments, the key which opens Nature, the pure gesture which separates Good from Evil, and unveils the form of a Justice which is at last intelligible.” – 25
See previous comment.

Quotes from: Barthes, Roland. “The World of Wrestling.” Mythologies. New York: Hill and Wang, 1972. PDF.

Response: “Rhetoric of the Image” by Roland Barthes

Really, what is there not to take note of in Roland Barthes’ “Rhetoric of the Image”? This in mind, here are a couple of bits that may or may not make their way into my work. It’s important to keep in mind that Barthes is primarily responding to advertising images and mass communications, but many of these statements could be applied to the reading of images as a whole.

Notes and reactions:
“Thus we find ourselves immediately at the heart of the most important problem facing the semiology of images: can analogical representation (the ‘copy’) produce true systems of signs and not merely simple agglutinations of symbols? Is it possible to conceive of an analogical ‘code’ (as opposed to a digital one)? We know that linguists refuse the status of language to all communication by analogy…the moment such communications are not doubly articulated, are not founded on a combinatory system of digital units as phonemes are.” – 33
I like this debate centered around whether the language of the image has its own coding system or if it simply an amalgamation of symbols grouped together. I would assume there is a history of scholarship on the subject since Barthes originally wrote this piece. Look into this for further research.

“the image is re-presentation, which is to say ultimately resurrection, and, as we know, the intelligible is reputed antipathetic to lived experience.” – 33
Image as re-presentation/resurrection is interesting language. It implies in it some of the debate around “death of the author” while also turning it on its head; is there a “death of the subject” that happens after an image is taken? Can an image only represent a moment that is past, that can never again be? I think there are links to image and memory that could absolutely be explored here as well.
Side note – reminds me of a moment in DiLilo’s White Noise (image of the barn). Bring this into the conversation?

“Now even – and above all if – the image is in a certain manner the limit of meaning, it permits the consideration of a veritable ontology of the process of signification.” – 33
Food for thought. Do the limits of images allow for a stronger understanding of the process of signification?

“If all these signs are removed from the image, we are still left with a certain informational matter; deprived of all knowledge, I continue to ‘read’ the image, to ‘understand’ that it assembles in a common space a number of identifiable (nameable) objects, not merely shapes and colors.” – 35
Points to the layered nature in which images must be read. There is almost a hierarchy to the information presented in images: some elements foundational to the composition of the image, other elements are signifiers helping the reader of the image know what is being signified.

“the relation between signified and signifier is quasi-tautological; no doubt the photograph involved a certain arrangement of the scene (framing, reduction, flattening) but this transition is not a transformation (in the way a coding can be); we have here a loss of the equivalence characteristic of true sign systems and a statement of quasi-identity. In other words, the sign of this message is not drawn from an institutional stock, is not coded, and we are brought up against the paradox…of a message without a code.” – 35
Again, interesting food for thought. The endless chain of signifiers those like Saussure and Derrida point to in words and language carries over to our images. Maybe this is why multimodal composition can be so successful; by using multiple modes/languages to communicate a message, the likelihood of signifiers being misunderstood or misrepresented is diminished.

“the viewer of the image receives at one and the same time the perceptual message and the cultural message” – 36
Multiple messages are receives simultaneously with images. Is this an advantage or a problem?

“the literal image is denoted and the symbolic image connoted.” – 36
No real reaction here. Just wanted to collect this to have for later.

“Today, at the level of mass communications, it appears that the linguistic message is indeed present in every image: as title, caption, accompanying press article, film dialogue, comic strip balloon. Which shows that it is not very accurate to talk of a civilization of the image – we are still, and more than ever, a civilization of writing, writing and speech continuing to be the full terms of the informational structure. ” – 37
Would be interesting to open this up for discussion considering we’re around 50 years removed from when Barthes wrote this. With the current state of digital communication being as foundational to society as it is, has this changed at all? Are we shifting towards a language of images being dominant? Is text still king? What is the dynamic?

“What are the functions of the linguistic message with regard to the (twofold) iconic message? There appear to be two: anchorage and relay.” – 37
This point could be important when talking about how text juxtaposes with image in multimodal composition.

“all images are polysemous; they imply, underlaying their signifiers, a ‘floating chain’ of signifieds, the reader able to choose some and ignore others. Polysemy poses a question of meaning and this question always comes through as a dysfunction, even if this dysfunction is recuperated by society as a tragic…or a poetic…game…Hence in every society various techniques are developed intended to fix the floating chain of signifieds in such a way as to counter the terror of uncertain signs; the linguistic message is one of these techniques…The text helps to identify purely and simply the elements of the scene and the scene itself; it is a matter of a denoted description of the image…The denominative function corresponds exactly to an anchorage of all the possible (denoted) meanings of the object by recourse to a nomenclature” – 37
Ties in to previous quotes/notes/reactions about the multiple messages contained in images being communicated simultaneously. Also ties in to images being a prime example of the floating chain of signifiers/signifieds. Text-as-anchorage helps the reader navigate these issues.

