Rhetoric, Composition, and Computers

This course seeks to examine the pedagogical, social, moral, scientific, and institutional dynamics inherent to a computing culture.  Computing technologies are ubiquitous, and because they are in constant evolution, consumers/users of this technology must call into question both computers’ impacts and sustainability in a twenty-first century environment—not only in academia—but, also, in our every day lives.  Therefore, in this course, we will consider the educational, workplace, and leisure settings in which we engage with computing technology.   We will interrogate how such technologies affect us positively and negatively, as well as the ways in which we have become both empowered by and desensitized to its influence in affecting personal and global change.  Keyboards, cell phones, digital cameras, GPS navigators, blogs, World of Warcraft, Facebook, Wiis, SecondLife, podcasting and numerous other multimodal technologies have irrevocably changed our lives.  In what ways and to what ends?  What does the future hold for a species so reliant on a cyborg-esque existence?  What does this mean for how we compose texts—compose ourselves?

Drawing on Aristotelian principles of credibility, emotion, and logic, we will explore the ways in which the rhetoric of various forms of computing technology persuades readers/listeners/viewers.  In addition, we will consider how our own construction of identity is reliant upon and manipulated by the technological means we have available to “represent” ourselves in a technologically driven world—a world we were able, (or not,) to control, prior to the computer revolution of the 1980s—a decade in which many college students today were born.

Thus, students will be responsible for examining multiple historical and contemporary publications related to the advent of technologies and their perceived and real affects on society.  Beginning with Plato’s admonishment almost 2,500 years ago that we avoid writing, to recent scholarship propagandizing the utilization of computing technology in the classroom, students will read a variety of classical and post-modern scholarship surrounding the controversies posited by scholars from various fields here and abroad.  Based on the assigned reading for the course, students will decide for themselves if this unparalleled expansion in twenty-first century technology is a utopia, dystopia, or an unbalanced/balanced combination of the two.

Students will be required to compose three essays for the successful completion of the course.  The first essay will require students to rhetorically analyze, research, and consider the ways in which either aural or visual rhetoric is exploited/employed in some genre of the technological/computing field.  The second essay will require that students situate themselves as consumers/pioneers/victims of a particular technological genre and to consider and defend their positionality, as such.  The third essay will require that students identify a particular area of interest as it relates to computer technology and to argue for/against/both/ the merits/demerits of that technology as an inherent value in a local or global context in furthering an ambition/cause about which they believe strongly.