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Access my CCCC talk, “Tracing Circulation as Critical Methodology: An Initial Sketch”, below:


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On Western Authorship–its History and its Future

Authorship is a cultural, social, and legal status granted to certain (often textual) manifestations of discourse, whose regulatory function necessarily impacts the flow of information by granting material rewards (i.e., social recognition, monetary benefits, prestige) and punishments (i.e., legally and/or ethically sanctioned adjudications) to maintain its function in a society. I see authorship as an umbrella term bound up with many other knotty concepts—property, originality, ownership, sharing. In effect, authorship very much undergirds the politics of writing, both in the academy and outside of it, by asking questions such as the following: Who gets granted status? What structures allow for such recognition? What blocks or thwarts thinking and exchange? These questions, as I see them, are inherently tied to social justice.

The Death of the Author, The Birth of a Field

Authorship studies, if we can give name to such an enterprise, gained traction in the U.S. during the 1980s and 1990s. And it is no surprise as to why. This intellectual moment marked the heyday of poststructuralist and postmodernist thought, which began to pose serious challenges to the then-hitherto stable notion of the Author. Roland Barthes famously proclaimed its death; Michel Foucault issued a call to examine its disciplinary function. Ever since, as U.S. scholars began to take up postmodernist views of subjectivity, they began, in Foucault’s trajectory, to study the historical conditions that gave birth to this modern view of the author, whose semantic web is made up of terms such as autonomy, originary, genius, property, male. How did this become so?

Although most historical accounts of authorship begin with Barthes and Foucault to claim theoretical gravitas, the “birth” of the author occurred about two centuries before their essays were published. Still, as Martha Woodmansee puts it, the figure of the author “in its modern sense is a relatively new invention” (426). In the 1980s, scholars like Woodmansee and Mark Rose began to trace the cultural, political, legal, and technological landscape in which this new invention took shape. (Note: these scholars are working with an inherently Western view of authorship).

Woodmansee’s analysis places the inception of the author in 18th-Century Germany and Great Britain. Woodmansee details the theoretical views on the author that dominated the first half of the 18th Century. These views were markedly different than the ones later in the century, which largely still linger today. She notes that the concept of the author was bound to two distinct conceptions—first, authors as craftsmen (that is, as individuals manipulating materials at hand for a new audience) and second, authors as inspired by God or some muse. For both of these conceptions, writes Woodmansee, the author is seen as a vehicle, one who does not have full control of his/her writings. Later in the 18th-Century, prominent theorists of the time (i.e., William Wordsworth and Edward Young) began to re-work these ideas by downplaying the element of craftsmanship and reworking the source of inspiration to that of the self. The notion of genius, in effect, was ready to take root.

But these intellectual changes were not the only factors that solidified the place of the originary author in Western contexts. Other changes, Woodmansee notes, include the growth of a reading public vis-à-vis the printing press and the birth of a new profession, the writer. Mark Rose’s analysis of intellectual property developments in 18th-Century England similarly traces the historical conditions that worked to naturalize the author as we know it today. For Rose, the concept of the author is very much tied our economic system—and this tie, says Rose, was born out of the implementation of copyright laws. In other words, due to the evolution of copyright laws, we have been primed to attribute a key characteristic to the work of authors—proprietorship. As Rose notes, “the author is conceived as the originator and therefore the owner of a special kind of commodity, the work” (1). Therefore, copyright “helps produce and affirm the very identity of the author as author” (2). And so characterizes Rose’s central argument: the modern conception of authorship, as flawed as it might be, is difficult to shake. It is very much tied to our economic systems and to our conceptions of self.

Much has occurred since the flurry of disciplinary scholarship on authorship in the 1980s/90s—both in terms of theoretical advancement and structural changes that (often tacitly) impacts Western notions of authorship. I want to note, though, that my brief history above is illuminating from a disciplinary standpoint. That is, authorship can be interrogated from a number of angles—from a theoretical perspective (i.e., What is an author?), from an historical perspective (i.e., What material, cultural, legal, and technological perspectives have shaped our modern conception of the author?), and from a pragmatic perspective (i.e., What do these histories and theories tell us about authorship today? What works are endowed with the status of an author?) .

