Recycling Rhetoric

Throughout the article by Ridolfo and DeVoss, the concept of reusing specific rhetorical information is discussed a lot in terms of taking information and rhetoric used in original documents and reforming them for other uses. The concepts of rhetorical velocity and amplification are two particularly interesting ideas that Devoss and Ridolfo discuss in their article that relate closely to the main concerns that I have with my campaign right now.

Rhetorical amplification is basically the use of an original piece of content¬– a text, image, or video– and “reframing” that content to reinforce an idea. In the text they discuss that the main concern of amplification is that the creator of the original content– in their example they use attack videos in Iraq– may not know who the re-creator is or how they will use the content. In terms of my own project, I think that this is a concern that I want to focus more on. Rhetorically speaking, it is incredibly important that your language and tone is clear and consistent. While our focus is on lowering the student debt by lowering Pitt’s tuition, I think that some of the statistics and information that we are using could be taken out of context to possibly undermine our focus. On the other hand, I think we need to think about the ways in which I could use rhetorical amplification to make my arguments stronger. I think that choosing certain phrases and statistics, and the ways in which I relay that information in my campaign pieces needs to be more of a concern. Rhetorical amplification is a really powerful rhetorical tool that could definitely bolster the message and idea that I want to come across in my campaign.

Rhetorical Velocity was also discussed in this article and– much like amplification– I think it could really help my campaign. Rhetorical velocity focuses on “why” someone may recompose information for other uses. I think that most of our focus of the campaign so far focused on why people would want to read and understand our information, but not why someone might recompose that information. The purpose of this campaign is for our message to reach as many people as possible and convince them of our position. In order to reach as many people as possible, we would need more people to write about our topic and idea in order to reach larger audiences. In terms of my campaign, I think the rhetoric I need to utilize should focus more on the statistics and facts that strengthen our message, and make more of a conscious effort to connect our message with our statistics. If someone were to recompose our information, they may use it to promote a different message than we might. While that isn’t the worst thing, I think the power of rhetorical velocity is the promotional value of it. If people want to recompose your information or pieces, you would want them to do it in a way that would support your position rather than creating a completely new context for the information.

Overall, I think that the ideas of rhetorical amplification and velocity are often overlooked, especially for me. Whenever I am writing something, I rarely think of the ways in which that text could be reused as a source or supporting evidence for another text. In terms of my campaign, I want to think about how someone might take my information and reuse it to reinforce my position of the campaign.

Cultural Osmosis: how can we tap in?

There was a time when we discussed how primary and secondary audiences were important to think about before beginning to write or create. The primary audience is the one you are trying to target whereas the secondary audience is the one which will read your piece by cultural osmosis. In Jim Ridolfo and Dannielle Nicole DeVoss’ “Composing for Recomposition: Rhetorical Velocity and Delivery” that initial understanding is expanded upon, leading to a discussion of how you want those audiences to interact with your work and how that work will interact with varying mediums.

In our group’s campaign on poverty, we have many angles to work so that we can reach out to as much of the population as possible to change perceptions; that is the stated goal. We understand that our audiences primarily include students as well as public officials, but also teachers, civil servants, and ordinary citizens secondarily. In Ridolfo and DeVoss’ piece, we learn that it’s not just important to know who that audience is but how a piece might travel through different spaces and mediums.  This quandary is raised more simply in a figure on rhetorical velocity: “What genres and mediums will the works transcend?”. The authors are trying to engage readers and potential writers with a question that is expressly relevant in this digital age. We as writers need not only consider our audiences but also the mediums through which those audiences will interact with our writing.

For instance, our campaign might hand out flyers or brochures to passersby but then a student might take a picture with their phone and post it on their social media page. How might we as progenitors of said piece incorporate this understanding in the design and rhetoric we choose to employ? How might we facilitate this interaction, make it easier for them to post it on social media, causing more to do so and spreading our message? It might be in our campaign’s best interests to create a flyer which is easily shared over social media so that we capture as wide an audience as possible.

Flyers might engage a different audience than social media users but there are some similarities. Designs for both, to my mind, should be brief, eye-catching, and informative. It shouldn’t take a person more than a second to draw interest in reading, nor should it take a social media user longer than a few seconds of scrolling to gather that same interest. It might be easy to design a piece which panders to each audience and amplifies the effects of both. We as creators could consciously include phrases and pictures that mimic social media posts, even though it is in written form, to engage an audience which is adept at social media. This would work to our benefit as we seek to involve as large an audience as possible, utilizing the ease of access to the internet and phones to share our physical pieces.

