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Ecological Rhetoric  

Chris Ingraham

As the problems wrought by anthropogenic global warming have become more urgent, scholars of rhetoric have turned more than ever before toward environmental topics and ecological perspectives. These interests have influenced the contemporary study of rhetoric enough that it is now possible to identify some different yet overlapping strains of research at the nexus of ecology and rhetoric. Doing so, however, is not without ongoing contestations, including over the nature of ecological thought, expanding systems of rhetoric, environmentalisms, ecofeminisms, and critical eco-futures. Despite these challenges, rhetoric and ecology may pair so well together because each is a capacious figure of thought, capable of accommodating others. As a way of thinking about interconnectedness in particular, “ecology” has been taken up by many scholars in diverse fields and disciplines. As a result, the ways the concept is mobilized in studies of rhetoric reflect an unruly assortment of approaches to, and understandings of, ecology, the influence of which cannot be traced to any pure or universal version of the term, because, as with “rhetoric,” no such common meaning exists. Grappling with the complex convergence of both terms might help scholars to constellate a semi-stable image of what it can mean and involve to study these topics together.

Article

Memorable Messages in Families  

Haley Kranstuber Horstman, Ellen Jordan, and Jinwen Yue

Families are (one of) the first and most influential socializing agents of our lives. Among the innumerable messages family members convey to each other, a select few are regarded as “memorable.” Memorable messages are “distinct communication units considered influential over the course of a person’s life.” Those messages that are most memorable are typically brief, direct, oral messages delivered by a higher-status, older, and likable individual to the recipient during their teen or young adult years. Although memorable messages were initially regarded as having positive implications for the receiver’s life, newer research has provided space for the negative implications and perceptions of these messages. Nonverbal communication elements and relational contexts and qualities are influential to the receptivity of memorable messages. Although memorable messages often originate from a family member, the sources of memorable messages can also be friends/peers, teachers, coworkers, or, in some cases, the media. Research on memorable messages has been largely concentrated in health and interpersonal/family communication contexts; organizational and instructional contexts have also been explored. Memorable message research in families has focused much on health topics (i.e., mental health, sexual health, body image and weight), socialization (i.e., around school, work, race, other topics), and coping with hardship. In these studies, memorable messages have largely been investigated through mixed-method survey-based research, but also through purely quantitative (i.e., survey-based) and qualitative (i.e., interview) methods as well. This research has been largely atheoretical but has been grounded in control theory and, more recently, the theory of memorable messages and communicated narrative sense-making theory. Future research and practical applications of family memorable message research include informing health campaigns and family life education programming.

Article

Aging Grandparents and Grandchildren and Communication  

Quinten Bernhold

Grandparents and grandchildren report their relationships with one another are meaningful in many respects, including having the opportunities to exchange affection, receive support, and learn new things from one another. Since 2000, theoretically grounded communication research on grandparent–grandchild (GP–GC) relationships has notably increased. This research has been largely centered in three theoretical domains: research using affection exchange theory (AET), communication accommodation theory (CAT), and communication theory of identity (CTI). AET is a bioevolutionary theory that holds that giving and receiving affectionate communication help facilitate viability and fertility. Consistent with this theory, grandparents have reported better mental health when they express more affectionate communication for their grandchildren, and grandchildren have reported better mental health when they receive more affectionate communication from their grandparents. Researchers can advance the study of GP–GC affectionate communication in the future by examining if affectionate communication is indirectly associated with health outcomes via certain indices of relational solidarity (e.g., shared family identity, relational closeness, perceived availability of social support). CAT is an intergroup and interpersonal communication theory that describes the adjustments speakers make during interaction, as well as the ramifications of those adjustments for receivers. Receivers might interpret a speaker as overaccommodating them (i.e., going too far in the adjustment necessary for appropriate interaction, such as patronizing talk) or underaccommodating them (i.e., not going far enough in the adjustment necessary for appropriate interaction, such as engaging in painful self-disclosures). When grandchildren receive more overaccommodation and underaccommodation from their grandparents, they report more negative prejudicial attitudes toward older adults as a whole. Future researchers should examine how perceptions of accommodation and nonaccommodation in GP–GC relationships are associated with other types of prejudice, such as religious prejudice. Finally, the CTI posits that people hold four frames of identity: personal identity (how people internally view themselves), enacted identity (how people behave or perform their identity), relational identity (how people perceive that their relational partners view them and how people define themselves as in relationships with others), and communal identity (how large social collectives are broadly defined, such as in the mass media). These identity frames can contradict one another, creating identity gaps. Both grandchildren’s and grandparents’ identity gaps (personal-relational and personal-enacted identity gaps) have been indirectly associated with lower intentions on the part of grandchildren to provide care for their grandparents via grandchildren’s reduced communication satisfaction. Future researchers would be well served to examine identity gaps between three or four frames of identity. In sum, many insights have been generated by GP–GC communication research informed by these three theories, and there are numerous ways to continue these lines of research in the future.

