What I’ve Learned About “Rhetoric Online”

Before reading chapters 3-5 of Rhetoric Online by Warnick and Heineman, I hadn’t heard of several of the terms they examine. I was very enthusiastic to learn more about them and how these terms or ideas played a role in digital rhetoric. What I hadn’t prepared myself for was how ambiguous some of these terms are; many of these terms have been discussed and argued about for quite a long time. In a lot instances, a term may not have one concise and solid definition. “Interactivity” is one of these terms.

In chapter three, the authors refer to a few other experts, highlighting their understanding of what interactivity is and its functions in rhetoric—specifically digital rhetoric. Reading these different viewpoints raised as many questions as it established answers. I eventually concluded that in its most basic form online interactivity is the interactions and connections that online users have with one another; it’s a mode of communication for Internet users.

Another term that is highly debated is “intertextuality.” Although it’s a very complex and even confusing term, it’s one that many people are very familiar with whether they realize it or not. For example, there are numerous cases of spoofs and parodies of significant events and/or issues—think SNL skits. A popular aspect of SNL is that there are skits in which the cast makes a joke out of political issues or political leaders. However, everyone may not understand these jokes because it’s important to understand that the jokes are only extremely hilarious to those who are very familiar with the issue or figure the cast is covering. For someone who isn’t familiar with U.S. politics of a certain decade, for example, then he/she may not understand the jokes that are made in that particular SNL skit.

Here is a short clip of an SNL skit, if you’d like to watch to get a better look at what I’m talking about. In this clip, two SNL actors pretend to be Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. The two recreate the 2012 Vice Presidential Debate.

Online interactivity is something that I am very familiar with, even though I didn’t recognize it as this until I began reading Warnick and Heineman’s work in Rhetoric Online. In fact, I am doing it right at this very instance! How so? I am writing my thoughts and understandings on a subject with the intention of it posting it on a blog so that it will reach others online. Then, perhaps it will spark someone to comment on it, initiating a back-and-forth conversation. What I have really enjoyed about reading this text is that I’ve learned about some concepts that I was familiar with. Now I’ve had the chance to actually learn about the concepts in a formal context, which helps me to be able to act them out on my own more successfully.

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