Monthly Archives: October 2010

Digital Delivery and Rhetoric

Porter, James E.  “Recovering Delivery for Digital Rhetoric.”  Computers and Composition 26 (2009): 207-224.  ScienceDirect.  Web.  01 October 2010.
            James Porter’s article reexamining rhetorical delivery in terms of today’s internetworked possibilities begins with an overview of the history of the practices and theories of delivery up to the “English elocutionary movement of the 18th century… where the art of delivery became degraded” (210).  In connecting the ancient Greek philosophies of rhetoric to our current deemphasized concept of delivery, Porter points to the need to create “a theoretical framework for digital delivery” because “technical knowledge is integral to the art of rhetoric and the canon of rhetorical delivery in the digital age” (208).  Porter divides his article in two, offering first the discussed overview and argument for relevance, and second, his proposed theory, which he does not propose to “provide a comprehensive theory of digital delivery,” but to “aggregate[e] and coordinat[e] a well-established body of research” (211-12).

            Porter breaks his “rubric of “digital delivery”” (212) into five components consisting of “Body/Identity” (212-13), “Distribution/Circulation” (214-15), “Access/Accessibility” (215-16), “Interaction” (216-17), and finally, “Economics” (218-20).  For my research interests in poetry publishing in the digital era, each of these topics provides some insight, though the more interesting aspects come under the headings of “Body/Identity” and “Economics.” 
            In the first section, Porter describes how digital means do not force the body to “disappear in virtual space,” but rather, agrees with Nayar’s text by writing that “it is there in all its non-virtual manifestations: gender, race, sexual preference…etc.” (212).  Porter gestures (a formerly literal term in the rhetoric of delivery which he investigates in the paragraph above by referencing emoticons and avatars) toward the scholarship of bodies in digital realms (212), and notes that imagery embedded in websites often serves a rhetorical delivery purpose; by indicating websites run by Victoria’s Secret, Lawrence Lessig, and Donna Haraway, Porter is able to describe the rhetorical stances taken by the writers in terms of delivery.  Porter continues with the idea that “it is not only the visual body that is recovered in virtual spaces [, but also] the speaking body” (213).  He references the ability to integrate multimedia elements in the forms of not only static pictures or text, but also audio/visual elements which re-appropriate the importance of the “oral performance” (213).  Because of these movements toward an integrated multimedia presentation, Porter argues, “we need a robust rhetoric of digital delivery to understand how to be an effective rhetorical participant within these environments” (213).
            Porter’s article sheds much light on the role and need to re-appropriate rhetorical delivery as a subject of research, and I would recommend the article strongly.  In my particular case, I see interesting questions developing regarding how poets choose to represent themselves on the Internet; whether rhetorical decisions are made consciously or instinctually; how they choose to digitally publish their poetry (or not, and why).