“When it comes to the ‘symbolic message’, the linguistic message no longer guides identification but interpretation, constituting a kind of vice which hold the connoted meanings from proliferating, whether towards excessively individual regions…or towards dysphoric values” – 37
This quote could be useful to highlight how text-as-anchorage serves multiple purposes.

“In all these cases of anchorage, language clearly has a function of elucidation, but this elucidation is selective, a metalanguage applied not to the totality of the iconic message but only to certain of its signs…anchorage is a control, bearing a responsibility – in the face of the projective power of pictures – for the use of the message. With respect to the liberty of the signifieds of the image, the text has thus a repressive value and we can see that it is at this level that the morality and ideology of a society are above all invested.” – 38
Ties back into the limits of an image. Text further limits image? Texts focuses image? Can text-as-anchorage open up an image?

“The function of relay is less common (at least as far as the fixed image is concerned)…Here text and image stand a complementary relationship; the words, in the same way as the images, are fragments of a more general syntagm and the unity of the message is realized at a higher level, that of the story, the anecdote, the diegesis…While rare in the fixed image, this relay-text becomes very important in film, where dialogue functions not simply as elucidation but really does advance the action by setting out, in the sequence of messages, meaning that are not to be found in the image itself.” – 38
In multimodal composition, how does text function? Is it anchorage? Relay? Can the same text function as both?

“In the photograph – at least at the level of the literal message – the relationship of signifieds to signifiers is not one of ‘transformation’ but of ‘recording’, and the absence of a code clearly reinforces the myth of photographic ‘naturalness’: the scene is there, captured mechanically, not humanly…Man’s interventions in the photograph (framing, distance, lighting, focus, speed) all effectively belong to the plane of connotation.” – 40
So the composition elements of an image are related to the connotation of the image; the artifact(s)/object(s) present within the image are denoted, but because there is an absence of code to fill them with meaning, it is in the compositional elements that meaning is made.

“The type of consciousness the photograph involves is indeed truly unprecedented, since it establishes not a consciousness of the being-there of the thing…but an awareness of its having-been-there. What we have is a new space-time category: spatial immediacy and temporal anteriority, the photograph being an illogical conjunction between the here-now and the there-then.” – 40
Ties back into comment earlier about “death of the subject” as a nature of image, particular of the photograph. Also, these temporal concerns are interesting and could play into questions and understandings of delivery.

Quotes from: Barthes, Roland. “Rhetoric of the Image.” PDF.

Response: “Rhetorical Delivery as Strategy: Rebuilding the Fifth Canon from Practitioner Stories” by Jim Ridolfo

Luckily, like the last Ridolfo piece, this article is full of sources that could be useful as I continue my research for my thesis, particularly in terms of the history of delivery scholarship. I’m trying something new this post since it is more note focused than response focused. I’m listing the suggestions I’d like to follow up on at the bottom. If I notice an article being referenced repeatedly as I read, I can prioritize it on my list. I may even go back to the last Ridolfo response and do the same.

Overall, this text could be useful for its methodology for gathering empirical data about rhetorical delivery. This particular model is useful because it includes interviews and conversations with the rhetor. By engaging directly with the rhetor, rhetorical choices regarding delivery do not have to be assumed, supposed, or guessed at; questions regarding rhetorical choices can be answered directly. This model for data-gathering could be useful when theorizing where my work in delivery could go.

Notes and reactions:
“What are some of the challenges to studying rhetorical delivery? Should researchers focus on the print or digital location of texts across time and place, or should we engage with practitioners directly?” – pg 119
The second question is particularly interesting. Both aspects are important to rhetorical delivery, and methods should be developed in response to both. Dealing with the temporalities of rhetoric is slippery territory, yet must be taken into account when parsing out delivery. However, there is something to be said about speaking with practitioners directly that will allows for rhetorical methods to be articulated by the source, which could either complicate or simplify further rhetorical analysis.

“knowledge of rhetorical delivery often comprises additional knowledge about places, organizations, institutions, technologies, and people.” – 120
Important quote! Could be very useful when discussing the conversation between delivery and audience.

“Corser’s story teaches the field about several key concepts that are important for strategies of rhetorical delivery. By a strategy of delivery, I mean that planning how to arrange the extrinsic factors of a text’s delivery––time, place, media–– constitute a strategy of delivery. This strategic planning isn’t perfect: it’s in the future and thus speculative and inductive; however, the attempt to scaffold future acts of delivery may be compared to how the canon of arrangement is applied to the order of a text’s contents: the document design, the arrangement of arguments, paragraphs, sentences, words, and punctuation.” – 123
Not sure where this is going to get used, but I do think this could easily be utilized in multiple ways. Great for defining what a strategy of delivery is.

