Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNuméros32Stuart A. Selber: What is Digital...

Stuart A. Selber: What is Digital Rhetoric?

Interview conducted by Jim Ridolfo
Stuart A. Selber et Jim Ridolfo
Traduction(s) :
Stuart A. Selber : Qu’est-ce que la rhétorique numérique ? [fr]


The interview conducted with Stuart Selber by Jim Ridolfo in this special issue on “Challenging Rhetorical Traditions” provides an overview of Selber’s innovative and impactful career studying digital rhetoric. From Selber’s award-winning 2004 monograph Multiliteracies for a Digital Age to his newest monograph Institutional Literacies: Engaging Academic IT Contexts for Writing and Communication, we discuss how the literacies and landscapes of digital rhetoric have significantly changed and will continue to change as we wade into an era of increased digital privacy concerns, deep fakes, and Generative AI. Professor Selber’s work is an excellent example of how scholarship in contemporary digital rhetoric is revolutionizing the field of traditional rhetoric and the teaching of literacy, both re–elaborating its basic notions and expanding its future applications.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

Stuart A. Selber is Professor of English and Director of Digital Education at Penn State University, where he has worked as a digital rhetorician for over twenty-five years. He is the author of numerous essays and two books on digital rhetoric: Multiliteracies for a Digital Age (2004), which won the Distinguished Book Award from Computers and Composition and the award for Best Book in Technical or Scientific Communication from the National Council of Teachers of English; and Institutional Literacies: Engaging Academic IT Contexts for Writing and Communication (2020), which won the Distinguished Book Award from Computers and Composition. These books invent new heuristics for rhetorical practice that remain relevant as technology continues to evolve and change in significant and unpredictable ways.


Jim Ridolfo is Professor and Chair of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies at the University of Kentucky. His work focuses on the intersection of rhetorical theory and digital technology, and his books include The Available Means of Persuasion: Mapping a Theory and Pedagogy of Multimodal Public Rhetoric (with David Sheridan and Anthony Michel, Parlor Press 2012), Rhetoric and the Digital Humanities (co–edited with William Hart-Davidson, Univ. of Chicago Press 2015), Digital Samaritans: Rhetorical Delivery and Engagement in the Digital Humanities, (Univ. of Michigan Press 2015), and Rhet Ops: Rhetoric and Information Warfare (co-edited with William Hart-Davidson, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press 2019).


1. Jim Ridolfo: As someone who has worked at the intersection of rhetoric and technology, how would you define digital rhetoric? What is the relationship of digital rhetoric to the tradition of classical or Western rhetorical studies that the readership of this journal might be most familiar with reading? How does scholarship in digital rhetoric help us understand or rethink key concepts such as kairos in classical rhetorical studies?


Stuart Selber: To my mind, scholars who consider themselves to be digital rhetoricians are interested in a few key questions. Let me use these questions to do some definitional work. First, how does rhetoric, as it has been traditionally mapped out in classical Western traditions, both illuminate and fail to illuminate the design and use of literacy technologies as production and reception platforms? Not everything we need to know about technology today was anticipated a couple of thousand years ago, but the classical Western tradition continues to be an instructive lens in the working lives of scholars and teachers. Second, in cases where rhetorical formulations from ancient times are inadequate to explain contemporary communication moments, do we need to rethink key concepts from rhetorical history or develop entirely new concepts to help us contend with new realities? Third, if we need entirely new concepts, where might they come from, and what about the new concepts makes them rhetorical in character?

Not surprisingly, perhaps, digital rhetoricians leverage any and all approaches that are useful in particular situations. That is, they employ classical Western concepts if they serve their purposes and goals. For example, there is no shortage of work that uses Aristotelian appeals – logos, pathos, and ethos – as a lens for critical analysis (for a book–length study, see Welch 1990). Digital rhetoricians also modify classical Western concepts to help give them modern relevance. I am thinking of how James Porter (2009) reimagines the canon of delivery to account for how texts are produced and circulated today. And sometimes we need brand new concepts to understand dynamics in digital spaces. A good example here is the concept of “rhetorical velocity” from Jim Ridolfo and Danielle DeVoss (2009), which posits “a conscious rhetorical concern for distance, travel, speed, and time, pertaining specifically to theorizing instances of strategic appropriation by a third party” (n.p.). Ridolfo and DeVoss formulate the concept of rhetorical velocity to help writers anticipate, as they invent and compose, how others might appropriate and remix their texts in a cut–and–paste culture. I find it profitable to be able to accommodate and resist classical Western concepts, including both in the same project. Digital rhetoricians are anything if not strategic.

