The Evolution of Rhetoric ft. Josh Colfer

I’ve been learning so much about digital rhetoric these days and, as always, whenever my head is filled with knowledge I have to tell someone about it. So, with a few questions in mind and a lot of information to share, I went to one of my favorite places on campus; Josh Colfer’s office. Josh is about as techy as they come, so I wanted to get his perspective on the transition to digital rhetoric. I asked him a few questions pertaining to digital rhetoric and how he had seen the way we connect over time, and what it means for the future.

We started off talking about how rhetorical analysis itself has changed. Before analyzing rhetoric only focused on what the higher-ups thought was important, leaving out the masses. With rhetoric becoming more digital, the public is included. “Everyone has a platform to communicate now. The hierarchy of it all has changed and has become more democratized.” We have in a way changed what content deserves attention or not. A video of cats playing in a field may not say as much as an essay about cats, but it still says something. It says something not only about the person who made it, but the people who interact with it. Which is why, in Josh’s words, “a no name person on twitter can go viral.”

When Josh first started out he took a class called Post Modern Theory where he learned that “everything is a text that is worth being studied”. Rhetoric was studied for years but many question why we should study digital rhetoric separately, or if we should even study it at all. But, digital rhetoric is something new and exciting and has the potential to flip our world upside down.

It also effects each of us differently. We spoke about how the people my age grew up on screens. I remember playing Reader Rabbit and JumpStart at 5 years old and I am sure that there are both positive and negative effects that this has on my generation. Cons would be that some of simply cannot function without a screen. But something positive would be that we have continued to evolve the human race. Josh was right when he said “the way we comprehend information will be different for generations to come”.

We talked about how before rhetoric became digitized it expanded rhetoric into many different categories. “The internet has expanded the types of texts across the sphere.” This is evident is many different ways. Before the Internet, words like gif and meme didn’t even exist. “With digital media, the sphere of influence has the potential to be much larger”.

What we do with digital rhetoric was never about ourselves. It touches and influences those around us.

Josh left me with something interesting to think on about the correlation between the medium and the message. While in college he learned about Marshall Mcluhan and his idea of the Medium Being the Message. “Whatever medium you speak through communicates just as many messages as the content. The type of medium sometimes says more than the message itself.”

Life evolves continuously. We as a human race, change as time goes on. Whatever your message is, and whatever medium you choose, don’t be afraid to express yourself.

- Outerspace Chase