Social Media? Rhetoric? We got that.

We’ve rhetoricked a lot about social media, but it’s hard to locate all the rhetoricking our authors have done. So here’s a list with all our work analyzin’, criticizin’, and, pokin’ fun at social media communication practices. Below you’ll find all our pieces on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.

Enjoy, up your social media savvy, use for a class you’re teachin’ on rhetoric, show you’re in the know and disperse and spread our work on social media through, well, social media!

FACES of Facebook

Worlds Collide! Facebook, family, and George Costanza by Amy L. Spears and Julie Driscoll93-853-1-PB

tease: Facebook, family, George Costanza and awkward communication collisions in this cool analysis and interface about negotiatin’ different Facebook publics.





Like Me, Like Me Not by Paul Muhlhauser (@doctamuhlhauser) and Andrea Campbell (@akatecampbell)

tease: Explore the rhetoric behind “like” and the possibilities of “dislike” in this pretty darn cool interface on Facebook’s ubiquitous participation button. Includes Ryan Gosling memes!




Death: The End We All Have to Face(book) cover_article_215_en_USby Christine Martorana (@MaddoxChristine)

tease: This article describes the ways mourners turning to online spaces following the death of a loved one and notes the following: 1) Digital technologies are reconfiguring the permanence of death, inviting the living to recreate the deceased as a heavenly intermediary, and 2) this continued virtual existence of the deceased alongside the constant accessibility of digital technologies is opening a space for death-related egocentrism.

PINNING down Pinterest

Queer-the-Tech: Genderfucking and Anti-Consumer Activism in Social Media by Matthew A. Vetter (@MatthewVetter)

cover_article_195_en_UStease: Pinterest Activism! This essay, and the activism it introduces, demonstrates an appropriation of Pinterest, a “pinboard-style” social media network, for the purposes of subverting and exposing its typical heteronormative and pro-consumer practices.


Super Mom in a Box by Lindsey Harding (@linzharding)cover_article_197_en_US.png

tease: Check out how Pinterest influences identity formation in mothers who interact with the site. See how the site’s postfeminist content and interaction design create a hypermaternal identity for maternal interactors.


Encomium on the Overlord by KT Torrey (@catchclaw)resize

tease: This ode to Misha Collins and his success as an activist through Twitter is just, well, fun and darn insightful.  See how Collins’ construction of a megalomaniacal Twitter persona known as the Overlord has afforded him a particular kind of disruptive ethos, one he’s used to persuade his fans to regard both “normalcy” as a social problem and acts of art and public performance as effective means of addressing that ill.


Pleased to Tweet You by Cate Blouke (@CateBlouke)235-2028-1-PB

tease: Before you live-tweet, ya gotta read this this article that explores the ethics and rhetoric of live-tweeting.  The piece also challenges traditional argument by arguing using Twitter!

The YOU in YouTube

The Irony of YouTube: Politicking Cool by Jessie Blackburn 36-272-1-PB

tease: The rhetoric of YouTube, celebrity, and voting is explored in this piece. This article examines one of the most intriguing pieces of online political dialogue to circulate YouTube during the last few weeks of the presidential campaign. The widely circulated YouTube video known as “5 Friends” features high-profile celebrities ironically encouraging viewers to see the act of voting as a “trendy,” even “hip” behavior. In this article, I refute the assumption that youth voters lack political stamina beyond the ballot boxes…

Issue 3 is Hot off the Press

Issue 3 is up and at ’em! We’re quite proud of the variety of articles we have this go round and are confident that you’ll find something that gets you salivating, so wander on over and take a look. Even more so, why don’t you let the authors know what you think by leaving them a comment.

And if you’re curious, here’s what’s inside:

Editors’ Letter for Issue 3
“From ‘Thank You for Your Support'” by Brian Hauser
“Why The Duke Lacrosse Scandal Mattered–Three Perspectives” by Heather Branstetter
“Harlot Of The Hearts” by Kaitlin Dyer
The Irony Of YouTube: Politicking Cool” by Jessie Blackburn
Interview with Frank Donoghue on The Last Professors

While you’re at it, take a gander at our call for Issue 4 (themed Rhetoric at Work) and get cracking on your submission.


What is the vernacular avant garde?

There was a great piece in the NY Times this weekend, “Uploading the Avant Garde,” in which Virginia Heffernan considers the presence, among YouTube’s many microgenres, of what she calls “the vernacular avant-garde.” I’ve never heard this phrase before, and I dig it. What does it mean to put those words in tandem? According to the OED (of course):

Vernacular (adj)

1. That writes, uses, or speaks the native or indigenous language of a country or district.

2. a. Of a language or dialect: That is naturally spoken by the people of a particular country or district; native, indigenous.