Before turning to more recent developments of authorship, I want to also note that the historical framework sketched above is important for the development of authorship as a sub-field of study in rhetoric and composition. Since the above works were published, rhetoric and composition scholars have invoked authorship—especially its regulatory function—to talk about a number of issues within writing studies. Indeed, authorship regularly gets paired with other writing concepts: authorship/collaboration (Lunsford & Ede; Howard), authorship/plagiarism (Howard, Randall), authorship/intellectual property (DeVoss & Porter; Logie; Reyman), authorship/invention (Rife; Reid), authorship/remix (Ridolfo & DeVoss; Johnson-Eilola & Selber).

Digital Matters

Enter the digital. Enter what Yochai Benkler calls the networked information economy. Enter the Napster crisis and the so-called free culture movement. Enter what James Boyle calls the second enclosure movement of the mind. Indeed, after the flood of postmodern scholarly work that sought to disassemble authorship as it was inherited from the 18th-Century, another flurry of scholarship began to take shape. And its battleground took place—and is taking place—on the Internet.

Interestingly, web-based digital technologies saw a growth in both a participatory culture (Jenkins), where everyday people began to remix and redistribute existing content at growing rates, and a lock down on creativity (Lessig), where corporate authors (Lunsford; Reyman) began to stifle everyday composers’ inventive capacities by claiming sole ownership of their works. In other words, though the capacity to appropriate and re-distribute works already in circulation grew with the advent of the Internet (especially with Web 2.0), so too did regulation mandates—both in terms of law and code—that often benefited the interests of big media companies.

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Lawrence Lessig argued in 2004 that “the future of copyright law [is] not so much copyright law as copyright code. The controls over access to content will not be controls that are ratified by courts; the controls over access to content will be controls that are coded by programmers” (152). If you have ever uploaded content to YouTube, you likely can appreciate the weight of Lessig’s point. When uploading a video to the Google-owned video distribution site, all videos are run through its Content ID system. As YouTube explains, “copyright owners can use…Content ID to easily identify and manage their content on YouTube. Videos uploaded to YouTube are scanned against a database of files that have been submitted to us by content owners. Copyright owners get to decide what happens when content in a video on YouTube matches the content they own” (n.p.). What this means is that critical remixes that are transformative (Aufderheide & Jaszi) in their redeployment of source materials can be flagged as copyrighted material and, depending on the content creators discretion, is thus made unavailable for public reuse.

This clearly represents an unbalanced view of copyright, one that reinforces the dominant view of authorship that has been embedded in our culture for some time now.

Where to Go From Here?

In her excellent and comprehensive book on the rhetoric of IP, Jessica Reyman draws on Michel Foucault’s notion of resistance to argue for a bright(er) intellectual property future. In other words, Reyman argues that we need to mobilize multiple sites of resistance to forward a new rhetoric of authorship. Indeed, we need a multi-pronged approach that promotes a balanced view of copyright (Vaidhyananthan) and a just notion of authorship, one that “rejects the naïve construction of author as originary genius or as entrepreneurial corporate entity, without diminishing the importance of agency, and of difference, to lives of working writers” (Lunsford 534).

How do we—scholars of rhetoric, teachers of writing, and users and (re)distributors or media—go about enacting this call? Although many scholars have excellent suggestions (see especially Reyman and Aufderheide & Jaszi), and although I think we often enact tactical resistance in our everyday practices, I also think it’s important to pluralize authorship (a move Rebecca Moore Howard has made). Recognizing that there are many types of authorships—or perhaps more provocatively, many types of counterauthorships—elucidates how legal discourse, technological developments, and pedagogical practices often work to reify a vision of authorship that privileges certain writing practices over others. How can we bring to light counterauthorships? What ethic guides them? And how might tracing them provide another point of resistance? I save these questions for another blog post.


