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Witing 415: Digital Rhetoric

Catalog Listing

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Image courtesy of jk1991 at

Writing 415, Theory and Research in Digital Rhetoric. This course explores the theoretical relationships between messages and digital media, and how contemporary theorists have both extended existing rhetorical conceptions as well as created frameworks to understand electronic networks. In addition to being part of the Minor in Professional Writing (PWM), this course is part of the Digital Studies Minor (DMS), an interdisciplinary minor that combines disciplines of computer science, digital arts, professional writing, digital marketing digital humanities and other digital topics.

The focus of this course is actually a question: What is digital rhetoric? We will approach this question with a sub-question: How – and why – do reading and writing practices change in digital environments? In this course, we’ll also focus on these questions:

  1. How do we define digital rhetoric?
  2. How does classical rhetoric inform digital rhetoric? What theories have been developed with regard to rhetorical practices in online networks of digital production?
  3. What research methods do we have for engaging, analyzing, and learning from these practices?

Learning Outcomes

The topics we cover, the readings we do, and the discussions we have in this course should help us to:

  • explore and understand digital spaces as deeply rhetorical spaces;
  • understand the theory and research in the field of digital rhetoric;
  • understand the sociocultural dynamics of digital writing spaces;
  • become more sophisticated navigators of the information available to us in digital spaces
  • become more effective writers and communicators in print and digitally mediated spaces; and
  • become familiar with and practice the language of digital rhetoric.

Projects and Deliverables

The coursework will be a mix of online discussion forums, online exploration, application of theory, and the design and implementation of digital projects. Some virtual synchronous (real-time) meetings will be held – but all online meetings will offer two or more times in order meet student schedules. We’ll learn about network theory while we engage with understanding how rhetoric influences the development and design of digital environments.

As part of your learning, you will explore a very broad range of issues related to digital rhetorics, and you will have the opportunity to engage a specific issue in depth through a final project.

Major Deliverables will include

  • Reflective Reading Journal, introduced in Basics Unit, online (due at the end of the semester)
  • Rhetorical Analysis of Digital Media, introduced in Intermediate Unit
  • Digital Research Project, introduced in Advanced Unit
    For this assignment, students will identify and select a digital research methodology, design and test that methodology, and report on the outcomes of their research. The design and content of the project is primarily up to the students, but successful projects must demonstrate a working knowledge of the theories, research methods, and principles discussed in class—rhetorical, technical, and creative.

Real-World Skills

Writing 415, in harmony with most of the courses in our Professional Writing Minor, will support student learning about writing in professional settings and digital literacy in order to build marketable skills for the modern economy, regardless of the specific field or career students plan to enter.

Skill Percentage of employers who think the skill is “very important.”
Oral Communication 95.4
Teamwork and Collaboration 94.4
Professionalism and Work Ethic 93.8
Written Communication 93.1

Reproduced from Mike Markel, Practical Strategies for Technical Communication, pp. 5