The Art of Rhetoric

There has been many a conversation throughout my time so far in the MSPTC program about Rhetoric and its purpose in today’s world of Professional and Technical Communications.  Some of my former classmates would like to see the topic, or at least some of the textbooks, tossed off the nearest cliff.  I cannot deny that I have had those feelings once or twice myself. In fact, I had to laugh in agreement at this definition of rhetorical analysis: “This category is, by necessity, only a loose grouping of related types of work that share a common goal: complicating common-sense understandings of technologies by analyzing them from a variety of rhetorical perspectives that demonstrate their immersion in social and rhetorical processes” (Spilka, 2010, pg. 92, emphasis added) Finally, the combination of our readings this week along with some more modern day examples shows me how rhetorical theory can add value to companies, especially through the use of social media.

napter_main_logo.pngIn particular, the discussion of the music industry not understanding the value of social media and embracing it instead of fighting it, is really what made it all sink in: “Instead of actions that disenfranchised their customer base (some of the largest numbers of downloaders and sharers were made up of music fanatics), the music industry should have been rejoicing that their distribution, production, and packaging expenses became almost nonexistent!” (Qualman, 2011, pg. 153).  I remember vividly when this topic was a hot button (pre-iTunes).  I also remember being very willing to pay for songs but I was tired of buying whole albums when I only liked one or two songs, which was one of the major benefits I saw of downloading the songs (along with being able to add them to an MP3 player pre iPod).  Since iTunes has come along with the ability to pay per song, I will say my own personal music purchases have dramatically increased.  I continue to be so confused by some musicians still resisting this new modern format.  I am PAYING for songs and buying more than I ever had before.  If I am doing that, aren’t a lot of other people be doing the same thing? Aren’t musician’s songs only becoming more popular through this version of social media and therefore their revenues going up?  Seems logical to me but as Qualman points out “. . . the real reason they didn’t embrace the model is that they didn’t understand it” (pg. 153).

Hence the need for Rhetorical Analysis. If the rhetoric of technology were more prolific early on, and had been able to show through research and theory the value of this transformation in how we purchase music, the music industry may have started listening sooner.  Now, rhetorical theory for social media can be invaluable.  Timing and Twitter graphicFrom understanding the why, when and how of social media usage, companies can maximize the effect of how they use it in their business models.  Social media is such a study of psychology and technology combined, the opportunities for rhetorical study of this booming technology are booming, adding value not only to the companies utilizing the theories but also to the profession of rhetoric for technology, in particular for “Technical communicators, who are by their nature intrigued by new rhetorical possibilities . . .” (Spilka, 2010, pg. 85).

Posted on October 20, 2013, in Creative, Literacy, Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Funny you mention this. Dr Hanson will be teaching 720 in the Spring and we discussed textbook alternatives just today. I’ll reply to your full post later, but had to say something now!

  2. I think it’s an interesting example you provided with being able to pay per song instead of buying a complete album. I agree that I thought the mark was being missed because this option didn’t exist. Now that it exists, I won’t pay $1.29 per song. I thought $.99 was an acceptable amount but if I’m going to pay $1.29 for one song, I might as well wait until the album goes on sale and spend maybe $8.99 on it and get all the content.

    I spend a lot of time in my car and listen to satellite radio. I find that when I’m home I don’t listen to music because I spend over two hours in my car daily listening to music. This makes me wonder if there’s a way to reach out to someone like me to spend money on purchasing music.

    • I like it when there is a link to purchase a song if you are listening to Pandora or some other radio type app. Good question about those who just listen like you do. The only benefit I can think of is if you like a song, you probably talk about it with others and maybe someone will purchase it based on your recommendation.

  3. evelynmartens13

    I had a good laugh at your opening! I am taking three classes this semester, plus I work in a Writing Center, so there are definite days when I’d like to ban the word “rhetoric” from my vocabulary.

    I found your Timing and Twitter article very informative. I thought the click versus hover rate fascinating — like how do they track all of this? Thanks for providing this!

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