Courtesy: Boston Museum of Science


Rhetoric of the Internet

Spring 2004

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Student Websites on the IInternet and Communication

Last Updated
May 11, 200


James F. Klumpp

Department of Communication

College of Arts and Humanities

University of Maryland


Rhetoric of the Internet

Topics for the Semester

We will treat the following three general topics:

  • Rhetorical Dimensions of Design. This unit is not concerned with the technical dimensions, but with the rhetorical dimensions of web page and website design. Rhetorical dimensions are concepts such as audience, organizational structure, rhetorical occasion, stylistic appeal. We will be especially sensitive to how the rhetorical principles of web design differ from those in other media such as oral and written. We will examine web pages and websites to use our understanding in efforts to recommend improvements.
  • Internet as Rhetorical Space. We will consider the ways in which the technology that is the internet shapes rhetorical activity. We will consider such issues as public versus mass communication; push versus pull technology; information versus framing; virtual geography; virtual community; identity and anonymity; the digital divide (by gender and class). Our interest is how the internet changes the structure of rhetorical space when compared with oral or print media.
  • Internet and Socio-Political Change. We will consider how those engaging in social and political strategies to change society have employed the internet. Our study will concentrate on sites from across the spectrum of support and opposition to change. We will explore the implications of the internet environment on how they seek to achieve their goals.

Methods of Instruction

The instruction in the course will be mainly inductive. That is, we will be spending much time working from the web and analyzing the things we find there. Concepts that we use to understand what we are finding will come from reading, web material, and discussion. In such an environment, the student's task is not so much memorization of concepts but use of concepts in analysis of communication. Some group work will be employed to prepare for classroom discussions.

Required Prior Knowledge and Skills

  • Students need a facility with preparation of webpages and websites. They may use Netscape Composer, FrontPage, Dreamweaver, Hot Dog, or similar software that does not require knowledge of html or xml.
  • Students will need full access to the internet. They will be expected to have access daily and to spend some time each day surfing.
  • COMM 401 will be of assistance to students in knowing how to analyze rhetorical strategies. This will not, however, be a prerequisite.

Learning Resources

  • Ilise Benun, Designing Websites for Every Audience. Cincinnati: How Design Books, 2003.
  • Leonard J. Shedletsky and Joan E. Aitken, Human Communication on the Internet. Boston: Pearson, Allyn and Bacon, 2004.
  • David M. Anderson and Michael Cornfield, eds. The Civic Web: Online Politics and Democratic Values. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003.


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