I am increasingly interested in the role nonhumans play in the production of rhetoric (both discursive and nondiscursive). To feed this interest I've renewed my relationship with the work of Bruno Latour and forged new research relationships with work in new materialistm (e.g., Jane Benntt) and speculative realism (e.g., Graham Harman). With Jim Brown, I am working on a long-term project connecting rhetoric and composition with developments in speculative realism. I am also at work on an article-length project that employs object-oriented philosophy in ther service of environmental rhetoric. Additionally, I am collaborating with Maarten Derksen, a psychologist at the University of Groningen, on a project looking at agency from an interdisciplinary perspective. I am also in the early stages of a collaborative, multimedia project exploring new media science writing in terms of mechanical articulation.
Books in Progress
The Object of Rhetoric: Assembling and Disassembling Bruno Latour. Co-Edited with Paul Lynch (Under Contract at SIUP).
Abstract: In the past few years, the fields of rhetoric and composition have witnessed an explosion of interest in the work of Bruno Latour. This Latourian turn is notable not only for its suddenness, but also its intensity. Beginning in technical and professional communication, and now continuing within other areas of rhetoric and writing studies, the influence of Latour’s work is expanding at a rapid rate. Scholars from every corner of the field have begun to deliberate over what Latour means for the study of persuasion and written communication.
The work of the present collection is to assemble leading and emerging scholars in order to continue and focus that debate. The chapters of The Object of Rhetoric: Assembling and Disassembling Bruno Latour discern, rearticulate, and occasionally critique rhetoric and composition’s growing interest in Latour. The contributions offered in this collection are multifarious; they include work on topics such as agency, argument, rhetorical history, pedagogy, and technology, among many others. While the chapters feature a wide variety of interests and concerns, they all share the hope that Latour can challenge rhetoric and composition to rethink some of its most basic assumptions.
This volume will find a wide audience in rhetorical studies, both in English and communication. It is sure to become the standard introduction on Latour for the field, an introduction that will appeal not only to those scholars already interested in Latour, but also those approaching Latour for the first time.
The Strange Defense of Rhetoric (In progress, three chapters with introduction drafted).
Abstract: The argument of this book is rather a simple one. Taking the province and scope of rhetoric as its matter of concern, it build’s from the Richard Lanham’s articulation of a strong defense of rhetoric, developing what it humbly dubs a strange defense of rhetoric. This strange defense of rhetoric articulates work in rhetorical theory with the work of thinkers such as Bruno Latour in science studies, Tim Ingold in anthropology, and Andy Clark in cognitive science, in order to invite more actors into the continual composition of rhetoric. In this defense, rhetoric is itself at risk.
Articles in Progress
"Deep Ambivalence and Wild Objects: Toward a Strange Environmental Rhetoric" (Revise and Resubmit, 9,500 words).
Abstract: This article works to develop an environmental rhetoric that gives vibrant matter its due. My argument, and it is one made by others, is that much environmentalism overemphasizes human agency. Or, in other words, in giving ourselves the responsibility to save or fix the planet, we have over-invested in our own agency, enacting the self-same hubris that results in dispositions toward the environment that environmentalists themselves might very well (and rightly) condemn. I argue that this over-investment (to the exclusion of denying and/or erasing nonhuman agency) is not the proper comportment we should have with the environment. Drawing on work in speculative realism (and related theories such as new materialism) and work in the emerging area of object-oriented rhetoric, I suggest that we can neither fully understand nor determine the environment, and that we need an environmental rhetoric concerned with inventing and shaping attitudes alive to this suggestion.
"Speculative Usability." Co-authored with Lars Soderlund (Under review, 7,500 words).
Abstract: This article introduces Speculative Usability. Whereas traditional models of usability rely on the salient features of an object-user relationship focused around the uses for which the object was designed, the goal of Speculative Usability is to notice an object as it interacts with other objects (in addition to but including human users) and to be vulnerable to an objects unintended effects. The payoff of this speculative approach is an increased inventional capacity for usability testing.
“Ecologies of Deception: Psychology, Rhetoric, and Agency.” Co-authored with Maarten Derksen (Under review, 9,000 words).
Abstract: This article explores agency through the combined lenses of rhetorical theory and experimental psychology, thus performing an important interdisciplinary gesture: to study the human experience culturally and scientifically. What we aim for is to introduce a specific strain of rhetorical theory to experimental psychology in order to make claims for the emergence of human agency, and to rethink and recast a term common to both rhetoric and psychology, namely deception. We argue that agency is emergent in experimental conditions as it likewise is in moments of rhetorical encounter. Via an analysis of the film Inception, the article builds toward an understanding of human agency outside the bounds of the subject/object split. Examining work on rhetorical ecologies and ambience on the one hand, and experimental social psychology on the other, the article argues that deception is not something that one person does to another, but rather is an emergent phenomenon within and across moments of encounter, whether they be complex rhetorical interactions or tightly controlled psychological experiments. Here is a short trailer I made for a conference presentation based on this research:
“In the Material: Towards Rhetorics of Cultivation” (Under review, 9,500 words).
Abstract: Rhetoric’s relationship to the material is under much positive scrutiny within rhetorical studies. As a field increasingly intimate with its material contours, this article argues that we should place rhetorical studies out in the world of brains, bodies, and environments. In short, the material (or, more specifically, the material that matters for human becoming) does not arrive to rhetoric without rhetoric, but already implicated in a vital, rhetorical dynamic. What we know as “human nature,” for instance, continually emerges by virtue of rhetorical cultivation within social, biological, and environmental dramas. Fully emplaced within these material dramas, this article positions materiality itself—the body, the mind, and human environments—is, in part, rhetorically cultivated. It thus defines rhetoric as the cultivation of human nature. Rhetoric thus defined challenges the tendency to treat as “natural” things like human development, cognitive function, and physical ability, which could be otherwise.
“The Mechanics of New Media Science Writing: Articulation, Design, Hospitality, and Electracy” (Collaborative Multimedia Project).
Abstract: This multimedia project converges around the practices and the metaphor of articulation in the context of new media science writing. The project employs the full etymological weight of articulation —which covers the linguistic, visual, embodied, and mechanical—to describe an advanced undergraduate course in science writing, which focused exclusively on new media storytelling. Articulation is used to address issues of authorship and the knowledge-making practices of science writing, the mechanical practices of new media writing, the pedagogical practices and assumptions at work in teaching new media writing, and the evolution of science literacy into science electracy. The project consists of an introductory video serving as a portal, two free standing podcasts, complete student examples, and students interviews. The goal of the project, reflected in its form and content, is tocperform a convergence of the myriad ways in which articulation can and does happen, and to invite the audience to articulate the media as they see fit. The project works with scholarship in new media writing, the rhetoric of new media, instructional design, science literacy, and technical communication. The project is a collaborative effort, involving an instructional designer, and two graduate students enrolled in the course as participant observers, and myself.