Aufderheide, Patricia, and Peter Jaszi. Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright. U Chicago P, 2011

Barthes, Roland. “The Death of the Author.” Image-Music-Text. Trans. Stephen Heath.     New York: Macmillan, 1977. 142-149.

Benkler, Yochai. The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. New Haven: Yale UP, 2006.

Boyle, James. The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009.

DeVoss, Dànielle Nicole, and James E. Porter. “Why Napster Matters to Writing:    Filesharing as a New Ethic of Digital Delivery.” Computers and  Composition 23.2 (2006): 178-210.

Foucault, Michel. “What is an Author.” The Foucault Reader. Ed. Paul Rainbow. New        York:  Pantheon Books, 1984. 101-120.

Howard, Rebecca Moore. Standing in the Shadow of Giants: Plagiarists, Authors,   Collaborators. Stamford: Albex, 1999.

Jenkins, Henry. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education     for the 21st Century. MIT P, 2009.

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan, and Stuart A. Selber. “Plagiarism, Originality,        Assemblage.” Computers and Composition 24.4 (2007): 375-403.

Lessig, Lawrence. Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock      Down Culture and Control Creativity. New York: Penguin, 2004.

Logie, John. Peers, Pirates, and Persuasion: Rhetoric in the Peer-to-Peer Debates. West   Lafayette: Parlor P, 2006.

Lunsford, Andrea Abernethy. “Rhetoric, Feminism, and the Politics of Textual          Ownership.” College English 61 (1999): 529-544.

Lunsford, Andrea A., and Lisa Ede. Singular Texts/Plural Authors: Perspectives on             Collaborative Writing Carbondale: SIU P, 1990.

Randall, Marilyn. Pragmatic Plagiarism: Authorship, Profit, and Power. U Toronto P,       2001.

Reid, Alex. The Two Virtuals: New Media and Composition. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor      P, 2007.

Reyman, Jessica. The Rhetoric of Intellectual Property: Copyright Law and the        Regulation of Digital Culture. New York: Routledge, 2010. Print.

Rife, Martine Courant. Invention, Copyright, and Digital Writing. Carbondale: SIU P, 2013.

Rose, Mark. Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright. Harvard UP, 1993.

Vaidhyanathan, Siva. Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity. NYU P, 2003.

Woodmansee, Martha. “The Genius and the Copyright: Economic and Legal Conditions      of the Emergence of the ‘Author’.” Eighteenth Century Studies (1984): 425-448.

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On Delivery — Why now? What for?

In the last few years, the rhetorical canon of delivery (actio) has received heightened attention in rhetorical scholarship. In effect, scholars have sought to “resuscitate” delivery for our digital age (Porter). Those who seek to redevelop a theory of delivery note that it has largely been treated as a bemoaned rhetorical canon (especially since the advent of print), but argue that a robust canon of delivery is needed now. Here, I want to 1) unpack why delivery has been received as unworthy of theoretical labor and 2) express why delivery deserves more theoretical attention in our present moment.

Why has delivery been a relegated canon?

One answer deals with its original equation with the speaking body—with tone, inflection, body language, dress, and so on. As literacy began to be more widespread, discussions of delivery (with its focus on the speaking body) had trouble enduring. Delivery was deemed irrelevant, or at least unimportant, for rhetorically theorizing written communications. (Scholars, of course, have taken this claim to task, noting that written communications indeed have implicit theories of delivery—what we might now call design).

Another related answer deals with technologies of delivery. As Ben McCorkle argues, delivery has historically been theorized alongside technological innovations and change. That is, when new technologies impact they way we communicate, we have to rethink delivery. In fact, McCorkle maintains, using the logics of immediacy and hypermedicay as articulated by Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, that when a medium becomes naturalized (such as print media), our need to theorize delivery seems to diminish. On the other hand, when the appearance of a certain technology becomes readily apparent (what Bolter and Grusin would call hypermediacy), there again instantiates the need to re-theorize delivery. This is not to say, however, that there doesn’t always exist an implicit theory of delivery (what McCorkle calls a “hidden” theory of delivery).

