Digital Self & Rhetoric RHE 330C

Digital Self & Rhetoric

Digital rendering of a physical space as bounded in computer code











A chief concern for today’s networked age is how we develop, present, and manage our identities in digital spaces. We find easy examples for this concern in our understanding of how companies track our buying habits for precisely targeted marketing campaigns; in our fearing that our identities can be stolen for someone else’s financial gain, in our increasing awareness that security agencies monitor our activities. In each of these examples–and in many others we could list–our anxiety can be traced to not knowing what information we are producing and, further, not knowing who can access that information we produce. In short: we need to know more about how we are known.


While these concerns have intensified through the rise of digital networks and our increasing use of those networks, the underlying problems reach at least as far back as the birth of the western tradition.  In the long rhetorical tradition, concerns over self-presentation and practices for establishing good character have provided an ongoing task for becoming effective and engaged public citizens. As such, this course will draw heavily from rhetorical understandings of ethos–character, credibility, ethics–to develop an understanding of self-construction and self-presentation through digital media and online networks. The course, then, will be an opportunity to develop an understanding for and facility with how digital media can produce, collect, share, and shape identities and how we might use those digital media to further manage our online selves for academic, professional, and public purposes.


Course Outcomes

At the completion of this course, students will:

  • Understand ethos and the importance of online reputation
  • Be proficient in managing and shaping online information for personal and professional aims
  • Compose effective, simple data visualizations for complex data


Complete descriptions for each assignment will be available after the start of the semester.


Reading Responses – 15%

These (8) will be ongoing short, focused responses (via text/audio/video) to our readings and will serve as a conversation starters for our class discussions. While I will make comments on these throughout the semester, I will give extended feedback twice, covering a large set of responses each time.

Due: Often


Case Study – 15%

Each student will be responsible for presenting one extended case study that analyzes a recent case/event relevant to our courses readings for that day/week. Each case study will include a 5-7 minute presentation and a one-page handout.

Due: Varies


Professional Self Study – 30%

This assignment is designed to provide students an opportunity to develop a professional online persona. It will be composed of two parts: Part One, an assessment of work flow and production tools; Part Two, a tracing of an established person in your desired field; an online survey of public information; a response plan; Part Three a composed professional online persona (personal/professional website; LinkedIn, social networks, et al).


Part One: Feb 18

Part Two: March 2

Part Three: March 23


Quantified Self(ie) – 40% DUE: May 8

This is a (semester long) data collection and presentation project that asks you to record and present (reasonable/selective) account of your own activities in and through digital media. This assignment will include: a brief proposal; a short presentation; and a final report that uses information visualization techniques to present a coherent story of complex data.

Due: May 7

NOTE: Many of our assignments will be opportunities for us to research, collect, and present many examples of the kinds of data/media we will be reading about and discussing. We will make use of free and easily accessible software application to accomplish these tasks (i.e. video editing, information visualization, document design). No prior knowledge of these applications will be required, but students must be willing to explore and practice the software introduced in the course.


Required Texts and Materials

Marwick, Alice E. Status update: Celebrity, publicity, and branding in the social media age. Yale University Press, 2013.

Mayer-Schönberger, Viktor. Delete: the virtue of forgetting in the digital age. Princeton University Press, 2011.

Rainie, Harrison, and Barry Wellman. Networked: The new social operating system. MIT Press, 2012.

Rettberg, Jill Walker. Seeing Ourselves Through Technology. Palgrave Pivot, 2014

Vaughn, Brian K.  and Marcos Martin, The Private Eye, Panel Syndicate, 2014


Several other readings will be made available via course site may include: Aristotle, On Rhetoric (selection); Jim Corder (selected essays); Michel Foucault, “Self-Writing”; Isocrates, Antidosis (selection); Nigel Thrift, “Lifeworld, Inc.”; Quintilian, Institutes of Oratory (selections).



Off Grid, Semaeopus Games, 2016(?).

Kitchen, Rob, The Data Revolution, 2014

Pomerantz, Jeffery. Metadata, 2015




[highly volatile: readings & due dates subject to change]


Part One – Ethos and You and Us and Them


Week One – Overview & Introductions

T Jan 19 – Introductions and Expectations

R Jan 21 – Aristotle on Ethos, Book 1, Ch 2; Book 3, CH7; Book 3, CH12


Week Two – Ethos

T Jan 26  – Aristotle, cont (Book 2, Chs 12-17, must click through the chapters); Benoit, Isocrates and Aristotle on Rhetoric (PDF); Isocrates, AntidosisAgainst the Sophists

R Jan 28 – Corder, “Varieties of Ethical Argument, With Some Account of the Significance of Ethos in the Teaching of Composition” &  “Hunting for Ethos Where They Say it Can’t Be Found” (PDF)

Assign: Professional Self Study (Part One)


Week Three – Writing the Self

T Feb 2 –  Foucault “Self Writing” (PDF)

