Twitter and Classical Rhetoric?
Posted by mollynolte
Once again, I found myself puzzled and intrigued by the weekly readings. In particular, I focused on David Clark’s (2009) Shaped and Shaping Tools (2010, Spilka). Let it be noted by all that I am giving it my best to be academic and objective when it comes to reconsidering modern technology and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram because it seems like the audience isn’t interested in my disdain. In fact, many of my peers are calling me out because I’m a 28 year old technical communications student going to graduate school exclusively online but all I can seem to do is bash technology. I assure all of you, if going to school traditionally, face to face were a realistic option for me, you bet that’s what I’d be doing. I don’t enjoy the online learning experience as much as others, but I also can’t fathom drawing my degree out over the course of several years. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’m desperate to be finished and doing it online in a year works best for my life. So, do I particularly like online schooling? No, not particularly. Am I grateful for this particular mode of technology? Yes, very particularly.
But, alas, I digress. Go figure.
Let’s talk about David Clark and his approach to the rhetoric of technology. Specifically, Clark discusses Twitter at length. I remember the first time I learned about Twitter. It was around 2010 and I was watching sports highlights or the news maybe at the bar where I worked at the time. I remember seeing a Twitter username, or “handle”, and something like a status update along with a hashtag for something. My friend Chris and I were puzzled, and talked about the fact that we had no idea what that was all about. I kept asking people, “What’s the deal with the pound sign on everything these days?” At the time, I was 22 years old, so I was out of touch back then, too. Clark, later in the chapter, goes on to use Twitter and classical rhetoric in the same paragraph. He begins with “classical rhetoric as a means to argue that the ancients saw technologies as arts in which the end was the civic good to be produced by the product, not the design and making of the product” )p. 93). I take this to mean that, even according to the classic rhetors of ancient times, Twitter could certainly be considered among creating rhetoric and art. Of course, I have a serious problem with this when you compare Twitter feeds among the great epics and poetry of good ol’ yesteryear, but then I tried to think about it in another way.
One thing I have noticed about Twitter that makes it really quite unique compared to anything else is the fact that it makes celebrities and public figures so much more accessible to the public, fans, and followers. Never before has the general public been able to instantly know what was on the mind of their favorite actor, comedian, or even the president. It’s a second-by-second update of the people we look up to the most. It allows artists and fans to interact with one another as though they were “everyday” friends. I’ve learned by listening to the radio that a lot of singers these days have “fan armies” that identify themselves as being mega-fanatics of that celebrity (i.e. Justin Bieber’s “Beliebers,” Taylor Swift’s “Swifties,” and Beyonce’s “Beyhive” (yikes, y’all)). When I was a kid, I just “really loved” Hanson and the Spice Girls. There wasn’t a name for it.
That made me think. Maybe to the younger generation, Twitter is going to be their classification of rhetoric. In hundreds of years from now, I suppose anthropologists will be looking back at our history and seeing Twitter as how people were documenting their lives. And perhaps in the future rhetoric and technology will be even more mind-numbing and pervasive than now. I remember writing a fan letter to Jonathan Taylor Thomas in elementary school and I got a signed postcard back from him. (Swoon). Maybe getting a tweet back from your idol is today’s version of receiving mass-produced autographed fanmail.
Spilka, Rachel. (2010). Digital literacy for technical communication. “Information design: From authoring text to architecting virtual space. Taylor & Francis Group. New York, NY.
About mollynolteMSTPC grad student scheduled to graduate in May 2017. Lover of the outdoors, my dogs, autumn, yoga, and travel.
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