Laptop with code on screen

The Rhetorical Study of Code

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While reading this passage one thought kept running through my mind. Why wouldn’t code be considered a form of rhetoric?

Code as a Form of Rhetoric

With everything about rhetoric I learned code seemed like another obvious instance of digital rhetoric. Take a webpage, for example, whoever designed the webpage did it with the goal of engaging as many people as possible. In order to do so you need to use code to develop the webpage in the most engaging way possible. Just like other forms of new media like internet videos, coders need to use rhetorical practices to try to get users to use their webpage. I could understand that when computers were first invented rhetoricians didn’t see how something like coding could be used. At this point in time it is pretty obvious to me that coding is a form of rhetoric that should be studied more carefully.

Procedural rhetoric highlights another major aspect of code as digital rhetoric. A programmer can heavily influence how a user operates a computer based on the software interface. A programmer can program the software interface to show the user what they want to see or use. Microsoft would like users to use Microsoft Edge instead of any other web browser, so by default it comes installed in your computer. By doing this Microsoft is persuading you to use their product over any competitor’s product.

This can even be seen in video games. You are limited to a set of controls and rules of the virtual world you are in. It is up to you to use the rules of this virtual world to complete the game. The developer program these controls in the source code of the game, forcing you to stay within the boundaries of their code. Both of these instances show how code is a rhetorical practice.

Photo by James Harrison on Unsplash


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