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Techno-Rhetoric Rivals That of Socrates … Or Does it??

Did you know that we have left the Age of the Information Economy behind and are now well into the Age of the Attention Economy? What does this mean? It means that if you rely upon the Internet to conduct your business, do your research, network with business acquaintances, and attract new fans, the rhetorical skills and savvy you need are not what they were even 5 years, let alone thousands of years, ago. And not only is today’s rhetoric a matter of exercising skills of persuasion for your direct audiences, it’s a matter of getting their attention to begin with. That’s why it’s called The Attention Age, and that’s why successful techno-rhetoric implies 2 things – the rhetoric of attracting attention, and the rhetoric necessary to accomplish your goal.

Defined, rhetoric is persuasive communication. It is sending a message to convince an audience to think, do, or believe something. Traditional rhetoric was oral: the great orators of old, including Socrates (my favorite because of his ethical approach), either delivered speeches, which tended to be more manipulative, or used discussion to discover truth. In the Middle Ages, the printing press and its printed materials replaced the oral delivery of persuasive messages. Fast forward to today, enter a techno-whirling dervish of video, audio, Flash, image, interaction, simulation, and so on – a virtual bottomless pit of rhetorical media.

My friends, in my humble opinion, the task of becoming a successful techno-rhetorician is twofold.

  1. You have to get attention, get people to come to your site, read and respond to your Twitters, friend you on FaceBook, visit your blog and your website, and so on. This, I believe, requires mechanical rhetoric. Thus, you have to think about content – the more valuable, the better. And in that content, you need to incorporate your tags, or keywords in a seamless and effective way. For websites and blogs, you need to think about design and layout. Remember – it’s 7 seconds to grab them, or kiss them goodbye.
  2. You have to keep their attention, and this is where your true argument and persuasion comes in. Focus yourself: what’s your goal and purpose? Who’s your target audience? How can I get them to do, think, believe? If you’re successful, they’ll:
  • Call
  • Check order status
  • Download free software
  • Find information
  • Give feedback
  • Join Purchase a product or service
  • Request something

So, whether you’re coming up with a Twitter entry or designing your website, think of Socrates and the effort he expended in crafting skilled sessions of communication and truth seeking. You can do the same.