Article

Animal Rhetorics  

Jeremy Gordon

Before reading the essay in its entirety, readers should note that this entry about animal rhetoric is arranged thematically. More than a chronologically arranged summary, the entry attempts to outline three themes that ground theories and practices of animal rhetoric. The three themes include (a) a synthesis of how animal rhetoric has been featured in the history and myth of rhetorical studies; (b) a synthesis of how animal rhetoric has been theorized as an embodied rhetorical style that foregrounds interconnective, interdependent, and intimate relationships between humans and more-than-humans; and (c) a narrative of how animal rhetoric is inherently rooted in attention to specific ecological contexts, spaces, and places. The three themes emphasize that scholarship featuring animal rhetoric is radically interdisciplinary and maintains an ethical impulse toward more just and vibrant multispecies relations. According to a number of animal rhetoric scholars, rhetoric has always been bestial (Theme 1, point “a”). The mythic roots of rhetoric can be seen and heard in the “classical” narrative of Korax, a raven who pollutes norms of decorum and challenges anthropocentric assumptions of “good” speech. More than mere myth, classical rhetorical practices and habits are furry, feathery, and tentacled. Octopuses and foxes play a part in teaching the cunning intelligence (metis) needed for performing rhetoric. In rhetorical histories, all manner of creaturely figures have been called on to model eloquence—making rhetoric always already a multispecies affair. Whether fabled caricatures of eloquence or Aristotelian models of intelligence, rhetorical scholars have detailed how an array of creatures jump from pages of rhetorical treatises and handbooks to interrupt anthropocentric assumptions about how meaning, identity, power, and place are constituted. Beyond presence in mythic and historical legacies of rhetoric, more-than-human animals have been situated as performing unique yet shared rhetorical styles to animate relations, arrange belonging, shape meaning, and create identity (Theme 2, point “b”). Those styles are corporeal, fleshy, and sensual. Ultimately, theories of animal style center bodily arts of rhetoric that energize, move, and delight. The senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, and more) of animal rhetoric expand the manners of rhetoric - or the ways that rhetoric can and might be performed. With feet and beaks, tooth and claw, more-than-human animal forms of rhetoric transgress assumed binaries between human and animal, nature and culture, feral and domestic, speech and noise. Animal styles of eloquence resignify presumptions of what it means to be a political, rhetorical animal. According a number of scholars, fostering intimate, caring relations between humans and animals happens in the process of learning and practicing various forms of internatural communication, such as play, howling, and walking. Finally, as animals walk, glide, slither, scurry, and slide across streets and sidewalks, they cross borders, shuffle categories, and call into question assumptions of anthropocentric perspectives of place (Theme 3, point “c”). The study and practice of animal rhetoric is contextual, intimately grounded, specific places and spaces. The styles and manners of creaturely communication are deeply emplaced and emerge in relation to biocultural surrounds. More than this, the senses and styles of animal rhetorics help constitute biocultural surrounds, raising questions about who takes part in constituting communities and shaping a public. Many of the scholars cited in this entry foreground being attentive to the emplaced contexts of animal rhetoric, as well as the politics of whose voices are deemed worthy of belonging and whose presence is marked as unwelcome, unloved, and beyond the borders of a multispecies place. Most importantly, then, attending to animal rhetoric foregrounds concerns for how to practice manners—the capacity and willingness to be responsive and affected by the calls, caws, claws, and cries that share everyday ecological, political, and economic life. Being responsive to animal rhetoric marks the practice of multispecies manners and invites possibilities for more just multispecies relations and peaceful earthly coexistence that contest settler-colonial logics, the death work of capitalism, and climate derangement.