What makes a new concept rhetorical in character? I actually rely on Aristotle (2018) to answer this question. A new concept is rhetorical if it helps us explore, understand, and respond to contingent situations and conditions in which people attempt to persuade each other about what is probably true. The realm of the probable naturally encompasses literacy technologies, which at times seem to evolve and change at an ever–increasing rate.


2. JR: What were some of the key questions that interested you as a doctoral student, and how did they intersect with ideas and theories from classical rhetorical studies? What were some of the formative texts in your graduate study that informed your thinking on the intersection of rhetoric and technology?


SS. I was a doctoral student from 1990-1994 in the Humanities Department at Michigan Technological University; my degree is in rhetoric and technical communication. At the time, digital rhetoricians were consumed by a few different lines of inquiry, one being how hypertext might unsettle established ideas about the production and reception of texts. The field does not use the term “hypertext” much anymore, but it refers to the basic node–link mechanism that underlies the internet. We emphasized a distinction between hypertexts that simply automate the capabilities of printed texts and those that provide new possibilities for writers and readers. People often pitted one type of hypertext against the other, preferring change over stasis, excited by the democratic possibilities of writing and reading non-linearly and constructing and deconstructing mutable texts as both writers and readers. Although still optimistic and activist by nature, the field is now better about resisting binary thinking and understands that digital and material aspects of communication can coexist in dialectical relationships.

I wrote a dissertation about pre-internet hypertext. I had about half of a draft written when the first web browser (Mosaic) was released to the general public. I did not realize the full significance at the time, but this was an inflection point in the history of digital rhetoric. Although reading and writing via wide-area networks had been anticipated by Vannevar Bush (1945), Ted Nelson (1980), and a few others, and although there were working hypertext systems in various research and development labs (e.g., KMS at Carnegie Mellon University, Hyperties at the University of Maryland, NoteCards at Xerox PARC), digital rhetoricians could now create and share their own hypertext applications and explore possibilities with colleagues around the world. One of the more exciting developments was that hypertext could become a test bed for current theories about authorship, texts, and contexts. Using hypertext authoring platforms, digital rhetoricians literally enacted the types of writing and reading practices that were theorized by postmodern thinkers (“postmodernism” was in vogue at the time). I was involved in creating hypertext applications in early systems like Storyspace and SuperCard that allowed user-readers themselves to edit the original content of primary texts. A popular corollary is Wikipedia, the pages of which can be modified by anyone. The Wikipedia page for “Digital rhetoric” has been edited hundreds of times by numerous different people since it was created in 2006.

During my dissertation project, it became clear to me that the web was not going to be a novelty or some technology fad. I continued to work on hypertext interface design but became increasingly interested in what else was needed to integrate the web successfully into teaching and learning settings. By “successfully,” I meant integrating the web in ways that align with the values and directions of digital rhetoricians. I was influenced here by texts I had read in graduate seminars, including Langdon Winner’s The Whale and the Reactor (1986), Andrew Feenberg’s Critical Theory of Technology (1991), John Street’s Politics & Technology (1992), and Cheris Kramarae’s Technology and Women’s Voices (1988). These are not rhetoric texts strictly speaking, but they taught me that technology is not simply an apparatus or thing, a neutral tool that people employ to get things done. Rather, technology is more of a system that rationalizes work and life in some sort of systematic fashion, often for better and worse (typically, technology simultaneously solves and creates problems). The parts of the system can be material, virtual, discursive, and more, and these parts are conditioned by social, political, and economic forces. In addition, the constitution of a technology is contingent and plastic: The same technology can mean different things to different people in different contexts, as the parts and conditioning forces evolve, change, intensify, or dissolve. Thus, technology is rhetorical all the way down in that both design and use are products of culture and history and are sustained – or not – by culture and history.