6. Of arts, or features of these: Native or peculiar to a particular country or locality. spec. in vernacular architecture, architecture concerned with ordinary domestic and functional buildings rather than the essentially monumental.

Avant garde

1. The foremost part of an army; the vanguard or van.

2. The pioneers or innovators in any art in a particular period. Also attrib. or as adj. Hence avant-{sm}gardism, the characteristic quality of such pioneering; avant-{sm}gardist(e) (-{shti}st), such a person; also attrib.

And so this seems clear enough: we have the home-grown innovator, the local pioneer. But in our current use of vernacular, we usually mean folksy, populist, “normal” ways of communicating, whereas avant garde is all about pushing those norms to provoke and even alienate mainstream popular audiences… So, yeah, I’m still not sure I get how those work together. How can we define such a concept? ( I heart semantics.) Like porn, do we just know it when we see it? Anyone?

So of course I googled the phrase and found few results beyond a couple of uses in reference to avant garde jazz and vernacular architecture… Except, that is, for a couple of  blogs and a SNS who’d posted the same link and video:

Networked Performance

Since the latter part of the twentieth century, and especially in new media artistic practice, we have witnessed a shift from the representational idiom — where art is viewed mainly as a means to represent the world — to the performative idiom — where the practice of art is considered an active negotiation with the world it seeks to address.*

Networked Performance is real-time, embodied practice within digital environments and networks; it is, embodied transmission.

Performance involves the moment of action, its continuity, inherent temporality and relationship to the present.


DocumentaryTech is a collaborative effort to talk about what makes for the best in the art of the documentary. As a joint project by The Rhode Island Film Festival and several sponsoring universities, we’ll talk about technique, technology, distribution and funding.

Using the most advanced social software platforms and internet rich multimedia applications, provides movement and new media artists, theorist, thinkers and technologists the possibility of sharing work, ideas and research, generating opportunities for interdisciplinary collaborative projects.

I don’t have much profound to say about all this. I think the phrase is fascinating and worthy of play. And I think it’s cool that there are such fascinated/ing people out there instigating such play.

Yay interwebs.

The World According to Google

This morning’s New York Times Magazine contains a fascinating look at “Google’s Gatekeepers”. Beginning with the case of Turkey’s insistence on a censored version of YouTube (ThemTube? UsTube? Some-of-YouTube?), law professor Jeffrey Rosen explores the limits of free speech in a web/world dominated by major capitalist corporations as (or more) invested in their own power than in the voices of “the people”:

“Today the Web might seem like a free-speech panacea: it has given anyone with Internet access the potential to reach a global audience. But though technology enthusiasts often celebrate the raucous explosion of Web speech, there is less focus on how the Internet is actually regulated, and by whom. As more and more speech migrates online, to blogs and social-networking sites and the like, the ultimate power to decide who has an opportunity to be heard, and what we may say, lies increasingly with Internet service providers, search engines and other Internet companies…”

In general, the article raises (kindly without pretending to resolve) important questions about the various versions of “free” speech, the limitations of the Internet as “public” sphere, the tensions among open access and accountability, data control and world domination, and (duh duh duh) the Future. Good stuff for a rainy Sunday.

The real meat of the matter is the issue of free speech in the Internet age, what counts as publicly acceptable or exceptional to a World Wide audience. Of course, Google and its subsidiaries have a policy of removing only porn, graphic violence, and hate speech — but in the reality of the virtual world, these already subjective determinations become even fuzzier. As Rosen points out, the international market mandates specific restrictions based on individual countries’ laws, and so Google has often had to filter content for specific contexts. For example, Germany and France have laws against Holocaust denial, so search engines cannot display sites devoted to such denial. To some degree, that seems reasonable and responsible… until you consider that those denials are merely submerged, not subverted, but their silencing. Moreover, as Rosen argues (I like this guy), “one person’s principled political protest is another person’s hate speech”; he illustrates this tension through demands by Joe Lieberman (this guy bugs me) that Google remove videos he judged to be “jihadist,” a concept on which I’m not sure his views are, well, balanced. Ah yes, best to just sweep pesky protesters under the rug.

These examples brings up the old question of whether silencing haters only lets them hate in silence or private — rather than exposing their hatred to the light of day and others’ responses that might challenge or even (optimistically) change those attitudes. I just had this discussion with one of my students: While it’s certainly important to “protect the innocent” from hate speech, does that offer true protection or a false sense of security? What are the dangers, for all sides, of denial? And can we ever really hope to negotiate oppositional viewpoints, let alone overcome them, without, well, engaging them in conversation?

(And how can we learn to ask such questions without feeling–or fearing to be dismissed as–idealistic and naive?!)