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Rivers CCCC 2011 Working Draft

Rivers CCCC 2011 Working Draft

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Published by Nathaniel Rivers

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Nathaniel Rivers on Mar 27, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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“The iPhone is Part of My Mind Already”: Rhetoric and the Cultivation of Body and Mind 1
Rhetoric’s relationship to the material is under much positive scrutiny withinrhetorical studies. Debra Hawhee argues that Kenneth Burke’s turn towardthe materiality of the body expanded his treatment of rhetoric. As Hawheewrites, “we are talking about affect and nature and language; aboutmovement and pain and environment” (8). Diane Davis uses mirror neuronsas “eloquent deconstructions of Burke’s ultimate order of things, shatteringthe presumption of an originary biological disconnect between self andother” (131). Jenny Edbauer Rice’s reading of critical affect studies—which,she argues, suggests “increased attention to the physiological character torhetoric” (211)—“poses an interesting question for rhetorical studies: isdiscursive deliberation sufficient for talking about the constitution of publics”(211)? In his rhetorical treatment of the spaces of Ancient Greece, JamesFredal argues that there is not “any clear or stable boundary between theverbal element and the extraverbal or nonverbal” (193). Jennifer Bay andThomas Rickert, reading new media through Heidegger, write, “learning todwell with new media and its technologies entails a harkening to theirontological weight and rhetorical agency” (213). Reintroducing vitalism torhetoric through complexity theory, Byron Hawk writes, “The problem withmany theories of human action is that they operate from an oppositionbetween human intention as active and material context as static andpassive, thus privileging human action. In contrast to this humanist model,human action is actually a part of the feedback loop of complex systems”(158). We are no longer and never were brains in vats discoursing with one
Nathaniel A. Rivers
“The iPhone is Part of My Mind Already”: Rhetoric and the Cultivation of Body and Mind 2
another; we are bodies, brains, tissues, technologies, and feelings locatedboth within and across time and space. The fact of this matter compels us to,borrowing from Hawhee and Cory Holding, “more deliberately theorizerhetoric’s material components” (264).Building upon such material rhetorics, I argue rhetorical studies canand ought to insist on even more. Rhetoric should set its sights deeper intothe material beyond (but not transcending) how rhetoric can
for thematerial and its influences. As a field intimate with its material contours, Ithink it is high time we place rhetorical studies out in the world of brains,bodies, and environments. In short, the material (or, more specifically, muchof the material that matters for human becoming) does not arrive to rhetoricindependent of rhetoric, but already implicated in a vital, rhetorical dynamic.I want to argue that materiality itself (what we often call “human nature”)—the body, the mind, and human environments—is, in part, rhetoricallycultivated.Fully emplaced within material dramas, I define rhetoric as
thecultivation of human nature
. Rhetoric, which I argue is about decision-making and influence, is the means of social, biological, and environmentalpersuasion by which we cobble together both ourselves as a species and theplaces we inhabit. Rhetoric thus defined challenges the tendency to treat as“natural” things like human development, cognitive function, and physicalability, which could be otherwise. A definition of rhetoric—wedded to a modelof human physiology that sees human nature as anything but pre-specified—
Nathaniel A. Rivers
“The iPhone is Part of My Mind Already”: Rhetoric and the Cultivation of Body and Mind 3
highlights the ethical and suasory nature of becoming human. That is, thosewho study the materiality of the human experience must account for whatKenneth Burke calls “the factor of rhetoric” (
To advance this claim for rhetoric I suggest two key terms for materialrhetoric and use these terms (“cultivate” and “attitude”) to articulate therhetoric implicit in the material objects of cognitive science. I demonstratethat the specific material equipment of human cognition is not onlysomething rhetoricians should account for but also for which rhetoricalactivity is necessarily (though partially) responsible for. This synecdotalconnection to cognitive science strongly anchors my argument in specializedstudies of the material dramas from which human beings emerge.Cognitive scientist Andy Clark’s model of the extended mindrecognizes the “factor of rhetoric.” Clark argues that human cognition isextended across bodies, brains, technology, culture, and environment, andthus opens up the possibility that rhetoric (which we find operating within,certainly, technologies and cultures) can and does cultivate cognition. I makethis connection to demonstrate the rhetoric both in and of the material, and Ido so through the key term
. Cultivate suggests at once both thecultivation of plants (as in agriculture or horticulture) and people (as in thecultivation of a following or a society). It is a term used to designateattention or devotion to the growth of plants, art, science, habits, friendships,and people. Articulating both versions of cultivate, digital theorist and notedjournalist Kevin Kelly argues, “Our human nature itself is a malleable crop
Nathaniel A. Rivers

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