Department of Writing and Rhetoric

Write Here, Write Now.

Witing 415: Theory and Research in Digital Rhetoric

Laptop and Tablet on Desk

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; and
  • become more effective writers and communicators in print and digitally mediated spaces.

Projects and Deliverables

The coursework will be a mix of discussion, online exploration, application of theory, and the design and implementation of digital projects. 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

  • Digital Auto-ethnography, introduced week 2, ongoing (due at the end of the semester)
  • Digital Rhetoric Example Presentation, introduced week 3, ongoing presentations
  • Theory of Digital Rhetoric Presentation, introduced week 4, ongoing presentations
  • Rhetorical Analysis of Digital Media, weeks 6 and 7
  • Group Digital Research Project – weeks 8 – 13
    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 team, but students 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 give students a primer on technical communication and digital literacy focused on building marketable skills for the modern economy, regardless of the specific field or career students plan to enter. Employers value oral, written, and digital communication skills in prospective hires. A 2006 study found the following skills to be “very important” for graduates:

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


Eyman, Douglas. Digital Rhetoric: Theory, Method, Practice. Michigan UP: 2015. Available under Creative Commons as an online open book, or may be purchased in hardcover or paperback.

Ess, Charles. Digital Media Ethics, 2nd ed. Digital Media and Society Series. Polity Press. ISBN 978-0745656069. Hardcover, softcover, ebook & rental from $15.19

Course Offering

Instructor: Alice Johnston Myatt
Section 1
T TH 01:00P-02:15 PM, Lamar Hall 413
Prerequisites: Credit for WRIT 102, LIBA 102, HON 102, ENGL 102 or equivalent.