Mason student Ben Crane working with a re-programmable circuit board and the videogame  Undertale

Mason student Ben Crane working with a re-programmable circuit board and the videogame Undertale


Writing is always more than a matter of grammatical correctness and clarity. As rhetoricians have appreciated for centuries, becoming an effective speaker, writer, or, in the present, social media content creator means being able to discover the available means of persuasion for a particular audience, time, and medium. While my approach to pedagogy stems from many different places and influences, here are a few threads:

+ Jody Shipka's Toward a Composition Made Whole. Shipka observes that "multimodal" doesn't just mean "digital." It also means teaching the full materiality of any medium from the physical spaces that we write in, the music or coffee shop noise we listen to while we type, or the 50 minute laundry timers we use to structure our writing activities.

+ David M. Sheridan, Jim Ridolfo, and Anthony J. Michel's The Available Means of Persuasion: Mapping a Theory and Pedagogy of Multimodal Public Writing. They argue that we fail to adequately prepare student writers as public rhetors to realize kairos if we do not train them about the rhetorical affordances and constraints of different mediums.

+ Gregory Ulmer’s heuretics, or the logics of internet invention. We study digital rhetoric to guide digital reasoning and public rhetoric practice through digital technologies in the present.

The top left image contains a project by a former student (Ben Crane). It uses a Makey Makey re-programmable circuit board to require a videogame player for Undertale to use physical inputs (a heart that gets warmer and a sword which gets colder as the player touches either frequently) to make a procedural argument about the virtue of mercy in fight sequences. I always try to teach projects that enable students to explore how their processes of rhetorical invention in digital rhetoric can reach actual audiences through a variety of mediums. Echoing Aristotle's thinking in the Nicomachean Ethics, asking student writers to engage public audiences continues rhetoric's "always already" entanglement with ethical and critical decision-making. It is (still) impossible to learn how to “do rhetoric” without, well, “doing rhetoric” for actual audiences and the technologies that they use!

Here is a link to my complete teaching philosophy if you're interested.

Select Syllabi with Assignment Descriptions

Videogame Rhetoric (Engh 611/488, Summer 2018)

Public Rhetoric (Engh 726, Fall 2016)

Reading (and Writing) the Comments: Qualitative Research in Networked Spaces (Engh 609/488, Spring 2017)

Machine Reading, Writing, and Rhetoric (Engh 611/488, Summer 2017)

Critical Making as Rhetorical Invention (Engh 824, Summer 2016)

Sample Student Work

Bree McGregor_course.png

Bree McGregor’s final project for my Engh 824: Critical Making PhD seminar (Summer 2016). She re-envisioned an entire writing course through the use of a Makey Makey reprogrammable circuit board, which we learned how to use in class. I helped her shape this course after we finished into a course that she actually taught. Bree has a chapter about this class in my edited collection, Re-programmable Rhetoric, about this process.

Rachael Burke.png

I also teach quite a bit with material rhetorics and public rhetoric. As part of my Engh 726 Public Rhetoric courses, I always challenge students to use more than one medium to engage an actual public of their choice. Above is an image from Rachael Burke, a PhD student at Mason, from her project, “The Listening Com(fort)". Another student, for example, used birthday cakes and social media to draft an article on cake making (as well as several cakes) for the non-profit group Extra-Ordinary Birthdays, which hosts birthday parties for children living in homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters.


The last two images are examples of some my MA students’ work (Bailey Carter and Jasmine Allen) on using text mining and data visualization to explore rhetorics of scale as part of my Fall 2016 New Media and Digital Rhetoric class. Students could choose any case study from Sonic the Hedgehog’s social media account rebrand to the #clapbackseason hashtag among African-American twitter users. Their goal was to perform traditional forms of rhetorical analysis while seeing how data collected at scale could reveal some larger patterns at work that individual rhetorical analysts would never have been able to find.


I’ve taught five sections of MA/BA Document Design. My twist is epublishing and ethics. First, we spend time talking about disability rhetorics and students. A common assignment is for me to give students an in class design principle and for them to produce a mock up. Once finished, I ask students to re-do this assignment by following lists of guidelines for designing for a particular disability audience such as a site-impaired individual or a dyslexic individual. Secondly, I teach interactive ebook design through Adobe InDesign (and iBooks Author and Atlas) with the above image from the index of Mary O’Brien’s MA capstone epub interactive technical manual project as a case in point.