CTW Response 2: “Temptation and Its Discontents” & Procedural Rhetoric

The first text I will discuss is “Temptation and Its Discontents: Rhetoric, Flow, and the Possible” by Joshua Reeves. In this piece, Reeves uses Raymond Williams’s definition of media flow to characterize both the composition and reader interaction with digital texts, specifically webpages that contain hyperlinks. He refutes claims that the human-computer interactions in such webpages are based in decentralized randomness. Instead, he argues that is there is a rhetoric to these webpages that affords a user the ability to “renegotiate their online activities within structured flows” (315). In his argument, hyperlinks serve as said structure, giving the user tangential paths to follow and weave together. Reeves compares this structured flow to Williams’s flow in television programing, in which networks will sequence programs based off of the previous program so as to retain as many viewers as possible. He uses a brief study of the Wikipedia page for the Cuban Revolution to demonstrate what he calls the “rhetoric of possibility,” or the flow enabled by hyperlinks to other Wikipedia articles related to, or tangentially related to the content of the page. He also highlights CNN.com as another source for this tangential navigational flow. On this news site, certain headlines provide subject-related alternate articles, as well as personalized Google ads tailored to the individal user, allowing the user to move through pages in a structured, but not pre-ordained manner. Reeves’s argument is accurate in that navigating some webpages via hyperlinks provides a structure between pages, providing a “flow” rather than a random hopscotch from page to page. However, he fails to explore the converse to the examples provided. By refraining...
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