Article

Estrangement and Impact on Family Communication  

Kristina M. Scharp

Family estrangement occurs when at least one family member voluntarily and intentionally distances themselves from another family member because of an often ongoing negative relationship. Similar to divorce, parent–child estrangement can be an intergenerational issue; this means that adult children who distance themselves from their parents might eventually be distanced from their own children. Although it can be a healthy solution to an unhealthy environment, research suggests that estrangement can be complicated (e.g., marked by on-again/off-again cycles), uncertain, disenfranchised, stigmatized, and unsupported. Considering families are interdependent systems, the impact of family distancing can affect each and every member of the family, regardless of whether a person is directly involved. Nevertheless, parents, children, immediate family members, and siblings have varying and nuanced perspectives. For example, parents often desire reconnection and reconciliation, whereas adult children often do not. Siblings often face a different dynamic considering the power relationships between siblings are more horizontal than vertical. This means that siblings often have the same amount of power (i.e., horizontal) compared to parents and children (i.e., vertical), in which there is a greater power difference. Overall, the study of family estrangement is relatively new regardless of discipline; more research will be needed to characterize this experience and test related outcomes. Indeed, even though there is hardly any research at all, there is even less quantitative research. Continuing the study of family estrangement is important, however, considering it calls into question the inevitability of family relationships, which, albeit concerning to some, opens up the possibility to reconceptualize family to de-emphasize biological ties and emphasize care and communication.

Article

The Geopolitics of Infotainment  

Lindsay H. Hoffman and Gilbert K. Rotich

Although there is a lack of consensus among political communication scholars on the standard conceptualization of infotainment, scholarship converges on the idea that infotainment describes an admixture of information and entertainment. It is a buzzword used as an umbrella term for sensationalized content, satire, including tabloidization, caricaturization, impersonation, and personalization of political actors. Infotainment is not a unique and isolated genre in and of itself, but a term often used pejoratively to describe the decline and shift away from hard to soft news. This cluster of television programming has made it difficult to discern between information and entertainment content. Significantly, this fusion of entertainment and journalism has gained prominence as a function of exponential changes in the media industry. These trends in political journalism, fueled by the public’s changing patterns in the consumption of political news and the increasing use of the “softer” outlets by political actors to reach the masses, facilitated the cosmetic rise of infotainment. Consequently, we have seen the news becoming more entertaining while the entertainment programs take on politics. Notably, infotainment is contextualized as a tool of geopolitical influence; its uses and gratifications have moved beyond informing and entertaining audiences to become tools of political influence and resistance. Political satire and comedy have been used to interrogate power and create space for political freedom in various corners of the world, used as a soft means of power to transmit culture. Overall, political entertainment has become a means to an end.

Article

Propaganda and Rhetoric  

John Oddo

Propaganda was first identified as a public crisis following World War I, as citizens discovered that their own governments had subjected them to deception and emotional manipulation. Today, it seems no less disturbing. Accusations swirl decrying fake news, spin, active measures, and, again, propaganda. But with nearly every accusation there is also a denial and, more important, a counteraccusation: that propaganda is merely a label applied to messages one dislikes, a slippery word that says more about the accuser’s politics than it does about supposed defects in communication. The slipperiness surrounding propaganda has fascinated scholars for over a century, as they have grappled with whether and how it can be distinguished from other kinds of rhetoric. One crucial sticking point concerns propaganda’s means of persuasion. It is commonly supposed that propaganda relies on falsity, emotion, and irrational appeals. However, adjudicating what is true and reasonable is not as clear-cut as it may seem, and much work attempts to differentiate manipulation from legitimate persuasion. Another key concern is the morality of propaganda. Some theorize that it is intrinsically wrong because it seeks its own partisan agenda. But others argue that partisanship is characteristic of all advocacy, and they wonder whether propaganda can and should be employed for worthy democratic purposes. Finally, scholars propose different models for how propaganda works. One model features a propagandist who deliberately targets a passive audience and attempts to move them for selfish ends. But other models see propaganda as a more collective activity, something that audiences pass around to each other, either purposefully or without any design. Difficult as it is to define propaganda, however, scholars do agree on two things: It is enormously powerful, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

Article

Psychoanalysis in Rhetorical Theory  

Christian Lundberg

The traditions of rhetoric and psychoanalysis share a common interest in speech as an object and grounds for analysis. The two traditions diverge in their approach to speech: rhetoric understands speech to be primarily concerned with the contextual effects of speech as statement; psychoanalysis with speech as symptom. Understanding the points of mutual overlap, reaffirmation, and critique between the two traditions requires an account of how both traditions mobilize the conception of meaning in interpreting and/or analyzing speech. In clarifying the investments bound up with critical work as interpretation and/or analysis in each of the traditions, it is possible to approach the productive points of tension and affinity between the two traditions anew: in doing so, it may also be easier to understand the roles of audience, affect, and form in detailing the conditions through which speech constitutes subjects and identities, and by which it exerts rhetorical effects.