In-Class: 50 Free apps; Lifehack Best 50 Apps

R Feb 4  – Seneca “Letters” (PDF); Gregg, “Getting Things Done®: Productivity, self-management and the order of things


Suggested Reading: “Techniques of the Self” (PDF)

Case Studies (T= Devaney; R= Jill)



Week Four – Selfie Week

T Feb 9 – Rettberg, Seeing Ourselves through Technology, CH1, “Written, Visual, and Quantitative Self Representations” & “10 Steps to Designing an Amazing Infographic” & “The Architecture of a Data Visualization

The Struggle is Real


R Feb 11- Rettberg, Seeing Ourselves through Technology, CH3, “Serial Selfies”;

Selfie City

Assign: Professional Self Study (Part Two)

Case Studies (T= Makenzi; R= George)


Part Two – This is Your Self on Networks


Week Five – Framing our Digital Self(ies)

T Feb 16  – Burke, “Identification”; Raine/Wellman, Networked, CH1 “Networked Individualism” & “Interlude: A Day in a Connected Life”



R Feb 18 – Burke, “Terministic Screens” (PDF); Seeing Ourselves through Technology, CH2, “Filtered Reality”

In-class: Eli Pariser, Beware of Filter Bubbles

Case Studies (T= Katheryn; R= Shannon)

DUE: Self Study Part One


Week Six – Celebrity & Status

T Feb 23 – Marwick, Status Update, Introduction & CH3, “The Fabulous Lives of Micro-Celebrities”

R Feb 25 – Marwick, Status Update, CH4, “Self-Branding: The (Safe for Work) Self”

Case Studies (T= Austin & Morgan; R= Josh & Billy)



Week Seven – Memory and Forgetting

T Mar 1  – Mayer-Schonberger, Delete,  CH1, “Failing to Forget the ‘Drunken Pirate” & CH 2, “The Role of Remembering and the Importance of Forgetting”; The Private Eye; Do Not Track

In-Class: Me and My Shadow

DUE: Personal Self Study (Part Two)


R Mar 3 – Mayer-Schonberger, Delete,  CH3, “The Demise of Forgetting–and Its Drivers”; & Rettberg, Seeing Ourselves through Technology, CH6, :Privacy and Surveillance; Do Not Track

Case Studies (T= Oscar; R= Carly)

Suggested Reading: Kitchen “Ethical, Political, Social and Legal Concerns”


Week Eight – Professional Persona Workshops

T Mar 8 – Workshop

R Mar 10 – Workshop

Case Studies (T= Jihun; R= Marisela)


Spring Break: March 14 -19 – No Classes


Part Three – Digital Self(ie)


Week Nine – Surrounding the Self/ie

T Mar 22 – Corder , Argument as Emergence, Rhetoric as Love (PDF);

DUE: Personal Self Study – Part Three

Assign: Quantified Self(ie)


R Mar 24 –  Kitchen, “Conceptualizing Data” (PDF); Varnelis, “Eyes That Do Not See: Tracking the Self in the Age of the Data Center

In-Class: Citizen 4 viewing


Case Studies (T= Jacob; R= Erika)


Week Ten – Tracking the Self(ie)

T Mar 29- Kitchen, “Data Analytics” (PDF); Data as Culture


R MAr 31 – Rettberg, Seeing Ourselves through Technology, CH4, “Automated Diaries”

Case Studies (T= Rachel V; R= Thanh)

In-Class: Spreadsheets, Tracking Apps, and Data Viz Introductions


Week Eleven – Visualizing Our Selves

T Apr 5 – Rettberg, Seeing Ourselves through Technology, CH5, “Quantified Selves”

In-Class: 99% Invisible – Feltron Annual Report & Nick Feltron


R Apr 7 – Readings: Raw Data & Info Design (PDFs)

Workshop: In-Class: Data Sources & Info Viz Practice

Case Studies (T= Miranda; R= Bailey)


Week Twelve – Visualizing Our Sourounds

T Apr 12 – Rudder, Dataclysm CH 1-3 & Thrift, “Lifeworld, Inc.”

In-Class: Virtual Body and Data Body


R Apr 14 – Rudder, Dataclysm CH 10-13

Case Studies (T= Rachel W; R= Matthew)


Week Thirteen – Guest Lecture and Data Workshops

T Apr 19- Guest TBA


R Apr 21 – Workshop

Case Studies (T= XXX; R= YYY)


Week Fourteen – Data Visualization Workshops

T Apr 26 – Workshop

R Apr 28 – Workshop


Week Fifteen – Presentation Showcases

May 3 – Presentations

May 5  – Presentations



Spring 2015 Version of Digital Self & Rhetoric archived here.



Digital Self & Rhetoric | RHE 330C | Spring 2016 | T & R 11-12:15
PAR 104
Office Hours: TTh 2:00-3:00;
W 11:00-:12:00 & by appt.



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