Another interesting angle this article’s questions have prompted me to think about is how we as campaign designers might also include something in that flyer that asks readers to share it, whether it be through social media or otherwise. We should encourage individual activism on a college campus that is presumably already primed for it. Somewhere on the piece, there could be a phrase that says something to the effect of “Take a picture and share this with your friends, your social media network. Spread the word.” There would certainly be more nuanced thought given to the wording but the gist is that such an inclusion would amplify our message.

A third, tertiary medium I thought about was newspapers and news media. When a campaign blows up on social media, it might spill over into traditional media sources such as the local news or newspaper. Given that possibility, we then must consider how our campaign piece interacts with that medium and its audience. It’s more of a stretch but I believe some thought should be given to it at the very least. How might you plan a piece to engage with three mediums let alone two? That is for us as writers to decide and for our readers to discover.

The article has really given me much to think about regarding not just who we are trying to reach but how they can help us. It builds on my growing understanding of how we as writers have many, many ways of interacting with our readers beyond our initial understanding of audiences. I would have never thought of creating pieces with secondary and tertiary mediums in mind without such a discussion of velocity and rhetoric from DeVoss and Ridolfo.

Open to Comments

As the article mentioned numerous times, the digital age requires writers to be mindful of recomposition. This era allows for anyone to repurpose and comment on any piece of work at increasing speed. Because of this changing field of rhetoric, rhetoricians are thinking one step ahead. The article itself was composed in a press release format; a format historically used with the understanding that the piece would be recomposed.

So how do writers approach a piece of work with recomposition in mind. One simple component is simply creating a share via link, which would allow people to comment on the work and introduce others to the piece as well. Facebook is the biggest platform for this method of recomposition. Without a character limit, people are able to express as much, or as little as they want. I would argue that Twitter on the other hand, while more difficult of a medium, allows for more effective recompostion. The character limit requires the strategic selection of quotes and thoughts to achieve the same goal as a Facebook post. Another growing platform that consistently repurposes rhetorical writing is a podcast. Podcasts typically have a spin or approach to the news or story they are telling. Most aim to have their listeners think about an issue from a unique perspective. From the podcasts I have listened to this is done strategically, through various methods. They often pull from news articles or written account of the event to define the facts. There is then usually an expert or someone with experience in the issue to comment. Lastly, numerous podcasts use their listeners to extend the conversation. Sometimes this is done through an email that coincides with the theme for the week, or a recorded phone call that brings a different perspective to an issue from a previous podcast.

Because digital mediums, like social media and podcasts, are incubators for commenting, authors need to think about how their own words may be used in the conversation. Delivery is one of the ways that authors can think ahead of the third-party commenters. While content taken out of context is always a concern, there are some methods of delivery where this is more of a concern. Video clips and pictures for example are very easily editable. Anyone can put text over an image and completely change the narrative. Videos can be clipped and placed within another video.

Among our campaign pieces, our infographic is the most accessible in terms of share-ability. It can be used within another article or letter as long as the topic centers around healthcare. The infographic can be delivered on its own, or in combination with a different form of recompostion. A piece that is difficult to recompose is the sensitivity training. This utilizes not only visuals but also a script and a handout, which makes it difficult for a podcast platform to comment on as a whole piece. Going forward though, I think rhetorical velocity is helpful in creating our pieces. We know that we cannot address every single issue as it relates to LGBTQ healthcare, so we are leaving some aspects open for others to repurpose and address.

Rhetorical Velocity in Campaign Pieces

In producing our campaign pieces we always keep in mind that our objective is to create awareness among the community on the subject of poverty and how this problem is happening to the people around us. We want this message to be circulated to among the community in order to have them get involved in movements or organizations that help those in need. We learned in class a lot about how to write for the public and how we are supposed to create a piece that is well design and could be accessed easily by everyone. However, considering that our campaign pieces might be recomposed and used by another party, it would be a little challenging. Here is where rhetorical velocity comes in play. We, as a group are producing 6 campaign pieces of different genres, 2 of which are posters, a brochure, a letter, a website and a video. In all of these pieces, different aspects were and to be considered in the process of creating them.

As Ridolfo and Devoss stated “…rhetorical velocity, as we deploy it in this web-text, means a conscious rhetorical concern for distance, travel, speed, and time, pertaining specifically to theorizing instances of strategic appropriation by a third party”. In creating our brochure we realized that it is one of the easiest medium to be distributed, especially among Pitt students. We could just stand at a corner anywhere on campus and distribute them. The brochure however, needs to have information that could be recomposed and repurposed. The information on the brochure is the most important aspect to be revised and strategically placed to encourage others to recompose it, so I included a few Pitt and local organizations that are actively involved in helping those in poverty. By doing this, the other parties could use this information and come out with their own documents.

