Transindividuating nodes: Rhetoric as the architechnical organizer of networks

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Communication, Media and Theatre Arts

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Rhetoric Society Quarterly


Questioning modernity’s humanism, rhetorical theory has increasingly sought to describe the rhetorical force of the material. Central to this movement has been Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network Theory (ANT). While Latour’s theory is useful, his general aversion to rhetoric prevents ANT from fully explaining processes of translation or the politics of networks. This essay mobilizes Bernard Stiegler’s theorization of individuation and technics as a necessary corrective to ANT. Their hybridization facilitates a theory of rhetoric as the architechnical organizer of networks. I develop this position by analyzing Facebook’s mobilization of the slogan “time well spent” after revelations about their problematic role in the 2016 US presidential elections. This case demonstrates how rhetoric translates memory to build networks, reshaping the subjectivity and politics of involved—and excluded—actants. Such an approach overcomes the rhetorical shortcomings of ANT and Stiegler while refiguring discussions regarding systems of individuation, rhetorical subjectivity, and power in networked relation.

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