3. JR. For our readers new to the study of digital rhetoric, what formative texts would you recommend they read and why? 


SS. This is a great question, for there are any number of valid ways to initiate an understanding of digital rhetoric. As opposed to listing texts based on citation counts or other metrics that measure popularity or influence in the field and beyond, I want to focus on texts that can help readers unpack the constructed meanings that imbue technology with significance and potential application. I will start with a text that focuses on the seemingly technical practice of computer coding and then move outward to texts that consider end-user practices and broader cultural contexts.

One reason computer coding has an air of objectivity is that its syntax must be precise. The rules used by computers only allow for a single interpretation of a program, which will not run unless any syntax errors have been fixed. Unlike human language, which carries a surplus of meaning in communicative situations, a piece of syntax in a computer program means or does just one thing. But this fact should not suggest that there is only one method of coding based on some formal approach. This is a key starting point for readers new to the study of digital rhetoric. To clarify this point, I would encourage them to read “Epistemological Pluralism: Styles and Voices Within the Computer Culture” (1990) by Sherry Turkle and Seymour Papert. Turkle and Papert demystify computer coding by showing that some excellent coders work in ways that are “more reminiscent of a painter than a logician” (128). These folks solve coding problems by working more intuitively and personally (following Levi-Strauss, Turkle and Papert call them “bricoleurs”). So, although coding syntax must always be precise, approaches to coding can vary quite a bit, reflecting a diversity of thinking and making practices. Of course, coding as a social practice does not exist in isolation from other social practices.

Conceptually, we can move outward from the machine level to implicate any number of contexts that have a bearing on interpretation and use. A good next step for readers of this journal is to consider the types of practices to which we put technology. I previously mentioned two versions of hypertext: those that automate and those, to use language from Shoshana Zuboff, that “informate” (1985). (Zuboff coined this term.) The idea of automation is straightforward enough: technology has and will continue to replace human activity with machine activity. In my hypertext example, the machine automates turning pages, following cross-references, navigating between texts, and other readerly actions. We can see current concerns about automation in discussions of generative AI technologies like ChatGPT, which threaten to replace digital rhetoricians with robots that write.

The concept of informate, however, begins to suggest a different relationship between humans and machines. Zuboff explained that a technology that automates human activity can also produce new information about that activity; this new information can provide fresh insights and support new interpretations. A quick example is a web-based e-book that captures analytics. While the website automates readerly actions like turning pages and following cross references, it also tracks where readers are coming from, what technology they are using, what pages they look at, how much time they spend on those pages, and the like. But Zuboff is quick to point out that these sorts of analytics, all on their own, are not particularly meaningful or useful because the extracted information is separated from its action context. Digital rhetoricians, therefore, need to be able to recontextualize the new information to make sense of it. This is an example of something that ancient rhetoricians could not have possibly anticipated thousands of years ago.

A third text I would encourage readers of this journal to consider is “Contextualizing Technology” by Jennifer Daryl Slack (1989). Drawing on articulation theory, this piece offers one way to situate technology that accounts for broad cultural forces. According to Slack, there are a few basic ideas behind articulation theory, which I will summarize at the risk of over–simplification. (1) Technologies in and of themselves do not have preset or single meanings. (2) Technologies come to be imbued with meanings and purposes through specific connections with other social and technical forces. (3) These connections, or articulations, create tentative unities that can appear to be monolithic, but there are no necessary or natural associations between and among the forces that constitute articulations. (4) The forces that constitute articulations exhibit varying strengths and intensities, creating asymmetrical influences within articulations. (5) Articulations can be rearticulated, shifting the meanings and purposes of technologies and opening other possibilities for understanding and action (330-331). Slack develops the example of how technology in Western culture tends to be articulated with progress, which produces overly positive perspectives and attitudes. But technology could be rearticulated with other ideas and concepts to produce more nuanced understandings. For instance, if we articulate technology with education, we can use pedagogical metaphors to foreground access issues.

This explanation by Slack will teach readers of this journal at least three things. First, although technologies can be artifacts (material and virtual), they can also be processes, procedures, systems, structures, or practices. Library databases are indeed technologies, but so too are the rules and procedures that impose a rationalizing order for cataloging texts. Second, the forces that constitute technologies can derive not only from technical contexts but also from social, political, and economic contexts, as I mentioned in my answer to the previous question. And third, technologies embody and reflect human values. Importantly, acknowledging this reality does not have to be viewed as critical in a negative sense: Design biases are inevitable, even necessary, and an element of articulations that should be explored and leveraged by digital rhetoricians.