In this way, scholarly works that seek to historicize the technologies of writing (i.e., Bolter; Bolter & Grusin; Eisenstein) are especially useful in expressing the question of why—that is, why does the importance of delivery ebb and flow? And how does the writing space, to borrow Bolter’s term, impact how we think about delivery?

Why is a productive theory of delivery needed today?

Simply put, it’s needed to assist writers make decisions about how to distribute their compositions, an argument Porter helps to illuminate. These choices are integral to the design and reception of the discourse. Put another way, delivery choices are tied to invention concerns. And these choices are, whether conscious or not, impacted by a myriad of concerns (economic, political, ethical, etc.), as scholars like James Porter, Jim Ridolo, and Danielle Nicole DeVoss attest. These scholars reach back to rhetorical treatises on delivery in order to inform contemporary lines of thought.

How do we develop a theory of delivery for today? First, we need to stop thinking about delivery as the last step in rhetorical production. As mentioned, and as Porter maintains, considerations of delivery are an integral part of invention. He thus develops five topoi to aide writers/designers in rhetorical production. These are:

  • Access/accessibility: do viewers/participants have the material resources to access my composition? Am I designing/distributing it in such a way that aims toward including all individuals? (Side note: the concept of retrofitting is especially salient here. An ethical theory of delivery should attend, or at least try to attend, to accessibility issues at the outset of the compositing process.)
  • Identity/body: how can rhetors make decisions about how to represent themselves in online spaces?
  • Distribution/circulation: what channels to release online texts; basically, when, where, and how to distribute a message? How might my message be further recycled, reused, appropriated? (Side note: I’d also think about circulation a bit differently—not just how a rhetor might create circulation, but also how a rhetor might intervene in the path of text already in motion (i.e., remixing/appropriating/re-distributing).
  • Interactivity/Interaction: how will viewers/participators be able to access my composition? At what level do I want others participating?
  • Economics: what are the intellectual property issues involved in delivering a text in a certain writing space?

In addition to Porter’s topoi, which have been picked up recently in pedagogical contexts (Adsanatham, Garrett, and Matzke), scholars have developed other frameworks and concepts for theorizing digital delivery and its consequentiality (Brooke, Sheridan et al, Ridolfo & DeVoss). Key among these is Jim Ridolfo’s notion of “rhetorical velocity”—a concept attuned to speed, timing, and circulation. For Ridolfo, rhetorical velocity is generative a concept that allows rhetors to theorize how their texts might get picked up, remixed, and spread further. As such, building a text with an eye toward its future remixability becomes a key concern for delivery.

Work to be done 

A question that remains unresolved (or perhaps unsatisfying), for me, is delivery’s relationship with circulation (a topic I will cover in a forthcoming blog entry). It’s a sort of chicken-and-egg (see Michael Warner) relationship that can become tricky to define, especially in digital contexts where remixing, appropriating, and redistributing material occurs all of the time. Is a rhetor delivering a composition and thus creating circulation? Maybe, but this surely does limit one’s rhetorical potential, as reworking and redistributing texts has become the hallmark of living and writing in a DIY, participatory, and remix culture (Lessig, Jenkins, Dubisar & Palmeri). A question that I believe should more thoroughly teased is this one—how might a rhetor intervene in the rhetorical velocity (Sheridan et al; Ridolfo & DeVoss) of text that is already in circulation? This slight turn of question, to me, helps delivery connect to a remixed notion of authorship, where in Alex Reid’s formulation, a rhetor is ripping, mixing, and burning from the existing cultural milieu to transform a text or set of texts into something new.

Works Cited

Bolter, J. David, and Richard A. Grusin. Remediation: Understanding new media.   Cambridge: MIT P, 2000.

Bolter, Jay David. Writing Space: The Computer, Hypertext, and the History of Writing. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1990.