In the brochure, I also included some statistical studies on poverty to grab the people’s attention on how serious the problem is. How would this actually encourage people to recompose the document? I believe that by giving out information that is easily understood and easily accessed through the brochure, it will definitely attract people to use the information that is just laid on a piece of documents instead of searching through several websites and research papers. It would just make their work easier and faster. By thinking about rhetorical velocity, I understand that some genres are easier to recomposed. I do not believe that a poster could be recomposed better than a brochure because the information could be limited and it is also not well distributed. We could post them somewhere that is very public and could be easily seen by anyone, but it would not be circulated as well as a brochure. A poster could work in promoting an event or a gathering, but not in conveying a message about a critical social issue such as poverty. A serious matter such as poverty should be addressed in a medium that could provide a lot of information and that could be circulated easily. A web site or a Facebook page are some good mediums to do this.



Using Rhetorical Velocity

Creating campaigns and campaign pieces are far more complex than trying to reach the audience with some sort of message, information, etc. We learned how to write in such a way that was easy for an audience to follow. Now, writing for the public has become more complex when considering how the audience can recreate the information. For campaigns such as we are writing, rhetorical velocity should be kept in mind. Ridolfo and DeVoss describe rhetorical velocity as “a conscious rhetorical concern for distance, travel, speed, and time pertaining specifically to theorizing instances of strategic appropriation by a third party”. The importance of designing the campaign pieces in such a way that the audience can “recompose” the information is due to the fact that we want the information to reach farther than we can achieve ourselves. If the campaign pieces and information contained in them are readily “recomposable”, secondary audiences can be reached. This is a desired effect of many campaigns. Specifically for my group, one of the goals of our campaign is to raise awareness regarding mental health in teens. If our campaign pieces are being used by our audience to recreate the information, our goal is being met.
One of my campaign pieces is a Facebook page that is primarily concerned with awareness of mental health. The page will include a post of blackout poetry submissions that are focused around mental health. Something like this can easily be recreated or used by third parties. Any high school can run their own campaign around this idea; have students submit blackout poetry, or any sort of poetry in general, of what they think mental health is, what it means to live with a mental health issue, or any sort of topic under mental health. Schools could hang up the submissions around the school or make the submissions accessible to the students. Not only does this raise awareness but it also can get students talking about mental health.
Not every campaign piece can easily be recomposed such as the piece discussed above. Something such as a speech might prove to be more difficult. For my first campaign piece, I wrote a letter that was intended for the parents of high school students of Pittsburgh Technology Academy that detailed what programs and resources were in place for those students. I also included statistics regarding the programs and created an infographic that highlighted some of the statistics. How would I go about revising this information while keeping in mind rhetorical velocity? I think revising the infographic would be the most beneficial because this information is arguably the most important; of course, it’s important parents know about the programs, but it is even more so that they know how the program works and how well it works. While this information can be found in the letter as well, the infographic puts the information in an easy-to-read format that doesn’t require a lot of time reading a letter. My infographic does need revised to make it easier to understand by itself and to better explain the statistics. Doing so will make the information more accessible.
Design and accessibility influence rhetorical velocity. If a campaign piece isn’t accessible to the audience, it will be harder for those third parties to recompose the information. However, just because the campaign piece is designed well and accessible, it does not mean the piece is recomposable. Balancing design, accessibility, and rhetorical velocity is difficult. However, the campaign will be more impactful if this can be done successfully. Rhetorical velocity has a direct relationship with the delivery of the campaign pieces. Keeping in mind rhetorical velocity will help me ensure that the audience can engage with the pieces. DeVoss and Porter argue that rhetorical velocity is like “a strategic type of ‘plagiarism’”. When considering awareness, the farther reach the information from the pieces get to, the better. I think we have to ask ourselves if this is something that other people would want to copy. If the answer is yes, the next question is how easily can others understand and reuse the information? If the answer is no to the first question, then revisions are in order.

Designing for Recomposing

When considering what type problems my campaign team might encounter when distributing our work, I thought of times where I have consumed information from different fact sheets and websites as well as what I have done with that information. Fact sheets are unique because in general they designed to provide a high level overview of a topic to grasp a reader’s attention and maybe be passed around by a few people before ultimately getting tossed aside. Therefore, the question that Ridolfo and Devoss which stated “What segments of these texts may be useful, and to whom, and for what sorts of media production?” is most relevant for this issue. And in response to that question, I would say that it is vital to ensure that sources be listed for the facts so that if they were to be used in another piece by a third party, they could be validated.

