The first thing I noticed about this book when I pulled it off the shelf was that the cover claimed it was “Edited by Collin Gifford Brooke.” The second was that the subtitle on the cover said “Towards a Rhetoric of New Media,” while the title page reads “ Toward a Rhetoric of New Media.” When I contacted Collin about the first error, he told me that I must have gotten an early copy – later copies have been fixed. The subtitle issue is apparently still in the later copies.
Don't judge a book by its cover. Brooke takes up an intriguing project: rethinking the canons of rhetoric in terms of new media. “A rhetoric of new media,” he argues, “rather than examining the choices that have already been made by writers, should prepare us as writers to make our own choices” (p.15). So he concludes that “we must begin to move from a text-based rhetoric, exemplified by our attachment to the printed page, to a rhetoric that can account for the dynamics of the interface” (p.26). To undertake this project, he first appeals to the ecological metaphor that has lately been deployed in related areas. He cites several scholars in related fields who have used this metaphor, including my colleague Peg Syverson and me (thanks, Collin), and suggests that the canons of rhetoric have been left behind in this work (p.36). So, he says, let's frame the canons in terms of ecology (p.37).
That reframing work is undertaken in the subsequent chapters, where Brooke uses several “p words” (p.197) to refigure the canons. In chapter 3, invention becomes proairesis; in chapter 4, arrangement becomes pattern; in chapter 5, style becomes perspective; in chapter 6, memory becomes persistence; and in chapter 7, delivery becomes performance. Brooke casts his net widely for examples as he reframes these canons, discussing Wikipedia, World of Warcraft, blogs, tag clouds, social bookmarking, and other new media examples. He concludes in Chapter 7 that “this book seeks to stage a mutually transformative encounter between rhetoric and technology” (p.197) – an encounter that is necessary, he emphasizes, because we can't productively understand either one without the other.
Those who are studying rhetoric should certainly give this book a look. In particular, students of rhetoric and technology will find it useful for thinking through the relationships between the two – although Brooke argues here that all rhetoric students should also be students of technology and that the separation is damaging. Nevertheless, I think the book will make its deepest impact in graduate programs oriented toward rhetoric and technology and in the computers and writing literature, where scholars are already prepared to wrestle with the issues that Brooke outlines here. For them in particular, I recommend this book.