Article

Race and Affect in Digital Media Cultures  

Donya Alinejad

Media has always been central to the social production and contestation of racial and ethnic difference. The politics of representation has formed the conceptual frame for much of the seminal scholarship examining the role of media in reproducing ideologies of race. Yet, with the advancement of digitally mediated communicative spaces, emerging experiences of interactive social encounters with racial difference compound people’s spatially proximous, “offline” encounters. And the circulation of controversy, together with the changing relationship between counterpublics and mainstream media, further complicates questions of race and media. From online hate speech to hashtagged antiracism movements, ideologies of race and practices of racial and ethnic ordering and discrimination are being reproduced, rethought, and, to some extent, reinvigorated in ways that are unique to the widespread uptake of digital technologies. Race and representation bear revisiting in light of these developments. In what has been called the “affective turn,” scholars have theorized “nonrepresentational” and affective communications as a way of explaining some of the important developments associated with digital media phenomena, such as online virality and digital attention economies. Affect has helped conceptualize the paracognitive and emotional dimensions of social life, as well as the spatial and material dynamics of mediated experiences of encounter and interaction. Through a discussion of literature at the nexus of affect, media, and race/ethnicity, this article maps and draws relations between longer-running debates on media, representation, and race and more current notions of digital affect and emotion. It suggests that the notion of representation has sustained relevance for understanding how emergent digital media forms produce ideologies of race and ethnic difference.The article also signals where the entwinement of affect and representation suggests productive directions for further understanding of race in relation to a changing range of digital-media technologies and practices.

Article

Relational Dialectics Theory  

Kristina M. Scharp

Relational dialectics theory (RDT) is a postmodern critical theory of meaning. Based on the writing of Russian philosopher, RDT attunes researchers to the ways that discourses (i.e., ideologies) compete to make meaning of particular semantic objects (e.g., identities, phenomena, processes, etc.). Of note, not all discourses hold the same amount of power. Some discourses are dominant (i.e., centripetal) whereas others are marginalized (i.e., centrifugal). RDT researchers, then, are primarily interested in exploring how these discourses, with unequal power, compete. This focus on the competition of discourses for power and the ability of RDT to call out the ideological forces that disenfranchise some groups while enfranchising others holds promise for practical applications such as debunking misconceptions and better understanding where privilege comes from and how it is perpetuated. When discourses compete, they might do so within or across a set of utterances. Utterances are turns in talk and serve as the primary unit of analysis in RDT research. Utterances, however, are not standalone entities. Rather, they are connected by different links to form an utterance chain. Some links of the utterance chain pertain to time (what has been said before and what response an utterance can anticipate) whereas the other links of the utterance chain pertain to the relationship level (some pertain to the culture at large whereas other only to an idiosyncratic relationship). Overall, discursive competition takes place across a continuum of interplay. At one end of the continuum is monologue. Monologue represents the absence of meaning. Next are discursive enactments (i.e., closure) that reinforce the dominant discourse and shut down alternatives (see entry for complete list). Diachronic separation occurs when the dominance of a discourse changes across time. Diachronic separation can take two forms: (a) spiraling inversion or (b) segmentation. Synchronic interplay is next and occurs when two discourses compete within a given utterance. When RDT researchers examine a text for synchronic interplay, they often look to see how a marginalized discourse (a) negates, (b) counters, or (c) entertains the dominant discourse. Finally, on the other end of the continuum of interplay, is dialogic transformation. Dialogic transformation occurs through either (a) discursive hybridity or (b) an aesthetic moment whereby discourses suspend their interplay to create new meanings. Conducted using RDT’s corresponding method, contrapuntal analysis, researchers using this theory work to disrupt hegemonic, taken-for-granted assumptions about how things are and call attention to voices overlooked in the past. To date, this theory has been taken up primarily by family, interpersonal, and health communication scholars, although many scholars have used this theory throughout the discipline.