“Corser’s rhetorical choices of media were equally informed by considerations of time and audience. The longer the process of distribution—an ensemble of discrete acts of delivery—continued, the more widely her manifesto circulated.” – 124
This specific example from Ridolfo’s research project speaks to delivery being in conversation with both audience and temporalities. Don’t think this quote is going to get used anywhere, but it’s good to pull from if I need to reference an example of an analysis of rhetorical delivery.

My argument is that one can categorize acts as delivery, distribution, and circulation in multiple ways, depending on whether one such as Corser is the primary rhetor behind these acts or a rhetor attempting to analyze the spread of a text. I argue that practitioner knowledge of delivery is a unique perspective on the process of delivery. For the outside scholar-researcher looking in at a series of acts caused by someone else, it’s a research problem to distinguish among delivery, distribution, and circulation.” – 125
I disagree with this idea. For the outside scholar-researcher looking in, I think distribution and circulation are concerns of delivery, and it is our job as rhetorical scholars to define why this is so. While there may be subtle shades of difference between distribution and circulation, and these could be parsed out if needed, they are both ultimately questions about delivery. Thus, it doesn’t matter if one is looking in from the outside, these are recognizable as facets of delivery regardless of who the rhetor is. Of course the rhetor/practitioner has a unique knowledge of the delivery process since he or she designed the text, but this is unrelated to such categorization. What it is relative to is parsing out which aspects of delivery were by design, and which were incidental or secondary.
Now, if a rhetor is incorrectly using terminology to speak about his or her own work, it is our job to “translate” since they may not know the “language.” For example, when I’m teaching digital literacies, I will let my students articulate in their language what is happening, what they are seeing, and what processes they are using, but I will recap their articulations, substituting proper terminology when available. This communicates proper terminology without feeling like you are correcting them; instead, they learn the vocabulary of the system/program they are working with by having a reference point in their own vernaculars to associate it with.

“without using methods such as interviews, it would be difficult to discern a rhetor’s strategy of delivery by simply studying the movement and shifting location of texts.” – 127
Not necessarily. There are moves, intentional or not, that can be viewed in any delivered text from the outside. We can look at the reality of a text’s delivery always. What the interview allows for is a chance to understand which choices of delivery were by design and which may have been accidental. We get to see the theoretical workings of a text’s delivery.

“The missing element, a rhetor’s own perspective on her strategy, needs to be at the forefront of our delivery research.” – 127
Included, yes. But forefront? Not so sure. I think the rhetor’s perspective in design matters little once it is delivered; the text belongs to the audience, now. Especially when composing for remix. This idea needs to be developed…gut reaction.

“there is a need for scholars of rhetoric to see and value delivery research as important to disciplines and topics outside the classroom. For this reason I argue that the field needs to engage in delivery research in order to maintain a stake in studying the movement of texts.” – 127
Rhetoric and delivery scholarship are absolutely important to disciplines and topics outside the classroom. But it more than just styling the movement of texts, though this is part. Delivery is more than this.

Quotes from: Ridolfo, Jim. “Rhetorical Delivery as Strategy: Rebuilding the Fifth Canon from Practitioner Stories.” Rhetoric Review 31.2 (2012): 117-129. PDF.

Further reading from this article (citations copied from article as is):

  • Connors, Robert J. “Actio: A Rhetoric of Manuscripts.” Rhetoric Review 2.1 (1983): 64–73.
  • Dragga, Sam. “The Ethics of Delivery.” Rhetorical Memory and Delivery: Classical Concepts for Contemporary Composition and Communication. Ed. John Frederick Reynolds. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1993. 79–95.
  • Helsley, Sheri L. “A Special Afterword to Graduate Students in Rhetoric.” Rhetorical Memory and Delivery: Classical Concepts for Contemporary Composition and Communication. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1993. 157–59.
  • Rude, Carolyn. “Toward an Expanded Concept of Rhetorical Delivery: The Uses of Reports in Public Policy Debates.” Technical Communication Quarterly 13.3 (Summer 2004): 271–88.
  • Trimbur, John. “Composition and the Circulation of Writing.” College Composition and Communication 52.2 (2000): 188–219.

