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Seminar 5: Rhetoric, Culture, and Technology

Primarily Synchronous (May 24-May 28)

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Seminar Leaders:

Adam J. Banks, Stanford University:
Damien Smith Pfister, University of Maryland:

Rhetoric, culture, and technology form an analytical triumvirate that this seminar explores, with a special focus on the racialized dynamics of digital technologies. Dominated by a narrow ideological framework emanating from Silicon Valley, the growth of digitality as an ambient condition of contemporary life reflects, and in many cases intensifies, the multiple and intersecting biases inherited from previous ecologies of rhetoric-culture-technology. The goals of this seminar include (1) contextualizing theories of rhetoric and digitality as cultural theories, (2) surfacing the pervasive features of digital whiteness in dominant conceptions and uses of digital technologies, and (3) attending to vernacular African-American uses of digital technologies as a generative way of re-theorizing digitality.

Seminar readings will be drawn primarily from the following recent books, with attention to how rhetorical concepts and perspectives augment these authors’ insights:

André L. Brock, Distributed Blackness: African American Cybercultures (NYU Press, 2020)

Ruha Benjamin, Race After Technology (Polity Press, 2019)

Charlton D. McIlwain, Black Software: The Internet and Racial Justice, from Afronet to Black
Lives Matter
(Oxford University Press, 2019)

Sarah Florini, Beyond Hashtags: Racial Politics and Black Digital Networks (NYU Press, 2019)

Neda Atanasoski and Kalindi Vora, Surrogate Humanity: Race, Robots, and the Politics of Technological Futures (Duke, 2019)

Nick Couldry and Ulises A. Mejias, The Costs of Connection: How Data is Colonizing Human Life and Appropriating It for Capitalism (Stanford University Press, 2019)

Seminar activities will include (1) discussion of shared readings, (2) assembly of a “greatest hits” mixtape of essays that theorize rhetoric, culture, and technology, (3) spotlight presentations by scholars working in this area, and (4) participant paper/project workshops.

Adam Banks Adam Banks is the Faculty Director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University and Professor in the Graduate School of Education. Prior to arriving at Stanford, he served on the faculty of the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Studies at the University of Kentucky and the Syracuse University Writing Program. In addition to these appointments, he served as the Langston Hughes Visiting Professor of English at the University of Kansas, and jointly with Andrea Lunsford as the Inaugural Rocky Gooch Visiting Professors for the Bread Loaf School of English.

A former chair of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, Banks also founded the Smitherman/Villanueva Scholarly Writing Retreat, designed for emerging scholars of color working on their first book in areas related to rhetoric, composition, language and literacy. His published works include Digital Griots: African American Rhetoric in a Multimedia Age; Race, Rhetoric and Technology: Searching for Higher Ground; and a collaboration with Keith Gilyard, On African American Rhetoric. He is currently working on a book project titled Black Intranets: Rhetoric and Digital Cultures from Black Planet to #BlackTwitter.

Dr. Damien Smith PfisterDr. Damien Smith Pfister, Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Maryland, studies the manifold intersections of the rhetorical and the digital. He is the author of Networked Media, Networked Rhetorics: Attention and Deliberation in the Early Blogosphere (Penn State, 2014) and co-editor of Ancient Rhetorics + Digital Networks (Alabama, 2018). Recent essays can be found in The Journal for the History of Rhetoric, The Quarterly Journal of Speech, Communication and the Public, and Philosophy & Rhetoric. A former member of the Board of Directors for the Rhetoric Society of America, Pfister is currently the book review editor for Rhetoric Society Quarterly. With Casey Boyle and Michele Kennerly, he co-edits the new Rhetoric + Digitality book series for the University of Alabama Press. Pfister’s current book project is titled Always On: Fashioning Ethos After Wearable Computers, on the rhetorical and cultural implications of wearables.

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