“Developing a Digital Paideia: Composing Identities and Engaging Rhetorical in the Digital Age” studies the complex multidimensional rhetorics and composing practices that are ongoing within online spaces, especially social media sites. From these sites, I derive insights to develop pedagogical approaches and suggestions that value everyday engagements with technology and mundane multimodal composing as significant and rhetorical. Technology users—from smart phone users to digital composers—have become deeply engaged with multiple technologies. This pervasive engagement has led many scholars and educators (for instance, Mark Bauerlein, Nicholas Carr, and Sherry Turkle) to decry the detrimental effects of technology upon intellectualism. This project offers a counterpoint to this argument, highlighting the complex rhetorical and composing work college students, many who are millennials, do in their everyday lives, while also proposing pedagogical approaches for instructors of rhetoric, composition, and digital media studies to incorporate these everyday literacy practices into their classrooms.
I develop a digital rhetorical paideia, or course of study, using rhetorical identity and ethos as an access point for asking larger questions about rhetoric, composition, and digital media studies. To develop this paideia, I analyze rhetorical behaviors and
multimodal composing practices across social media sites, engaging with issues related to individual identity on social-networking sites (such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest in chapter one), shared identity and collective ethos within online communities and affinity groups (focusing on LiveJournal and Tumblr in the second chapter), and the collapsing boundaries among public, private, online, and offline experiences and communications (examining Reddit.com in chapter three). Alongside these analyses, this dissertation also features student work and voices in the form of curated student exhibits, which illustrate how students can and do engage with complex literacy practices and rhetorics in their compositions. From these sites of analysis and case study examples, I develop analytical and pedagogical insights for instructors in the fields of rhetoric, composition, and digital media studies.
In conjunction with developing this digital rhetorical paideia, I also compose a theory of multidimensional rhetorics, building upon and uniting the concepts of rhetorical velocity (Ridolfo and DeVoss; Ridolfo, Sheridan, and Michel), the user-centered complex of technology (Johnson), and ecologies (Cooper; Selfe and Hawisher; Edbauer; Rivers and Weber). I unify these theories in the concept of multidimensional rhetorics to create opportunities to explore the movement across spheres, spaces, and rhetorical contexts that characterize digital citizens' everyday experiences and communications. A multidimensional rhetorical approach accounts for the multiplicity, simultaneity, complexity, and multifaceted nature of communicative events as they occur across spaces and time and among individuals. I conclude this project by exploring issues of digital citizenship, through this multidimensional rhetorics approach, to further the development of a digital rhetorical paideia and recontextualize rhetorical education within the field of rhetoric more broadly.