4. JR. In your 2004 monograph Multiliteracies for a Digital Age you talk about three types of literacies that develop “a conceptual apparatus that can help teachers imagine the contours of a computer multiliteracies program” (26). Could you talk about the changing role of rhetorical literacy, which you define as reflective praxis, and how it relates to critical literacy and functional literacy? How does your concept of multiliteracies extend the study and practice of rhetoric and practical rhetorical analysis?


SS. Let me begin by briefly explaining the argument in Multiliteracies for a Digital Age for people who have not read it. I will then discuss my evolving understanding of the concept of rhetorical literacy since 2004. At the turn of the twenty-first century, I was beginning to notice a more concerted effort by colleges and universities to formalize computer literacy requirements. These new requirements were focused on functional concerns, but in a narrow, operational sense. For example, it was common to test students on their knowledge of how to do basic things in Microsoft Word or on their knowledge of the hardware components of computers. Because rhetoric is an applied discipline, I appreciated this practical orientation, but students were being asked to learn a variety of disposable particulars, things that were either going to change relatively quickly or not transfer easily to other literacy contexts. My view was that students needed to develop functional capacities, but not the ones tested by these new requirements. Another big problem was the scope of the requirements. They only considered very practical matters, failing to attend to both larger social questions and questions for people who wanted to use computers to make things, including multimodal texts.

To address these shortcomings, I devised a conceptual apparatus or heuristic to advance a more robust approach. The heuristic assumes that teachers should emphasize different types of computer literacies – functional, critical, and rhetorical – and help students become skilled at moving among them in strategic ways. Each literacy type has a metaphor, subject position, and objective, all of which help to characterize the nature and scope of a computer multiliteracies program. For example, the functional category is organized by a tool metaphor that stresses effective use, the critical category is organized by an artifactual metaphor that stresses informed critique, and the rhetorical category is organized by a hypertextual metaphor that stresses reflective praxis. No one metaphor could be complete and sufficient by itself, but collectively they offer a diversity of perspectives that have become associated with computer technologies. The goal is to help students understand the ways all three metaphors filter experience and become adept at using them at various times and in various combinations.

Likewise, there are three subject positions connected to the literacy landscape: students as users of technology, students as questioners of technology, and students as producers of technology. Again, the goal is not to endorse one over another, but to help students learn to exploit the different subjectivities that have become associated with computers. Although the rhetorical category mediates the binary division between functional and critical literacies to some extent—rhetorical activities like website design demand both effective computer use and informed critique—I do not necessarily place a higher value on it: There will be times when an attention to functional or critical concerns should be paramount. A curricular implication of this relationship, however, is that rhetorical literacy might prove to be a particularly challenging place to start. In fact, one of the key questions is how to scaffold instructional activities that illuminate the relationships and interdependencies between the multiple literacies.

In 2004, my principal application for rhetorical literacy was software interfaces, for the production activities that fascinated digital rhetoricians at the time were associated with the design of websites, multimodal texts, course-management systems, and writing platforms. Software interfaces are rhetorical in that they persuade through both content and structure, defining, conditioning, and shaping how people think about the task at hand. But the rhetorical nature of interfaces is not so obvious on the surface, so I spent time showing how persuasion works in this context. For example, I showed how digital rhetoricians can persuade audiences to navigate websites by providing linking structures that have semantically meaningful labels. I then went on to explicate three additional parameters of a rhetorical approach: deliberation, reflection, and social action. Students who are rhetorically literate understand that persuasion permeates interface designs, but they also (1) understand that interface design problems are ill-defined problems whose solutions are representational arguments that have been arrived at through various deliberative activities; (2) articulate their interface design knowledge at a conscious level and subject their actions and practices to critical assessment; (3) and see interface design as a form of social versus technical action. Software interfaces are still a principal application for rhetorical literacy, but something I did not anticipate was the rise of an interest in what David Sheridan (2010) calls “three-dimensional fabricated rhetoric” (249), which aligns with a material turn in the field. What Sheridan is referring to here is the ability for people to produce a range of physical products more easily and cheaply, from stickers to clothes to 3D printed objects. Not everyone will immediately understand fabricated products as falling within the realm of rhetoric, but for years now scholars have been expanding our scope to include non-discursive forms of communication (see Shipka 2011). The realities that Sheridan discusses have resulted in the development of university makerspaces where students can learn how to fabricate things for educational purposes. Makerspaces typically include a varied collection of technologies, such as electronic building blocks, programmable robots, microcontrollers, single-board minicomputers, programmable sewing and embroidery machines, CNC cutting tools, soldering stations, and 3D scanners and printers. I am confident that the concepts of persuasion, deliberation, reflection, and social action are relevant to work in makerspaces, for successful fabrications accommodate users and their purposes and contexts, but I do wonder what other concepts might be needed to make sense of makerspaces as rhetorical spaces and their products as rhetorical objects.