Dubisar, Abby M., and Jason Palmeri. “Palin/Pathos/Peter Griffin: Political Video Remix    and Composition Pedagogy.” Computers and Composition 27.2 (2010): 77-93.

Eisenstein, Elizabeth L. The Printing Press as an Agent of Change. Vol. 1. Cambridge         UP, 1980.

Jenkins, Henry. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education     for the 21st Century. MIT P, 2009.

Lessig, Larry. Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. New York:  Penguin, 2008.

McCorkle, Ben. Rhetorical Delivery as Technological Discourse: A Cross-Historical   Study. Carbondale, IL: SIU P, 2012.

Porter, James E. “Recovering Delivery for Digital Rhetoric.” Computers and            Composition 26.4 (2009): 207-224.

Reid, Alex. The Two Virtuals: New Media and Composition. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor      P, 2007.

Ridolfo, Jim, and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss. “Composing for Recomposition: Rhetorical       Velocity and Delivery.” Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and          Pedagogy 13.2 (2009).

Sheridan, David Michael, Jim Ridolfo, and Anthony J. Michel. The Available Means of        Persuasion: Mapping a Theory and Pedagogy of Multimodal Public Rhetoric. West Lafayette: Parlor P, 2012.

Warner, Michael. Publics and Counterpublics. New York: Zone Books, 2002.

Posted in Circulation, Delivery, Remix | 1 Comment

The Anthropomorphism of the Grape: A Wine Tour (with Jane Bennett & Bruno Latour)

About a month ago I took a rather unexpected tour of a wine vineyard just outside of Sedona, Arizona. Despite the hot temperatures and my general lack of knowledge about wine, I quite enjoyed the tour. Here’s why: the tour guide’s discussion of the wine making process—from planting the right kind of grape, to utilizing the fresh spring of water that nourishes the grapes, to the smoke pillowing the sky from the recent forest fire, to the animals who feast on the ripe grapes, to the nets used to keep the animals away from the sweet scent of the grapes, to the barrels used to house the wine, to the machine used to cork, bottle, and label the wine—reminded me of two books that I have read recently: Bruno Latour’s “Reassembling the Social” and Jane Bennett’s “Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things.”

I don’t know much about wine—especially how it’s harvested, made, and stored. This tour helped shed some light on that process, the logistics of which I’ll probably forget within a month. But what I think I will remember for some time is how much the final outcome—the taste and smell of the wine I buy in the store—is affected by the minute details of the ecosystem that makes up the wine vineyard, cellar, and bottling facility. In Latour’s vocabulary, this ecosystem encompasses both human and non-human actors—i.e., the human decision to plant the grape near the creek and non-human net that is used to protect the grape’s exterior. What’s more, the ecosystem is also affected by non-human (and often non-technological) forces, or what Jane Bennett might call a vital materiality—i.e., the microclimate of the vineyard (the colder air by the creek, the cold desert nights, the hot days, and so on), the genetic makeup of the grape, the scent of the ripe grapes, the smoke in the sky, the fibers of the oak barrel, the oxygen left in the barrel.

All of these factors—and a vast constellation of others—contribute to making of wine. The climate, the grapes, the winemaker, the chemical makeup of the sky, the yield of the fruit, the age of the barrel, the amount of humidity present in the cellar. I could go on. Taken together, these small agencies, what Bennett aptly calls an agentic assemblage, affect and are affected. They are dependent on space, time, and location. Because we can characterize this assemblage as moving, acting, and affecting, we can say that this year’s yield will be different than last year’s. For example, due to the palpable ash taste, the smoke-filled grapes of 2014 will likely be made into next year’s brandy instead of next year’s cabernet sauvignon. And this was brought on by a multitude of agencies; in other words, humans in this example are but one type of actor in a “swarm” of others.

