Rhetoric & Technology

Rhetoric & Technology, a subdiscipline of Rhetoric, is a field of study concerned with the impact of technologies on communication processes.

The internet and new writing technologies are revolutionizing people’s relationship to information–both in its production, use, and dissemination. Fake news, information silos, and the outright rejection of logic based on emotion and tribalism–these sorts of behaviors may not be new, yet they do appear to be exacerbated by modern communication technologies and ubiquitous access to information.

“[The Internet] affects democracy… As more and more citizens express what they think, and defend it in writing, that will change the way people understand public issues. It is easy to be wrong and misguided in your head. It is harder when the product of your mind can be criticized by others. Of course, it is a rare human who admits that he has been persuaded that he is wrong. But it is even rarer for a human to ignore when he has been proven wrong. The writing of ideas, arguments, and criticism improves democracy.”

Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity

Below are some initial musings on ways technologies are challenging the ebb and flow of information. We offer these anecdotal reflections with hopes they will be followed by more fully developed research-based findings.

Dear Writing Faculty,

Here at Writing Commons, we hope you will consider contributing to this discussion.


Association of College and Research Libraries. “Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.” Text. Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), February 9, 2015. http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/ilframework.

“Standing on the shoulders of giants.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standing_on_the_shoulders_of_giants. March 4, 2019

Ioannidis, John (2005). “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False,PLoS Medicine 2(8): e124., http://statweb.stanford.edu/~tibs/sta306bfiles/ioan.pdf.

Kessler, Glenn.  A year of unprecedented deception: Trump averaged 15 false claims a day in 2018. The Washington Post, 12/30/18. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/12/30/year-unprecedented-deception-trump-averaged-false-claims-day/?utm_term=.fcabe89f75da

Prinz, F. & T. Schlange, & K. Asadullah (2011)  “Believe it or not: how much can we rely on published data on potential drug targets?” Nature Reviews: Drug Discovery, 10, pages 328–329, https://hopecenter.wustl.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Nat-Rev-Drug-Disc-reproducibility-article.pdf

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