RSA 2016: Rhetoric’s Machines: Procedures, Algorithms, and Computation

I’m thrilled to be presenting on the constrained procedures of early modern era commonplace books at #RSA16. In our “special format” panel, eight of us will be presenting pecha kucha presentations on various rhetorical machines and mechanics. Join me, Jimmy Butts, Lavinia Hirsu, John Jones, Nate Krueter, Candice Lanius, Anthony Stagliano, and Emi Stuemke at 3:30-4:45 Saturday at the Hilton in room 302. If you won’t be at RSA I’d be happy to share my slides and script, just contact me.

Session Description:

The “algorithmic turn,” according to Estee Beck (Lindgren, “An Interview with Estee Beck,” 2015), is marked by the emergence of interchangeable computational processes capable of performing the same procedures on any data. This “turn” challenges scholars and teachers to reconsider some of the familiar functions of rhetoric as “machinic,” prompting us to analyze how rhetoric can structure computational technologies (Vee, “Text, Speech, Machine,” 2012) and to explore the ways in which various rhetorical tools and methods – for example, Erasmus’ “De Copia” – function as rhetorical machines (Brown, “The Machine That Therefore I Am,” 2014). These claims compel us to more detailed investigations of computational and rhetorical texts.

Extending these arguments, the panel explores the intersections of rhetoric and computation through a focus on the machines produced by each. The speakers will perform rhetorical readings of computational texts and computational readings of rhetorical texts, including Harman’s “Tool-Being,” operating procedures for the U.S. intelligence community, Locke’s commonplace books, Calvinist and Arminian coding processes, “dazzling” surveillance technology, the “Je Suis Charlie” meme, big data algorithms, and the rhetoric of digital health records. The presentations will address questions like: What new analytical units and operations enable and structure rhetorical activities in computational environments? Where does rhetorical agency reside in human-machine interactions? And what are the ethical implications of merging human inputs with computer programming?

This panel emerged out of the 2015 RSA Summer Institute workshop, “Rhetoric’s Algorithms.” In the panel, the speakers will deliver pecha kucha presentations-short presentations of exactly 20 slides shown for 20 seconds each. As it is a machine-driven method for producing a rhetorical artifact, the pecha kucha format enacts the themes of the panel. Its brevity enables multiple demonstrations of the method across a number of different texts, while also leaving ample time for audience interaction and discussion.

 

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