For example, in a makerspace at Penn State my students created small inventions with littleBits, which are electronic building blocks. Students then composed and tested written and video-based instructions for making and operating the inventions. My students did pretty well with this pilot project, but what might an organized rhetoric for fabricated products look like for university makerspaces? More specifically, what might an organized rhetoric for electronic building blocks look like for writing courses? As one start to an answer, consider the four types of components in the littleBits kit and how they are designed: Blue is for power components, which must initiate inventions, pink is for input components, such as sensors and buttons, green is for output components, such as lights and motors, and orange is for wire components, which expand the reach of circuits by adding options for physical spacing and enabling virtual connectivity, including to the internet of things. From a rhetorical perspective, what is useful to know here is that the components are mapped to colors to help students visualize and understand sequencing patterns. These color conventions are specific to littleBits and should be leveraged by digital rhetoricians for teaching and learning purposes. This is another example of something ancient rhetoricians could not have foreseen all those years ago.


5. JR. In chapter four of Multiliteracies for a Digital Age you make a compelling case for why the Internet of 2004 requires teachers to provide a more expansive secondary and post-secondary education in multiliteracies, particularly rhetorical literacy. Almost twenty years later, we see broad worry about the social and political realities of disinformation, the rise of deep fakes, and privacy concerns around the extension of networks to all our daily devices. How has multiliteracy education fared in the last two decades, and where do we go from here?


SS. Disinformation campaigns, deep fakes, and privacy concerns are very thorny areas for digital rhetoricians. Although disinformation campaigns and deep fakes are more recent phenomena in the history of digital rhetoric, I did address the politics of technology in my discussion of critical literacy. In this discussion, I drew heavily from work in New Literacy Studies that argues that a key purpose for rhetorical education is to prepare students to be informed citizens who can participate effectively in the democratic process. One important aspect of this preparation is helping students to understand that technology is not neutral or disinterested in any sense. I framed my arguments with the following questions: In technology contexts, what is lost as well as gained? Who profits? Who is left behind and for what reasons? What is privileged in terms of literacy and learning and cultural capital? As this line of questioning indicates, a critical approach to digital literacy first recognizes and then challenges the values of the status quo. Instead of reproducing the existing social order, which narrow functional modes tend to do, it strives to both expose biases and provide an assemblage of cultural practices that might lead to the production of positive change.

At the heart of all of this is the always relevant multiliteracies task of asking ideological and ethical questions. Questions about power relationships – I define power as that which fixes or stabilizes meaning, at least for now – always seem to be instructive and of course implicate digital rhetoricians themselves: As with technology, there is no neutral ground for civic education. In terms of disinformation campaigns and deep fakes, I cannot see an upside or how we might integrate them productively into an organized digital rhetoric, except as negative examples. This is the sort of rhetorical deception that Plato (2011) warned us about in the Phaedrus. I myself would consider disinformation campaigns and deep fakes to be judicial discourse. As such, their practices should be regulated by law and judged as unjust or just, wrong or right. I am open to seeing things differently, but I need a good reason to change my mind.

There is more nuance when it comes to privacy because there are many different aspects to it and because technology users can feel very differently about how private information is collected, stored, and used. For example, people often appreciate how private information is used to improve future digital actions, such as searching and web browsing. On the other hand, people often rightly worry about being hacked or attacked and having their online identities stolen or misused. I am simply mentioning obvious problems for a rhetoric of privacy to address: There are many gray areas. An education based on multiple literacies should teach people how to reason through privacy situations and help them make judicious decisions as technology users or as users of private information. More generally, multiliteracy education will continue to fare well if it evolves to attend to the changing challenges of our time. As always, the objective should be to address the full range of issues in an area – functional, critical, and rhetorical – rather than focusing on narrow skill development.


