The gilded masks of digital rhetoric : social and pedagogical implications of evolving paralinguistic elements in web composition

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Emily Hart (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Nathan Kreuter

Abstract: Over the past few years it has become apparent to educators that the traditional focal points of composition are being necessarily shifted, outside of the classroom, because of the rhetorical spaces made available by the Internet. In the wake of the Web 2.0 revolution, when social networking and the production of web texts are flourishing, it’s more important than ever for educators to take note of the changes occurring in discursive habits and of the ability of students to respond to those changes in a way that will allow them to participate in and shape the dialogue. In undertaking a study of some of the most academically weak but rhetorically strong elements of online composition, emoticons, I argue that the use of these symbols as gestural representations are one indication of a collective attempt to remove composition from the institution of education. Furthermore, I believe that proficiency with content production and interpersonal communication on the web is a survival skill, emerging as a result of what economists and scholars call the “information economy,” and that using emoticons to augment linguistic communication is a subset of that development. As a result of the division between academic composition and web composition, the forms and styles of online writing are left to evolve unguided by education and have important implications, not just for pedagogy, but for the social constructs which govern the ways we use language to create and disseminate information. The manner in which educators succeed or fail to address changes in composition will have a direct bearing on how students identify themselves as writers, how they evaluate content, and with what authority they speak online.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2012
composition, delivery, emoticons, gesture, paralinguistic, rhetoric
Text messages (Cell phone systems)
Composition (Language arts)

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