Affordances for the Oppressed
Both Communications studies and Rhetoric and Composition studies have explored the power of new media and internet networking. The work of Cynthia and Dickie Selfe in particular envisions a classroom where technology creates an environment for digital literacy, collaboration, personal agency, problem posing, and the affordances of new media to teach students valuable skills for composing for audiences both inside and outside the classroom. This is not without complication; others in composition study are apprehensive of focusing on the affordances of new media, but with the recent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the world bore witness to an event where technology and rhetoric empowered an oppressed people to choose how they would be governed. In light of this, we as instructors of rhetoric and composition can explore the possibility that technology creates an environment were the oppressed can liberate themselves in a way that Paulo Freire could not have envisioned.
My cross-discipline analysis begins with Klandermans and Oegema’s civic voluntarism model to analyze both the conditions and adversities faced by social movements. Tunisia and Egypt provides a real example where new media and rhetoric both facilitate the conditions for advocacy while also transcending the adversities faced by their respective social movements. I will provide examples of multimodal rhetoric used by the Arab people and analyze the affordances of new media in collaboration, civic engagement, identity construction, audience and purpose. By grounding theory within this event, and exploring the relationship between composition and civic engagement in particular, we can recognize that the Arab world may have taught us a valuable lesson in composing with new media. I pursue the question: What can the Arab world teach us about composing with new media?