My point in sharing my trip to the vineyard—yes I have one!—is to relate the analogy of the agentic assemblage of this year’s yield of grapes at one small vineyard in central Arizona to rhetoric and composition, and more specifically, to the circulation of writing. Circulation, like wine, is made possible by an assemblage of actors. This assemblage, this coming together, is a complex process. It is what Laurie Gries might call a rhetorical becoming “in which rhetoric unfolds and alters reality in unpredictable, divergent, and inconsistent ways” (n.p. in press). In the remainder of this blog post, I want to stretch—perhaps even a little too far—the analogy of winemaking to that of the making of writing. My purpose in doing so is to offer a palpable example of how ANT- and new materialist-inspired theories can inform the study of circulation in new media environments.

Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green have recently offered the phrase, “If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead,” as an aphorism for understanding the weight of viral media in today’s writing landscape. I take it that understanding how a new media message takes shape—that is, to trace the process of its becoming—can contribute a kind of productive knowledge needed for rhetors interacting and intervening in the circulation of discourse in public spheres today. To do so, asks us to “devise new procedures, technologies, and regimes of perception that enable us to consult nonhumans more closely, or to listen and respond more carefully to their outbreaks, objections, testimonies, and propositions” (Bennett 108). 

But how, if I can stretch my analogy further, can winemaking help us achieve Bennett’s call? Winemakers understand the complexity of their work. They realize they have an essential part to play, but they also realize that their labors are only part of the process. On my wine tour, the guide proclaimed, “our grapes grow strong and have thick skins,” which is kind of anthropomorphized expression that helps illuminate how the agency of another actor—the grape—is entangled in the complex ecology of making, storing, selling, and serving wine. One pivotal moment did not, of course, define the wine that’s circulating in grocery stores and restaurants. The body, the flavor, the aroma, the alcohol content is made possible by an agentic assemblage that flowed through moments of time and space.

New media writers similarly might think of other small agencies that impact the circulation of writing, whether distributing a message or intervening in the rhetorical velocity of a message already in circulation (Ridolfo and DeVoss). When we start thinking about how, and why, certain discourses circulate, it is naive to think that humans alone play the most important—or worse, the only—role in the viral spread of communication. Algorithms, time of day, images, hashtags—these elements, these actors, play a pivotal role in the (in)effectiveness of writing in motion.

Certainly, paying attention to these small agencies can offer a kind of knowledge that can be of use to new media writers, but as the wine example makes clear, we are likely never able to fully anticipate how a message will circulate, how it will affect, or how it will produce effects.


Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham, NC: Duke UP,  2009.

Gries, Laurie. “On Rhetorical Becoming.” The Object of Rhetoric: Assembling and Disassembling Bruno Latour. Eds. Paul Lynch and Nathaniel Rivers. SIU P, forthcoming. 

Jenkins, Henry, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green. Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. NYU P, 2013.

Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford UP, 2005.

Ridolfo, Jim, and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss. “Composing for Recomposition: Rhetorical Velocity and Delivery.” Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and  Pedagogy 13.2 (2009).

Posted in Affect, Agency, Circulation, latour, new materialism | 1 Comment

4C14: Copies of my talk and presentation

It is CCCC’s time. I’m thrilled to participate in session K08 this year. In this blog post, I share the following:

  • an outline of my talk
  • a PowerPoint file of my presentation

Edwards – Remix as Tactical – 4C14 Talk Outline

Remix as Tactical (1)

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Tactical Rhetorics and Circulation — A New Research Project

Exigence, Synthesis, and Gap

This project builds upon the work I did in the Public Spheres seminar. In that project, I explored the ways in which rhetors get their voices heard through reappropriation rhetorical tactics. Although my work thus far has yielded a productive theory to account for and predict reasons why rhetors use these rhetorical tactics (drawing on de Certeau, Judith Butler, and Kenneth Burke), I have yet to systematically study how such rhetorical practices actually circulate–how they get picked up, reappropriated, and spread further–in digital spaces. To this end, in my public spheres project I did not give enough attention to the notion of circulation. Based on the literature I have reviewed here, I am seeing circulation discussed from a few different perspectives: as tied to the making of a (counter)public (Warner; Farmer); tied to affect/affective energy and ecologies (Edbauer; Chaput; Carter); as being fluid, fleeting, and unlocated (De Certeau; Warner; Chaput; Edbauer; Gries); as something that can be theorized, negotiated, and anticipated (Sheridan, Ridolfo, and Michel; Carter; Jenkins et al; Porter).

