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Posts tagged ‘digital rhetoric’

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.


The Age of Digital Rhetoric: What Would SocratesThink?

Digital rhetoric and Socrates – what in the world?

It’s the Attention Age, gang, and the challenge to be heard is formidable at best. To be heard means you’ve got to persuade people to listen. And to persuade people to listen means you’ve got to do what Socrates did best: employ the skills of rhetoric. But today’s rhetoric is not your mother’s rhetoric, or Socrates’ rhetoric, or the rhetoric you learned in high school and college. That’s right, even college, because most institutes of higher learning have not moved fast enough to equip their students with these important skills of digital rhetoric.

The thing is, the basic idea is the same: rhetoric is rhetoric is rhetoric. It’s always been important, but today it’s critical, once again – to get heard among the cacophony of noise and information on the digital superhighway.

But first, what in the world is digital rhetoric?

Digital rhetoric is writing, designing, and using the whole array of digital media to persuade users to:

  • Follow you
  • Buy from you
  • Read your article
  • Connect with you
  • Friend you
  • Vote for you
  • And whatever else you want them to do

“Back in the day,” rhetoric was straightforward. You used good writing, speaking, debating or presenting skills to be convincing to a specific audience and achieve your goals. And the products were also simple:

  • You gave dynamite speeches
  • You wrote compelling books and articles
  • You produced good commercials for television and radio
  • And so on

Back then it was all linear. The speech began and ended, just as you orchestrated. The book began on page 1, ended on page 457 and the readers read just as you wrote. The commercials aired during a TV program, gave you time to go pee, and ended when the program resumed. And so on.


Aha – today rhetoric is not so straightforward. Today you’re dealing with multi-media. Today you’re not in control of your message. Today the media isn’t linear.

Consider: the You-tube speech clip can be paused, ended, ignored, fast-forwarded, or skipped entirely. The webpage full of information has links and images and audio clips and maybe even a video link, so no two visitors are going to get the same message in the same way. Worst of all, you, my “author” friend, are not in control. And of course, it certainly isn’t linear. The commercials are links on web pages, blog pages, search results pages, and so on.

Back to Socrates: What would he say about all this? He’d say this:

  1. Figure out who your audience is and find out as much as you can about them – the narrower the better. If you claim the entire Internet as your audience, getting heard will be next to impossible.
  2. Determine EXACTLY what it is you want to accomplish. Convince your audience to believe? To buy? To learn? To do?
  3. Plan: pull all your tools together and design a message, choose the right medium, and plan the most effective networking strategy. Part of the non-linear nature of this bird is not only within the specific medium you use, but the need to network among an array of blogs, websites, and social networking tools.

My message here, my friends, is to approach your Internet design and creation activities with a thoughtful and critical mind. Don’t just do, think first. Just remember Socrates is looking over your shoulder.