Given how different forms of information are available in an instant today, as a writer it is important to at least consider how the information you produce could be used by others. In my opinion, this should be considered only if you have time and only if it will not interfere with your original goal. It comes down to prioritizing. Additionally, I think the concept of rhetorical velocity should really only be heavily considered in the revision process. This is the best place to tweak what you already have, which is trying to accomplish your primary goal. Since I am on the topic of revisions and I have recently received feedback on my first campaign piece and I am considering the changes I would make if I choose this piece as my revision piece. One thing I would change beyond what Dan has suggested is including website URLs so that the readers could easily go straight to where I got the information. Although I plan on including these on my website (which will be my second campaign piece), I feel that by doing this it adds some assurance to the quality of information. As a reader, I am hesitant to believe in the facts presented unless it comes directly from a highly trusted organization (their own research/fact gathering) or they state their source(s) explicitly and in an easily accessible place. Since I am not a major news network or scientific, I think it is imperative to state where I got my information. Furthermore, it may even be best to encourage readers of my work to visit the sources for themselves.

This passage helped me think though this concept of rhetorical velocity mainly because it is a topic I am relatively unfamiliar with so I think I gained a much better understanding simply by reading it and thinking through how these concepts applied to writing I am currently working on for this class. Also, I thought the example of how the Department of Defense referenced their own online article a mere three days later showed a concrete example of how quickly information can be referenced (especially for government entities).


Whether writing for print text or digital text, the goal is similar. You want to develop the writing to be accessible to the readers. It needs to be memorable to its readers, to get the point across. It needs to find an effective way to reach the intended audience.

In ‘good” design, you have to take into consideration how you plan to get the information across to its readers. How are you going to reach them? How are you going to make this piece of communication relevant and relate-able? These are important questions to ask whether you are communicating through print text or digital text.

One of the first decisions to make is what tone do you intend to use to convey the message. The word choice, font, images, even color contribute to this decision.

When considering your word choice, you have to think about who you are speaking to. You want to make the subject matter clear without talking down to your reader. The word choice needs to be engaging, and especially memorable. If not your efforts are a waste of time, because it didn’t achieve the goal set before you. Does the heading grab the readers attention and sum up the topic? Will it grab them enough to keep them reading?

Font plays a bigger role in tone than it is given credit for. A piece of text is easier on the eyes and easier to read if the type size is large enough and the font is clear and fitting to the subject. The layout and spacing determines if the audience will read on or give up. White space helps the eyes to move easily across the page.

The images you attach to your design can convey a message or topic as the reader scans the piece. The image can urge them to read on, to tell them what they are about to learn. An image can also set the mood and tone of the piece.

Color can be a tool that engages your audience without them knowing why. According to color psychology, every color represents a feeling or meaning. Black can represent power or elegance. However, it can even mean evil, death and fear. Blue is one of the most popular because it suggests peace. Red is for war and danger, passion and desire. One thing I never considered is the contradiction of the color pink. What it represents depends on the culture and context in which it is used. It has both positive and negative effects, depending on how it is represented. It could portray femininity, hope and optimism. On the other hand, its negative effect is weak, vulnerable and shallowness. As important as color is to the design, you also don’t want to go overboard and distract your reader.


Your choices in designing a readable and interactive piece takes a lot of thought and effort. These are just a few of the things to think about. How you design it, plays a part in the reader’s experience. It is your goal to make the information easily accessible to your intended audience. Does your design serve its purpose?


Both digital and print designs are tasked with the job to engage the viewer and to make them remember what they’ve just engaged with. To do so, Park approaches some dull texts and deciphers the redesigns of them. The commonalities seen between these, and digital designs we see daily on our computers are simple, but are not often thought of (until you are responsible for creating design). I think one of the most important, and most referred to in Park’s piece is typeface and the utilization of ‘white space’ to the designers’ benefit. Type face can change the tone and mood of a piece, solely by choosing a sans-serif font over a serif font. This consistency of a typeface can provide something for readers to remember as well. Slight variations of fonts can provide easier scanning of documents (here I thought of when I used to scan my middle school textbooks for the important bold and italicized words to do homework), but it is easy to overdo this when you also begin to mess with type size and other aspects of type. Type works with the white space by providing spacing and important breaks within the text, promoting the anti-clutter idea that Park spoke of throughout the piece. Breaking up large pieces of texts allows people to remember better as well, one of the main tasks of design. These commonalities hold true to accessible design as well. I think the stark differences between general design for the public and accessible design comes to the secondary media involved with the piece and the utilization of color.

