10/5: Multimodal Rhetoric

We’ve started thinking about different modalities for writing for advocacy. A modality is the delivery platform by which a message is circulated; it’s part of what Doug Downs calls the ecology of rhetoric. In his essay that we read last week, Downs says that “human interaction and meaning-making is […] the experience of encountering a vast range of sensory signals and interpreting them by associating them with networks of our existing knowledge” (462-3). Using this ideas of networks, Downs offers us an ecological framework for understanding how humans communicate through texts, written and otherwise.

I asked you to bring an example of any text in your life you feel represents invitational rhetoric, a term Foss & Griffin define as “an invitation to understanding as a means to create a relationship rooted in equality, immanent value, and self-determination. Invitational rhetoric constitutes and invitation to the audience to enter the rhetor’s world and see it as the rhetor does” (5). We spent our class today analyzing texts I brought in as examples of invitational rhetoric so you can do this on your own with a text that you’ve chosen.

The example of invitational rhetoric that I offer today is a song and accompanying video message that Appalachian singer Tyler Childers produced in 2021. Childers is a white man from Kentucky who integrates his Appalachian identity into his music. In response to the intersection of the COVID pandemic and racial unrest of 2020-2021, Childers produced a song titled “Long Violent History” and an accompanying video message. I’d like us to analyze together these different modalities (video, speech, song, print) as part of the ecology that Childers constructs. We’ll talk about his message, audience, and circulation, considering to what extent Childers’ work is an example of invitational rhetoric and advocacy.


Reminder: campus is closed on Mon, 10/9 & Tues, 10/10 follows a Monday schedule.

WRITE blog post #4 DUE NEXT CLASS, TH 10/12.

How does the piece you brought to class represent invitational rhetoric? To earn full credit for this post, you must quote Foss & Griffin. In your answer, explain the rhetorical ecology of the text you shared.

  • Who is the original author of the text and what was their motivation for creating it?
  • Who is the audience?
  • How does the text circulate and how does that circulation affect or change the meaning that the text makes?
  • How does the circulation invite audience participation into the text?

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