A photo based on the movie poster of Spider-Man: Homecoming. Features the heads of Dr. Chris Friend, Dr. Doug Eyman, Jordan Johnson and Zachary Martin.

Doug Eyman: Homecoming




Jordan Johnson, martinz

Ernest Hemingway once remarked, “I regarded home as a place I left behind in order to come back to it afterward”. 

If that one semester-long Doug Eyman text were home, we ran from the house with glee. 

Even though we were runaways for a few weeks, we found ourselves thinking of him during our newfound adventures into other dwellings filled with fresh perspectives. We soon came to the daunting realization that Eyman’s place in our minds, souls and bodies was inescapable (he is in our walls). With heavy sighs, we dragged our feet back home.

This time, like typical victims of Stockholm syndrome, it started to actually feel like home.

Maybe it is because we were armed with those new perspectives from other digital rhetoricians. Maybe it is because we have slowly become native Eyman-ers. Maybe it is a mix of both theories, among others, but we have come back full circle – home – to Eyman. We even agreed that celebrating this homecoming would require a collaborative effort.

Here, we recognize the importance of digital rhetoric for far more than just transforming traditional rhetorical principles in the digital realm. Digital rhetoric, along with its other related disciplines, crafts insights into how technology influences communication, culture and society.

The Code of Conduct

A while back, we discussed the intricacies of procedural rhetoric in code. Digital studies scholar Kevin Brock succinctly describes procedural rhetoric as “the practice of using processes persuasively”. While distinct, procedural rhetoric is a part of digital rhetoric. They deeply intertwine with each other. Procedural rhetoric focuses on the rules, processes and algorithms that govern computational systems. They operate within predefined rules and procedures within digital spaces.

Think of the town you live in (or want to live in). You have to understand the laws of your town (e.g.: zoning ordinances) to understand how your town’s society functions. Procedural rhetoric are the laws within your town. Digital rhetoric would be the social norms, ethics and culture that shape how you communicate and interact within your town. It provides a broader context for understanding how these procedural elements intersect with your society’s culture. 

Today, there are between 250 and 2,500 different code languages, each with their own style and intricacies. Based on our (J: mostly mine) previous definition of digital rhetoric, these languages all have rhetorical capacity. When coding, everything has its purpose. In that respect, code may even be more effective than more traditional language systems in digital spaces. Everything – down to the positions of symbols – must work together cohesively. They hold a level of meaning that could make or break a website. Additionally, it is not just about site creations and disruptions; this affects how we understand specific digital contexts in our pixelated prospects.

This is exactly what Eyman describes through his insights into the world of Critical Code Studies (CCS). With a centralized focus on code, CCS is a subfield of digital rhetoric, offering humanistic insight into the use of code as persuasive communication.

About (Inter)Face

Over the past half century, we have slowly become more reliant on technology. The technology today is not the same as the technology from five years ago. It would be a major understatement to make the same comparison to when computers were first invented, roughly 90 years ago. To accommodate our increasingly wireless society, there has been a large shift in how technology is designed – at a cost.

Eyman addresses this relationship through the concept of the Human-Computer Interface (HCI). HCI focuses on how people interact with technology. It involves designing, developing and evaluating user interfaces to make them efficient, effective and satisfying for users.

The interface is a crucial part of understanding digital rhetoric. A variety of elements, such as software, hardware and material and virtual components, converge to create a powerful source of influence. It is a communication medium that shapes interactions through presentations and receptions of digital texts. It is a technological mediator for interactions between users, networks, soft/hardware and the digital environment. It is, quite frankly, the shit within digital rhetoric.

The iPad Kid, Revisited

Companies, like Apple, will design their products to favor their interface, which only fuels society’s constant lust for efficiency and simplicity. It is to the point where many people would consider their phones to be an extension of themselves (hence, the concept of the iPad kid). 

If you think about it, when was the last time you needed someone to explain a device to you? Nowadays, technology is designed to be picked up and used instantly. The iPhone is a great example of this. You can use them right out of the box. The phone itself walks you through using it, but most people (especially digital natives like Gen-Z) intuitively know how to use it, thanks to the appealing interface. 