Although much theory has been developed to discuss how circulation is very much tied to resisting, inverting, or acting against dominant discourse (e.g.. Warner, de Certeau, and Farmer), with a few notable exceptions (most notably Gries and Jenkins et al), I have not encountered much work that builds upon the local, practical knowledge of rhetors who already use tactics of reappropriation, bricolage, poaching, remix, and so on. The work is either theorized in the abstract with no application, studied in historical contexts, or discussed in illustrative yet non-systematic ways. In other words, theorists of circulation often do not interview participants and/or do not conduct systematic studies to account for circulation. To this end, I have not seen any studies that work with organizations to account for how their rhetorical tactics are circulating in public space.

What would be useful, therefore, is a study that draws data from rhetors who use what I’ve been calling “tactical” rhetorical approaches to get their voices heard to effect some sort of change or claim some sort of agency: why do you use such approaches? how do you conceive of circulation? how do you think about timing, audience, genre, constraints, and so forth? Given this data, it would be illuminating–in ways that I hope would enact reciprocity–to track how their texts get circulated. In the long term, then, (and here I’m thinking dissertation stage) accounting for such circulation would be useful in at least two ways. First, the data would hopefully productively add to, complicate, and test theories of circulation. Second, and what is most appealing to me, the design of such a research project would *ideally* allow for reciprocity. further data, and collaborative theorizing of knowledge. After tracking circulation, in other words, research participants could reflect upon the ways in which their texts have circulated. Questions could follow: How did particular conditions or, to borrow Latour’s term, actants impact circulation? Did it match your expectations?

Given this, for this project, I have two goals 1) interview rhetors who use reappropriation tactics to distribute their work and 2) begin to build a methodology to trace–account for–their circulation.

Here’s a Google Doc of my annotated bib for this project. My annotated entries are also accessible through my blog.

Posted in Circulation, Methodology, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Warner — “Publics and Counterpublics”

Note: this entry largely focuses on Warner’s notion of circulation.

In his well-known Publics and Counterpublics, Michael Warner explores the historical and cultural ways in which (counter)publics form through the circulation of discourse. As Warner puts it, his book is more like a collection of essays that span years of his thinking on issues related to (counter)publics–i.e., the construction of the private/public divide; sexuality, normativity, and queerness in publics; and the historically, socially, and economically situated conditions of circulation. Although a central argument in this book is (intentionally) difficult to pin down, Warner, in his words, offers several “case studies” that help comprise “a flexible methodology for the analysis of publics” (15).

For my purposes, I will examine how Warner discusses circulation, which I see as being a cornerstone to his public sphere theory. For Warner, a public requires circulation; in other words, through the circulation of discourse, ideological constructions of “the public” or “a public” are made possible. As he puts it, “a public may seem self-organized by discourse but in fact requires prexisting forms and channels of circulation” (106). Further, by virtue of publics requiring circulation, they will automatically delimit their reach. Warner writes, “reaching strangers is public discourse’s primary orientation, but to make those unknown strangers into a public it must locate them as a social entity” (106). In other words, although popular notions of “the public sphere” may suggest reaching all or most people, the historical, social, and economic conditions of circulation (and therefore the stylistic discourse such circulation offers) foreclose on that very possibility.

Warner further discusses circulation in a few other key ways: 1) positioned as reflexive (in a state of revision and re-circulation); 2) produced by ideological conditions; 3) marked by a temporality (occurring in “punctual rhythms”); 4) tied to logics of print; and 5) having an affective quality.

A big Q I have at this point: for Warner, is counterpublic circulation different than public circulation? It seems like his notion of poetic world-making is more tied to counterpublic circulation.

 Warner, Michael. Publics and Counterpublics. New York: Zone Books, 2005. Print.

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