Edbauer, Jennifer.  “Unframing Models of Public Distribution: From Rhetorical Situation to Rhetorical Ecologies.”  Rhetoric Society Quarterly.  35 4 (2008): 5-24.  Print.

  • Edbauer begins by acknowledging that public spaces and the broader public sphere are constituted by a multiplicity of voices and perspectives.
  • Following Bitzer, Edbauer locates exigency in the material life world – “the external conditions of material and social circumstances” (6).
  • Fundamental tension between Bitzer and Vatz: their conceptions of the rhetorical situation differ in that Bitzer argues that the rhetorical situation is discovered while Vatz argues that exigence is created by the rhetor (6).
  • E. notes that Bitzer’s conception of the rhetorical situation has been modified by multiple scholars to extend the notion of “rhetorical publicness” so that the contextual nature of discourse is taken into consideration.
  • E. asks the question:  “Do theories of rhetorical situation allow us to theorize how ‘concatenation of texts through time’ help create publics” (7).  The answer: no.  Audiences can’t be accounted for as unproblematic and obvious; rather, the rhetorical situation is composed of more than it’s elemental conglomerations – or, more than a sum of its parts (7).
  • Phelps offers a critique of the situation thusly: the rhetorical situation should be recontextualized in a “wider sphere of active, historical, and lived processes” (8).  In other words, the rhetorical situation must be reread as an element in a longer historical flux (8).  In this view exigence is really just “shorthand” for describing a collection or series of historical-cultural events (8) or, in Phelps” words, part of the social flux.
  • E. looks to the “rhetorical ecology” as a way to recontextualize the exigence of the rhetorical situation in terms of “affective ecologies” or time-constrained, historical, and lived dynamism.  Because of this, E. hopes to shift emphasis away from the rhetorical situation to the rhetorical ecology (9).  This entails an attention to history and the complexity of any rhetorical act. . . . a movement away from “artificially elementary frameworks” (9).
  • E. justifies the turn to rhetorical ecology because of the inadequacy of “place” as stipulated by classical definitions of situs or position.  Instead the finds the “position” of rhetoric in the “networked space of flows and connections” (9).  She justifies this by making light of the fact that a network is composed of the rhetorical accretions that accumulate over time.  Thus, the meaning of anything in a networked environment is dependent upon the “mode of propagation” or the way that it permeates the network.
  • Saying the social field is “networked” simply means acknowleding that our lives are dialogic – they carry the residues of every other encounter (and the encounters encounter) with other actors (both human and non human?) that exist in the lived, social space.
  • E. claims that spaces and places are embodied in description:  a “bad” place isn’t made so through a collection of the elements that compose it; rather, a “bad” place is made bad through bad experiences of affective embodiment – spaces of lived experience.  These emodied experiences circulate through rhetorical ecologies to make real feelings of folks that have never inhabited those spaces (11).  She extends this line of reasoning to argue that cities are embodied – we do city, we don’t live in cities (11).  This means that cities aren’t “containers”; rather, they are sites of embodied existence – affective sites of lived experience.
  • E. relies on Syverson to argue that the act of writing is actually a radically distributed act – one that isn’t composed of individual elements a la the rhetorical situation and more compsed of the “acitivites and communications shared in interactions not only among people but also interactions between people and various structures in the environment” (12).  This perspective disrupts the traditional rhetorical triangle of “writer, text, audience” and instead posits the “distribution of textual composition across physical, social, psychological, spatial, and temporal dimensions” (12-3).
  • According to E., the act of writing as rhetorical ecology means acknowledging the embodied nature of writing as event (13).  This “event” takes place in a public space – the public operation of composition in the social field.  This means articulating rhetorical situation not as isolated composition of elements but as distributed across an “open network” of social forces (13).
  • E. links this idea of rhetoric to a consideration of rhetoric as a process that operates within a “viral economy” of social forces (13).  This means “an ecological, or affectiveI, rhetorical model is one that reads rhetoric both as a process of distributed emergence and as an ongoing circulation process” (13).
  • Key Quote: “A given rhetoric is not contained by the elements that comprise its rhetorical situation (exigence, rhetor, audience, constraints).  Rather, a rhetoric emerges already infected by the viral intensities that are circulating in the social field” (14).
  • E.uses the “Keep Austin Weird” campaign as an example of how to see the in/adequacy of the rhetorical situation – the viral social field that marks circulation extended far beyond a definable audience (17).  She also documents how different aspects of the “Keep Austin Weird” campaign “chained out” and circulated in various other ways.  The rhetorical ecology also includes the counter rhetorics that challenge the initial rhetorics of keeping Austin weird.
  • E. makes note that the traditional formulation of rhetorical situation can’t account for the viral spread of particular rhetorical messages across the social field (19-20).  In other words, the rhetorical situation cannot account for the spread of a particular rhetorical artifact – they can’t acccount for rhetorical circulation on the scale of digitized, networked message delivery.
  • E. argues that considering rhetoric as ecological means that pedagogical frameworks develop at the level of production (21).

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