Identification and Hacktivism

In Chapter 6 of Rhetoric Online: The Politics of New Media, many things struck me as intriguing and as very significant to digital rhetoric. Near the beginning of the chapter, Barbara Warnick and David S. Heineman discuss expert Kenneth Burke’s ideas about rhetoric, specifically identification. The authors reference how Burke emphasizes that “identification entails ‘changing a thing’s nature'”, which is why it is important to pay close attention to more than just the speech or written word. That’s because there are lots of other factors that influence a rhetor’s audience; this definitely plays a role in digital rhetoric because not everything is face-to-face. Also, visuals and other aspects of digital technology greatly affect an audience. For these reasons, I really enjoyed the references to Burke.

In Chapter 7, Warnick and Heineman explain hacktivism and highlight examples. This topic really interests me because that is the term I am writing about in my RTI. Although the information the authors provide about hacktivism is really helpful, I do have a question. The chapter discusses how hacktivism can be a form of protest. One question I have is: since these forms of protests are performed online, how do the reactions (particularly the reactions of the government since that tends to be a target or a focus in many ways) to hacktivistic protests differ from real life protests? Are they considered completely different? Can they be dealt with the same, and should they? The same sort of intentions behind these acts of protests as well as the goals may be similar to real life forms of protests, but they are strikingly different because the mediums and methods vary.

Earlier in the semester, I did some research for my annotated bibliography about “hacktivism” and “hacktivists.” I came across the film We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, which provides lots of great information about hacktivists through the narrative of hacktivist group Anonymous. I embedded this short clip from the film below because I think it touches on how powerful hacktivists can be and provides a nice glimpse as to what hacktivism is.


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