Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rhetorical Canons in the Age of Hypertext and Beyond!

Bolter, Jay David.  “Hypertext and the Rhetorical Canons.”  John Frederick Reynolds. Rhetorical Memory and Delivery : Classical Concepts for Contemporary Composition and Communication. Hillsdale, NJ: L. Eribaum Associates, 1993. 97-111. Print.

In this piece, Jay David Bolter considers the ways in which our understanding of the rhetorical canons must be adapted to consider hypertext writing.  As he explains, the very nature of hypertext alters the way the canons of rhetoric operate.  For example, while in traditional word processing and oral composition, delivery is always the last stage of development, delivery is central to the composition of hypertext.  Other canons of rhetoric, arrangement in particular, are approached differently as a result of the means in which the text will be delivered.

Bolter’s piece is useful to help readers begin to think about the way in which web-based tools alter the composing process and the rhetorical canons as well.  It helps reiterate the importance of understanding composition as a recursive non-linear process and demonstrates the importance of viewing the process in a less linear fashion.

Of course, it cannot be ignored that the piece has become a bit dated.  Bolter mentions, for example, that embedding video into a web-text is becoming possible at the time of his writing.  Today, the ease and frequency of video usage on the web is overwhelming.  Not only is it becoming increasingly easy to incorporate video into compositions, the creation of video itself has become increasingly easy.

While this text is useful in helping scholars begin to examine the means in which we might consider the role that web-based texts will have upon composition, it only  begins this important conversation.  I believe it would be extremely useful to revisit and update this article considering the widespread advances in technology that have taken place since this piece was first published.