The following is a works-in-progress conference proposal I’m shopping around to possible venues. What would you add? How do you respond? What suggestions does the logos compel you to offer? What wants to be said?
Rhetoricians across time and cultures have continuously probed what it means for a thing to be true. This emphasis is particularly apparent in the philosophies and expressions of the ancient Greeks, whose development of western rhetoric was motivated at least partially in response to questions of truth and falsity within their democratic process. As Martin Heidegger reminds us, for the Greeks, everything that is true arose out of what is concealed and is then in turn unconcealed (16). In fact, the ancient Greek word we moderns typically use for translating “truth” into English means, in its literal translation, “UnConcealedness.” Indeed, the Greeks’ insistence on unconcealing and unmasking with and through rhetorical inquiry extended prominently into realms such as education, the polis and the democratic process, and provided a method of intervention for a society grappling constantly with the metaphysical and material implications of rampant misrepresentation in public affairs. Moving forward to the age of electracy, these vital cultural conversations on unmasking and unconcealing truth have been sustained and supplemented by modern rhetoricians taking various approaches to combat deception and duplicity in contemporary culture(s). From Caroline Miller and James Paul Gee to Bruce McComiskey and Ellen Carillo, rhetors have extended and updated unconcealment into the contemporary era in various ways, broadening its reach into the digital sphere as well as into the college composition classroom. It is with the intent of furthering the ongoing discussion of unconcealment and its relation to digitally-savvy college students that new challenges emerge relating to digital doxa: how to teach, and perhaps begin to unconceal, the intensely polarized filter bubbles, rapidly circulating fake news, algorithmic text-spewing bots and the “post-truth” conspiracy theories exploding in prominence on the social web.
This conference proposal examines methods by which we might unconceal specific discourses disseminating online, and suggests a particular pedagogical method in which we might impart to composition and rhetoric students the critical repertoires to unconceal and unmask the rhetorical expressions they encounter on the social web. It is my intent to update and supplement the Greek conception of unconcealment for digital democracies, venturing to articulate a bold statement: knowledge of circulation has supplanted knowledge of dialectic as the primary means of intervening on matters of truth in electrate, networked societies.The stakes are high: In an age in which rhetor is nearly synonymous with digital rhetor, the importance of unconcealing the social web encounter may be more imperative than ever.
Heidegger, Martin. “Parmenides.” Indiana University Press. Trans. Andre Schuwer and Richard Rojcewicz.
Miller, Caroline. “Should We Name the Tools?” The Public Work of Rhetoric and Composition: Citizen Scholars and Civic Engagement. Ed. Ackerman, John M. and David J. Coogan. University of Southern Carolina Press, 2010.
McComiskey, Bruce. “Post-Truth Rhetoric and Composition.” University Press of Colorado, 2017.
Carillo, Ellen. “Teaching Readers in Post-Truth America.” Utah State University Press, 2017.
Gee, James Paul. “The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students Through Digital Learning.” Palgrave Macmillan. 2013.
JDR Aug 2018