Response: “Composing for Recomposition: Rhetorical Velocity and Delivery” by Jim Ridolfo and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss

Jim Ridolfo and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss’ webtext “Composing for Recomposition: Rhetorical Velocity and Delivery” turns its attention to an important and growing practice in composition, particularly digital composition: remixing (also referred to as recomposition). What Ridolfo and DeVoss are specifically concerned with are “situations where composers anticipate and strategize future third-party remixing of their compositions as part of a larger and complex rhetorical strategy that plays out across physical and digital spaces.” While remixing is certainly a vital mode of composition with its own set of guidelines, techniques, and processes, it is not where my focus and energy lie for this response. To be blunt, I have takeaways that are more helpful at the moment for my present work in developing my thesis. One of these takeaways from this text is an idea central to composing for remixing but has implications centered in delivery for all rhetorical processes: rhetorical velocity.

Rhetorical velocity is “a conscious rhetorical concern for distance, travel, speed, and time, pertaining specifically to theorizing instances of strategic appropriation by a third party” (Ridolfo and DeVoss). In other words, rhetorical velocity asks a composer to consider where his or her text will go and how someone else may use it. Given the ease of accessing and reappropriating information in the digital age, this idea of rhetorical velocity should be added to the list of concerns central to rhetoric, specifically delivery. Ridolfo and DeVoss have diagramed how rhetorical velocity is a concern of invention:


Ridolfo, Jim and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss. “Composing for Recomposition: Rhetorical Velocity and Delivery.” Kairos 13.2 (2009): n. pag. Web. 24 May 2013.

However, central to each of these concerns of invention are questions centered around delivery. Aside from the obvious question number four (How might it be delivered?), the other 6 still involve questions of delivery. The first three questions are primarily concerned with audience; audience is a unique concern of delivery because it requires conversation, a call and response between audience and composer. A composer must consider his or her audience when making considerations of delivery; however, the degree of agency the audience possesses varies in each rhetorical situation and may affect how content can be delivered. I don’t want to linger too long on this point at the moment because I intend to develop it further in my upcoming thesis, but to sum it up, considerations of audience are inherently linked to considerations of delivery, even if those questions also incorporate another canon, like invention. Questions six and seven in Ridolfo and DeVoss’ diagram are also primary concerns of delivery; they deal with the shape, form, and distribution of information. In short, questions that deal with how information gets communicated to an audience pass through the territory of delivery. That isn’t to say these concerns can’t exist in a liminal space among multiple canons (as illustrated in Ridolfo and DeVoss’ diagram focusing on invention). However, it is clear that questions of rhetorical velocity should be considered when making decisions on how to deliver text.

While Ridolfo and DeVoss champion the importance of reclaiming delivery, I believe their view of this canon to be too narrow. They state, “We are in agreement with Paul Prior and his colleagues (2007) that ‘the canon of delivery does not focus attention on the possible rhetorical configurations of distribution, mode, and other mediations.'” Now, I haven’t read the Prior piece referred to here, but my reading of this quote is that it’s not delivery’s place to focus on distribution, mode, and other mediations. However, I would argue that not only should delivery focus on these concerns, but delivery makes central these concerns to the entire rhetorical process. As I stated in the prior paragraph, delivery is concerned with how information is communicated, and distribution and mode are central to the communication process. Now, I need to read this Prior article in order to more fully articulate why exactly I take contention to this claim. However, my gut tells me this is too narrow a view of the canon of delivery.

Ultimately, while this piece is fantastic for introducing the concept of rhetorical velocity and why it is an important consideration of rhetorical design, the largest takeaway I have from this piece are the references. There are a number of sources (classical and contemporary) that will undoubtedly help with my thesis, particularly in delivery scholarship. I’m stoked to have been presented with such a collection.

Works Cited:

Ridolfo, Jim and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss. “Composing for Recomposition: Rhetorical Velocity and Delivery.” Kairos 13.2 (2009): n. pag. Web. 24 May 2013.


Further reading from this article (citations copied from article as is):

  • Cicero. (1939). Brutus. Orator. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • DeVoss, Dànielle Nicole, & Porter, James. (2006). Why Napster matters to writing: Filesharing as a new ethic of digital delivery. Computers and Composition, 23(2), 178–210.
  • Duncan, Anne. (2006). Performance and Identity in the Classical World. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • McLuhan, Marshall, & Fiore, Quentin. (1967). The medium is the massage. New York: Bantam Books.
  • Rice, Jeff. (2003). Writing about cool: Teaching hypertext as juxtaposition. Computers and Composition, 20(3), 221-236.
  • Rice, Jeff. (2006). The making of ka-knowledge: Digital aurality. Computers and Composition, 23(3), 266-279.
  • Skinner-Linnenberg, Virginia. (1997). Dramatizing writing: Reincorporating delivery in the classroom. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Welch, Nancy. (2005). Living room: Teaching public writing in a post-publicity era. College Composition and Communication, 56(3), 470–492.