6. JR: In your 2020 monograph, Institutional Literacies: Engaging Academic IT contexts for Writing and Communication, you argue for the pedagogical and scholarly value of engaging with academic information technology units, and their increased significance in supporting the academic mission of our institutions. You discuss your recent engagement to develop a makerspace that aligns with your own “expectations, interests, and professional values” (216). Given that the book was published two years before the release of GPT-4, what are your ideas about how academic IT might support the exploration of AI writing and communication in our educational institutions? What might that look like, and what might be the stakes of not doing so? 


SS. In response to the opportunities and challenges of using technology in educational settings, colleges and universities have created academic IT units that are meant to serve the needs and interests of students and teachers. These units contribute to many activity areas on a campus, including determining pedagogical requirements, providing and maintaining technology that can meet those requirements, designing learning spaces that integrate technology, assessing the outcomes of technology based learning activities, creating academic IT policies and procedures, providing software training services, supplying consulting services for pedagogical projects, piloting pedagogical projects that explore new applications of technology, and a great deal more. In all higher education settings, academic IT units plan, design, and maintain environments that enable, constrain, and shape the teaching and learning of digital rhetoric. These environments are technical and social, physical and virtual, and internal and external to traditional academic boundaries. Their implications are significant and far-reaching and not to be taken lightly by digital rhetoricians.

The driving reality here is that digital rhetoricians are not islands unto themselves but part of a larger user community, which, on a meaningful level, is defined and conditioned by institutional thinking and practices. For digital rhetoricians – and for everyone involved, really – the results can be positive or negative situations, but in any event, we need to commit to working with academic IT units to help make technology environments as useful and productive as possible for our own purposes and goals. This is not a surprising or controversial argument, but historically we have neglected this type of critical engagement.

Generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) is a good example of a new technology that is best tackled by a committed group of institutional actors working together on shared problems. As with any new technology that captures the imagination of scholars and teachers, the responses to GenAI applications like ChatGPT have been all over the map, from people who think they will destroy literacy to those who think they will revolutionize work. Much of the discussion is polarized in nature, missing the nuances of meaning and practice between binary oppositions. This is a typical pattern in discussions of technology in educational settings, and it represents a barrier to progress for digital rhetoricians. It is therefore essential for our institutional engagements to move beyond the surface to the deeper roots of issues.

In Institutional Literacies, I present six modes of engagement that are available to digital rhetoricians: Maintaining awareness, using systems and services, mediating for audiences, participating as user advocates, working as designers, and partnering as researchers. These modes can involve accommodation and resistance, both adopting and subverting institutional orders. Maintaining awareness only assumes that people will stay abreast of GenAI initiatives as consumers of institutional information. I hesitate to say only here because keeping up with GenAI can feel like a full-time job. But institutions can help by curating informative institutional resources and making them accessible to scholars and teachers. Using systems and services is a decision to work from within institutional frameworks for GenAI rather than from without. I am sympathetic to some of the reasons people have for turning away from institutionally supported frameworks, but that move may only serve to marginalize digital rhetoricians by ceding decision -making to others and forgoing learning opportunities and economies of scale that accrue from pooling knowledge and resources in local communities. Mediating for audiences is a mode of engagement in which digital rhetoricians see themselves as institutional communicators who have knowledge and experience about GenAI to share with others, particularly other scholars and teachers.

Participating as user advocates is a mode of engagement in which digital rhetoricians see themselves as institutional feedback agents for GenAI initiatives. I am not thinking of persona-playing team members here, but of actual people who are directly and actively working to respond as users, in large part by providing feedback and helping to interpret the results of institutional research. Working as designers is a mode of engagement in which digital rhetoricians collaborate with academic IT specialists on the look, feel, and operation of GenAI frameworks and initiatives, including policies and training materials. Finally, partnering as researchers is a mode of engagement in which digital rhetoricians collaborate with academic IT specialists to produce knowledge about GenAI. Research partnering makes a good deal of sense from an institutional standpoint: Academic IT units need access to methodological expertise and to consequential sites for studying literacy practices, and scholars and teachers need access to resources and to decision-making processes. Partnering as researchers serves the collective need for responsible and informed action.

