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Rhetoric Procedural and Digital in New Media




Emily Contreras

When thinking about new media objects, many procedures are taking place behind the screen. These “procedures” are essentially the rules that the new media must follow to function properly. However, what exactly are the procedures behind these new media? How does the procedural element in new-media objects shape the application or implementation of digital rhetoric? And how has that implementation of digital rhetoric affected us the users? With the readings of Applen and Brock, it will assist in understanding and answering these questions.

Firstly, Let’s define a couple of terms to understand how each is connected.

Procedures according to the Oxford Dictionary are “an established or official way of doing something.” In this case, however, the procedure for new media would be the coding that instructs the media to function properly. This coding in itself is its genre of rhetoric according to my previous blog post about the writings of Brock.

New media according to Oxford Dictionary is a “means of mass communication using digital technologies such as the internet.” So new media is essentially new technologies that can be shared in any form of media digitally. This can include digital articles, digital newspapers, songs, videos, podcasts, social media, texting, calling, and more. These devices can include cell phones, laptops, tablets, and other digital devices accessible to the internet.

Digital Rhetoric is a very abstract definition to pin down. However, after reading articles by scholars of Eyman and Applen, I have created my definition. Digital Rhetoric is the use of tools within the digital space to efficiently influence people into persuasion of an idea or concept.

Now learning these key terms and what procedures are behind new media, let’s gain a better understanding of procedural rhetoric. For example, A teacher tells their class they must pass up their classwork when the alarm on the starboard goes off. Thus, the students are given important information that dictates how they will respond. The students know they have classwork to do, and that they have a limited amount of time. They also know they will have to hand in their classwork by the time the alarm goes off. This procedural rhetoric by the teacher influences the students into the desired behavior of working on their assignment diligently. Thus Bogost defining Procedural Rhetoric as “the practice of using processes persuasively” is understandable. Thus, procedural rhetoric influences the target audience into the desired behavior.

Taking this example into procedural rhetoric within new media, it refers to the coding instructions that are built into it. This coding is important as it is the only way for the media to work properly. What is interesting is that according to Brock this form of coding uses rhetoric that only the machine or media will understand. This comes through as “low-level coding” which is transcribed from “high-level coding”. Low-level coding is a form of rhetoric that does not have abstract language in it. It is straightforward in its instructions to the media itself. This shapes the application of language as it cannot be in a way how humans speak to one another.

In other words, it cannot be high-level coding as that is mainly human-friendly language. This assists programmers in understanding the software they are using. Low-level coding assists new media as it is machine-friendly and easy for the program to understand. Thus, this form of programming has affected digital rhetoric.

Digital rhetoric in itself, influences its users into persuasion of an idea or concept. This is through the tools available within the digital space. However, when procedural rhetoric is the coding behind the tools, it can essentially affect digital rhetoric itself. For instance, social media’s procedural coding has affected both the digital rhetoric of the app and the users themselves. Applen describes this instance within his writing that “media is the message.” Where media has affected society or culture as a whole. In the case of social media, it has affected society by wanting constant dopamine by refreshing, scrolling, and catering to the user’s likes and interests. This is possible by procedural rhetoric or coding behind the app.

 The coding will recognize the key interests of the user through collecting data. This data collect through the permission of the users as that is the only way for the app to be usable. Through the coding, the users will feed information to the program itself, what they like, what are they most likely to buy, what will keep them on the app, etc. All these influence the digital rhetoric of the app itself by making users persuaded into staying on the app longer. If the user is suspected of not using the app often, the procedural coding of the app will send a notification. This notification will then reel back the user and make them continue to scroll for more media.

Through the digital rhetoric of social media itself, the tools make it easy to persuade people to stay on the app. One “like” on a post means you’ll see more of it. One “block” of a post will make it, so the coding of the algorithm caters to the user.

Social media’s whole coding or procedural rhetoric of the algorithm affects the implementation of digital rhetoric by providing the information needed for it to be more persuasive. Thus, this trains the users as well for the desired response which is to keep scrolling, keep liking, and keep providing new data to use. Procedural rhetoric affects the tools of digital rhetoric as it makes it easier for users to understand and engage with. For instance, Instagram is very user-friendly as the tools within the app are easy to understand. If the digital rhetoric of the app is difficult and unappealing to the users it fails the coding to keep people engaged. Thus digital rhetoric of social media is appealing to users by posting, liking, and sharing information with the algorithm.

Overall, procedural rhetoric is the coding behind almost any new media. This coding sets up tasks and instructions understandable to the technology. This instruction is then successfully persuasive in making the new media do what it wants. Procedural rhetoric affects the implementation of digital rhetoric because the coding controls the tools. This implantation of digital rhetoric has affected its users as the coding behind it makes the users act desirably.


One response to “Rhetoric Procedural and Digital in New Media”

  1. […] my previous blog Rhetoric Procedural and Digital in New Media, I explored how procedural rhetoric behind programming new Media can in turn influence digital […]

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