Indeed, the smartphone is essentially a supercomputer in your pocket. However, Apple severely limits it by aiming to please the masses. If they designed it to maximize the power or potential of the device, most users would not be able to use it. The emphasis is on simplicity and accessibility, creating an addictive efficiency that users love.

As we continue to innovate, HCI will remain a central focus, ensuring that technology enhances rather than complicates our lives. From voice assistants to augmented reality, the possibilities are limitless. As technology evolves, so too will our understanding of how to best integrate it into our lives.

Oh, the Places We Could Go! 

In a bit of a Seussian fashion, we, too, yearn for people to find the whimsy and wonder in the digital landscape around them—the hidden treasures, the untold stories and the boundless possibilities waiting to be uncovered. However, our society fails to maximize the potential of technology through a lack of understanding digital studies. In pursuit of efficiency, society ignores the profound implications of technology on human behavior, culture and society. 

In our deep dive into Eyman, we discovered something that became a critical impetus for yet another passionate discussion. In fact, it was important enough for us to include the (almost) full excerpt here (my goodness!):

“In one way or another, most of these digital humanities activities involve collections of cultural heritage materials, which are one of the primary objects of study for researchers across all humanities disciplines…What’s missing here is the development of collections of new cultural materials that are “born-digital” and the development of methods and methodologies for both studying and producing these new forms.” 

Digital humanities uses digital tools and technology to study humanities subjects, such as history and literature. It encompasses a wide range of approaches and methods, including text mining, data visualization and digital archiving. 

Most people think of the discipline as taking existing cultural texts and translating them into digital spaces. While that is a part of it, that is not – and should not be – the central focus of digital humanities. Unfortunately, there has been too much of a focus on digitizing and studying existing cultural texts. Texts created and existing solely in digital spaces, or Eyman’s “born-digital” texts, have long been suffering from a lack of scholarly focus. This includes your beloved memes, curated Spotify playlists and favorite video games.

Oh, the Potential We Waste!

With this lack of attention to “born-digital” artifacts comes issues unique to the digital landscape. One of the major “born-digital” controversies involves the relationship between digital ownership and digital content storage. 

Last year, the public called out PlayStation owner Sony for announcing the removal of previously purchased Discovery content from all of their devices, even if they were purchased via the PlayStation store. Sony stated that this would be due to “content licensing arrangements with content providers”. At the time, questions about refunds were met with silence.

Eventually, public outcry made Sony reconsider. Still, the event further ignited conversations about the evolving realm of digital ownership, as other companies have attempted similar actions. In an age where digital content is the primary source of most people’s entertainment, it is a scary thought that it could all be taken away in a moment. There appears to be no complete agency within our own digital spaces. 

Like Eyman mentions, there exists a need for the creation of specialized methods and approaches tailored to studying and creating “born-digital” materials. It is not as simple as translating ideas of traditional ownership onto the Internet. It also involves exploring new models of ownership and distribution that account for the unique nature of digital content.

Don’t Fret

All of this sounds fearful, but we are not completely doomed. People are starting to take notice of the gap in “born-digital” research. As one of the most popular “born-digital” archives, the Internet Archive aims to both collect and spread “born-digital” content (Z: Eyman would literally cream his pants if he could see it). Know Your Meme is another popular “born digital” archive for documenting and assessing all Internet phenomena, including, yes, the mediums of a certain someone’s featured images of their blog posts (Z: Jordan’s shameless plug).

While we recognize that archiving these “born-digital” materials is important, we want to emphasize the fact that there needs to be just as much attention on the rhetorical analysis of these materials as there is on documenting their history. Just as a well-designed interface incorporates multiple elements to run smoothly, the various elements of digital humanities and rhetoric rely on each other for optimal functionality.

. . .

From our homecoming journey, it’s become apparent that digital rhetoric extends far beyond expanding traditional principles in the digital realm. It offers profound insights into how technology shapes our world. The interdisciplinary, multifaceted approach of digital rhetoric should empower us to navigate our digital spaces, but only if we are truly ready to understand it in its entirety. 

While we understand that we must venture off to forge our own paths, we always know that we will have a spot at home with Doug Eyman. 

And you know what? That’s not so bad.


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