These modes of engagement present opportunities for learning about GenAI and helping to shape how it is understood, implemented, and supported on a campus. They are grounded in reciprocal institutional exchanges and relationships that advance success in many directions.


7. JR. What recent work in the field of digital rhetoric are you especially excited about now that you would recommend to scholars in discourse studies?


I am especially excited about the work digital rhetoricians are doing on artificial intelligence (e.g., Aguilar 2024; Hart-Davidson 2018). The technical and social contexts for AI are complicated and interesting and perhaps even a little bit terrifying. Educators need to engage these contexts thoughtfully and skeptically, but also with a curious and open mind. Our collective project is to develop a set of commitments and practices that are both effective and professionally responsible. We can become a strong voice for sensible action and change if we go about this project in the right way. I see lots of evidence to suggest that digital rhetoricians are already starting to deliver on this critical project.

Haut de page


Aguilar, Gabriel Lorenzo. 2024. “Rhetorically Training Students to Generate with AI: Social Justice Applications for AI as Audience,” Computers and Composition 71, n.p.

Aristotle. 2018. The Art of Rhetoric (Oxford: Oxford U.P.)

Bush, Vannevar. 1945. “As We May Think,” The Atlantic Monthly. July, 101-108

Feenberg, Andrew. 1991. Critical Theory of Technology (New York: Oxford U.P.)

Hart-Davidson, William. 2018. “Writing With Robots and Other Curiosities of the Age of Machine Robotics,” Alexander, Jonathan & Jaqueline Rhodes (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Digital Writing and Rhetoric (New York: Routledge), 248-255

Kramarae, Cheris (ed.). 1988. Technology and Women’s Voices: Keeping in Touch (New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul)

Nelson, Theodor Holm. 1980. Literary Machines (Sausalito, CA: Mindful Press)

Plato. 2011. Phaedrus (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P.)

Porter, James E. 2009. “Recovering Delivery for Digital Rhetoric,” Computers and Composition 26, 207-224

Ridolfo, Jim & Dànielle Nicole DeVoss. 2009. “Composing for Recomposition: Rhetorical Velocity and Delivery,” Kairos 13, n.p.

Selber, Stuart A. 2020. Institutional Literacies: Engaging Academic IT Contexts for Writing and Communication (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press)

Selber, Stuart A. 2004. Multiliteracies for a Digital Age (Carbondale: Southern Illinois U.P.)

Sheridan David. 2010. “Fabricating Consent: Three-Dimensional Objects as Rhetorical Compositions,” Computers and Composition 27, 249-265

Shipka, Jody. 2011. Toward a Composition Made Whole (Pittsburgh: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press)

Slack, Jennifer Daryl. 1989. “Contextualizing Technology,” Dervin, Brendan, Lawrence Grossberg, Barbara J. O’Keefe & Ellen Wartella (eds.). Rethinking Communication, Volume 2: Paradigm Exemplars (Newbury Park, CA: Sage): 329-345

Street, John. 1992. Politics & Technology (New York: The Guilford Press)

Turkle, Sherry & Seymour Papert. 1990. “Epistemological Pluralism: Styles and Voices Within the Computer Culture,” Journal of Women in Culture and Society 16, 128 –157

Welch, Kathleen E. 1999. Electric Rhetoric: Classical Rhetoric, Oralism, and a New Literacy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press)

Winner, Langdon. 1986. The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press)

Zuboff, Shoshana. 1985. “Automate/Informate: The Two Faces of Intelligent Technology,” Organizational Dynamics 14, 5-18

You can learn more about Selber’s work on digital rhetoric at the following website:

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Stuart A. Selber et Jim Ridolfo, « Stuart A. Selber: What is Digital Rhetoric? »Argumentation et Analyse du Discours [En ligne], 32 | 2024, mis en ligne le 15 avril 2024, consulté le 25 mai 2024. URL : ; DOI :

Haut de page


Stuart A. Selber

Penn State University (USA)

Jim Ridolfo

University of Kentucky (USA)

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur


Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

Haut de page
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search