Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric
A Peer Reviewed Journal of Current Event Analysis

Current Issue: Volume 4, Issue 1/2

Updated June 6, 2014


“You Are What You Compute (and What is Computed For You): Considerations of Digital Rhetorical Identification
Aaron Hess

As digital technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous, it is necessary to rethink how our devices fundamentally alter the nature of identity. Using Burkean identification, this essay examines digital technology and its effect on the unconscious, argumentation, and public deliberation. I offer digital rhetorical identification as a process of technological unconscious consubstantiality, through which users are provided and believe in information and argument based upon their digital substance. In current digital contexts, the substance of the Internet user has been drastically affected by the use of Internet “cookies.” In tandem with server algorithms, cookies have become our “digital substance,” formed out of personal search history and directed by consumerist aims. Cookies filter information for users based upon previous searches and other details, while operating silently on our machines. Consequently, the online circulation of knowledge serves as an echo chamber of personal desire and opinion rather than giving users diverse perspectives. This effect bleeds into offline rhetorical practices, limiting the circulation of public knowledge and argument. Keywords: Communication Technology, Cookies, Deliberation, Digital Rhetoric, Facebook, Google, Identification.