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Rhetorics & Networks

Workshop Leader:

Collin Gifford Brooke, Syracuse University

Like rhetoric itself, networks are nothing new. At their core, networks simply articulate sets of relationships and connections, whether those links are defined socially, citationally, or geographically. Rhetoric, insofar as it is addressed, often forges the relationships that networks map for us. Whether we cast it in terms of persuasion, identification, or the economics of attention, rhetoric is one of the forces that circulates throughout our personal networks of relationships, semantic maps of texts and ideas, and the life-cycles of news and culture. We have begun to think about the broader ecologies where our rhetorical situations are embedded, about tipping points and rhetorical velocity, and about the relationships among discourse, technology, and institutions.

If the idea of networks seems new to us today, it is because we have begun to develop new tools, both conceptual and technological, for tracing, understanding, and representing that idea. The editors of a recent issue of Amodern urge us "not to shy from the analysis of complex networked phenomena, but to instead enter the imbroglios, circulate with their flows, and begin to trace their radiating contours." From actor network theory to distant reading and macroanalysis, networks provide rhetoric with new methodological possibilities, offering new scopes and scales for our inquiries.

This workshop will begin with some basic cartography, as we collectively map out some of the key texts, figures, and terminology associated with network studies, but we will focus most of our attention on locating space on that map for rhetorical inquiry. We will look at recent scholarship in rhetoric that is deploying concepts from network studies, survey relevant online tools and platforms, and explore digital projects (Republic of Letters, The Writing Studies Tree, e.g.).  Readings may include work by Albert-László Barabási, Kathleen Carley, Wendy Chun, Byron Hawk, James Ridolfo and Dànielle DeVoss, Mark Taylor, & Duncan Watts. Finally, participants will have an opportunity to share work-in-progress, receive feedback, and/or plan future collaborations.

Questions should be directed to Collin Gifford Brooke, cgbrooke@gmail.com


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