Mediated Authority

The Effects of Technology on Authorship

Authored by: Chad Seader , Jason Markins , Jordan Canzonetta

The Routledge Handbook of Digital Writing and Rhetoric

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  April  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138671362
eBook ISBN: 9781315518497
Adobe ISBN:


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Contemporary conversations in digital rhetoric highlight how emerging technologies create parameters and limitations that affect how the people using those technologies interact with the world. Scholars who research human–machine collaboration suggest both humans and machines mutually influence and “act alongside” each other creating complicated power dynamics between the people who design various technologies and the people who use them (Barnett and Boyle 1). Likewise, Jessica Reyman argues that access to social media technologies comes at a price: users must surrender their privacy and metadata to participate on the platforms. While account holders author metadata that social media companies use to sell and promote products, those same account holders have no rights to (or compensation for) their intellectual property. Simi larly, algorithms, which “persuade users toward particular engagements” based on the results of various search parameters (Brock and Shepherd), shape the kinds of arguments and decision-making processes that emerge in digital spaces (Brooke 83). In this sense, algorithms are rhetorical because their “outcomes are not empirically inevitable, but rather the product of a particular set of parameters designed strategically to lead toward a particular kind of result,” much like an effective rhetorical argument might compel audiences to act in particular ways (Ingraham 63). Furthermore, Liza Potts uses the term antisocial to describe technologies that prevent people from having control of how those same technologies might be used. When a software program or digital interface is “antisocial,” the technology is handed down to users who receive it rather than participate with it (6). In turn, Potts argues for a participant-centered approach to software design that allows humans to work actively with technology (6). This shift in terms of subjectivity, considering people as participants instead of users, highlights exactly how changes to particular digital environments could have profound and often unintended effects in terms of how various digital tools and technologies might be used to create, value, and circulate information.

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