5390: Article Commentary 5: Deliver Me.

Porter, J. (2009) Recovering Delivery for Digital Rhetoric. Computers and Composition 26, 207-224

Porter’s article begins (well, in about paragraph three) by directly and specifically identifying two audiences: Rhet/comp & humanist scholars who may not buy that technical knowledge is important to humanistic thought, and technical communicators, web authors, and HCI designers, who need to hear how rhetorical/humanist theory can contribute to web-based production. This is a broad audience, but well-described and certainly appropriate to his publication, which draws on both communities for readership to some extent.

From his very first sentence, the phrase “resuscitate and remediate” is a good example of Porter’s tone, which is highly readable but academic prose. Porter avoids too much theoretical language and technical jargon, but uses specific terms as appropriate to his subject of discussion. Here, ‘resuscitate’ is metaphorical rather than terminological, and this is joined to disciplinary language in ‘remediate.’ He uses this tonal complex throughout the article–it’s neither strictly formal or grossly informal. “I” is rare, and longer sentences abound, but these are interspersed with less formal, brief sentences like “Fast forward to the early Renaissance” and conversational diction like “Let’s start with ‘technology’–probably the #1 god term of the digital age.” This is a highly appropriate tone for both his subject (delivery) and his journal, which is academic but not stuffily so.

Porter’s claim? Sweeping. Or at least important–we’ve ignored delivery, but delivery is absolutely important and needs theorizing in the midst of all our other conversations about techne. His claim about delivery as a material technological embodiment is HUGE, and bound to make traditional humanities scholars raise their eyebrows at least a bit. To fill in this claim, he uses plenty of authority and logic, unfolding the meaning of techne, the tradition of delivery, and historical authorities on how publication and delivery technologies have been ignored to our detriment. This folds into and fleshes out a five-part theoretical heuristic for delivery.

His first two paragraphs do a good job of selling a) the content of the article itself and b) the readable style in which the article is written. There’s a meaty discussion of delivery, a minidiscussion of how delivery disappeared, and an advertising-like pitch for why it should be revived: “Not your father’s Oldsmobile but an updated vehicle, and expanded and retheorized notion of delivery designed for the distinctive rhetorical dynamics of Internet-based communication.” This sentence pops not only in its magazine-ad tone but in the very sound of the sentence itself. Oh, those d’s! The sentence just punches along! The final paragraph, on the other hand, puts a neat bow on the hood. Porter makes clear that he’s not playing the ‘classical rhetoric for classical rhetoric’s sake game’ (which has a tendency to happen in this field), but rather expresses the importance of developing a theory for production and all that it can entail–a standard but well-written kind of implications/importance ending. It fits the bill, and the author closes this with an overdramatic but nonetheless accurate claim that rhetoric saves lives!


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