lingua fracta

Citing the development of the rhetorical canon in an age of orality and a transformation of the rhetorical canon in the age of print, Brooke makes the case that rhetoric is “intrinsically technological” (29). And just as refiguring the canons for an age of print enriched the field’s understanding of writing, refiguring the canons for a digital age can enrich the field’s understanding and practice of new media composing. In his words, a revision of the canons for new media allows the field “to find some middle space between the analysis of texts in isolation and the proclamation of theoretical absolutes” (7). And the middle ground for Brooke is to “prepare us as writers to make our own choices” when composing new media texts (15).

  • Interface: The interface is Brooke’s unit of analysis. To revise each canon for a digital world, Brooke turns to an example interface to describe a set of rhetorical practices that account for the realities and possibilities of that interface (24-26). In this way, the interface is his grounds for “generating a productive vocabulary for describing these new [digital] media” (195).
  • Ecologies of practice: “As a way of focusing on the strategies and practices that occur at the level of the interface,” this concept is Brooke’s stock-in-trade (28). Brooke conceptualizes each individual canons as an ecology of practice that is part of a larger framework of all five canons. Brooke’s ecology of practice refers to the presence of a “virtual repertoire of practices” that include “other writers, particular sites and materials, texts, the various cultures we negotiate, and so forth” (45).
  • Proairesis [read: choice]: Here, he describes proairetic invention in terms of search engines. Where one conception of searching dictates we treat the search engine as part of a hermeneutic process of narrowing results to a point of closure, the proairetic invention Brooke imagines repurposes the search engine. Instead of seeking closure, Brooke suggests we resist closure by utilizing search returns as points of departure and to bookmark and tag those results in order to “bring potentially distant topics and ideas into proximity” of each other and the user (83).
  • Pattern: Citing the lack of linearity in new media forms like the database, Brooke’s revision of arrangement is a pattern – an out-of-sequence set of relations. Both terms evoke the idea of an order, but the difference is how the order arises. In an essay, an arrangement is a set order imposed by an author. But in a database, relationships between texts emerge. Here, the practice Brooke describes is to allow those patterns to emerge naturally and to mine data for natural patterns through interfaces like tagcloud generators.
  • Perspective: This chapter is distinctly about visuals and structured perception. Drawing from examples like gaming interfaces, Brooke describes the various ways we look at interfaces, look through interfaces, and look from interfaces. And the from perspective is Brooke’s key point; where he discusses looking from, he is referring to the idea that perception is structured by position to the interface – a cultural point of view (POV) (the POV that organizes others) and a bodily POV (one POV among many).
  • Persistence: Here, Brooke deals with cognition and information overload. Looking at examples such as the now defunct Google Reader – a platform for collecting and arranging site metadata – Brooke connects persistence with proairetic invention and pattern. He defines persistence as “the practice of retaining particular ideas, keywords, or concepts across multiple texts” (157).
  • Performance: Drawing on existing concepts like circulation and credibility, Brooke revises delivery to mean a performance where a writer’s credibility and ethos is distributed across a network. A distributed credibility might look like Wikipedia’s tiered model of editorial responsibility where the credibility of one article is determined by “the reputation earned by its author(s)” (190).

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