I don’t often use media in my own designs, as I don’t think it is often necessary in contexts of my own work, but I understand how vital it can be in the digital world. I think it is absolutely possible to balance being accessible and incorporating good design in the process of designing a webpage or a digital flyer. Though it may require more time and effort, the increased accessibility creates an inclusive piece for those who may not be able to participate in all design. I think in order to do this, you’d start with the typefaces and white space previously mentioned, and then begin to include color and secondary media and the necessary text to accompany those media pieces (captions, alternative text, subtitled videos…). With color, though, you’d also want to work with the piece in its later stages in black and white to ensure the color patterns and tones within the piece are not too similar to the text or are blending in with other properties of the piece, making it difficult for those that may be colorblind to read and comprehend the piece.

In theory, the daunting task of making design accessible sounds like it would be impossible, or that the aspects of accessibility and “good design” would ‘clash’, but taking the design process step by step, starting with the commonalities between good design, general texts and accessible texts, it is definitely possible and should more often be thought of in the design process when it comes to audience. 

What is accessibility?

All three articles, Principles of Accessible Design, Basic Color Theory, and Redesign, address a central question – what does it mean for writing to be accessible? In Principles, the author indicates that accessibility is about making websites that typically require visual and aural interaction available to those who lack those abilities. In Basic Color Theory, the author relates that the brain will reject boring or chaotic color combinations, so in order for someone to look, one has to find a harmony. This author does not address accessibility in terms of disabilities, but in terms of how all people interact with color and what is accessible to people’s brains–disability or not. This is similar however to Principles, because many times in the article the author suggests that although these features help those with disabilities, they in fact benefit everyone. Redesign is about interaction of text and image styling and what makes an article or ad most accessible to read.

Thinking about it this way, its not really a balance between good design and accessibility; good design is accessibility. Both websites and print media deal with color, text, font, images, and whitespace. All interact to provide a message and deliver flow for the page. What looks good on one media might not on another – for instance, serif fonts are better for print, whereas san-serif fonts are easier to read online. But the ideas are the same: combine elements so that they help attract attention to your piece, construct the elements in a way so that they influence flow and emphasize message, make sure the elements don’t under or over-stimulate the brain, and in all possible ways make your work accessible to those with disability.

When we think of accommodations or accessibility, most often we think of disabilities. But people we attribute as “able” need accommodations as well. This is something we take for granted. People who have full vision capabilities still need spacing between words, sentences, and paragraphs to make sense of what they are reading. Sometimes color enhances understanding, but sometimes it can serve as a distraction. When discussing captions, the author of Principles makes an important note. Captions should be useful. It is so simple but it is also so necessary. For example, my campaign pieces are about poverty. If I were to use an image and captioned it, “boy in green shirt and jeans,” I would get a very different reaction than “young boy, homeless.” I give this example in an effort to stress that everything you write, show, or produce should have use. The easiest things to understand–the most accessible things–are the ones with the clearest purpose.

In essence, accessibility is making your work welcoming and easy to understand for anyone who might approach it. Accessibility, then, includes good design, which accounts for the reactions of the average human brain. We spoke earlier in the semester of rhetoric, and how it should be used ethically. Making one’s work accessible is in and of itself an ethical approach to rhetoric, making sure that the work is approachable for any and everyone who may want to (or need to) understand it.

Design and You

Websites began as a way of sharing basic textual information across distances and time, allowing a person to view things instantaneously. It was basic in its initial function. Nowadays, people would argue that there are things a website and digital outlets can do that print texts cannot. I would agree. However, that doesn’t mean the two can’t share design principles. Even though websites can be capable of extraordinary feats, they typically require text and color. Where there are text and color, there is always room for universal design choices.

Park asks a few questions of the reader which are pertinent in both digital and print creations. One was particularly interesting for comparative reasons: “If each page…was viewed as a separate unit, would it be apparent that all of them came from the same document?” Typically, when the word page is used it refers to a physical piece of paper. Despite this, a page has also come to define the digital space of a website. In website design, you want to create different pages which all connect back to a singular theme. One page shouldn’t have entirely different formatting or contain text which is irrelevant to the rest of the site. There needs to be a string of continuity and solidarity with the rest of the pages. A page in a medical journal might have blocks of information but it is appropriate given the context and audience of those in the field looking for a particular format. A medical website like WebMD might also have blocks of information but displayed in a way that its intended audience can read and inform themselves with.

One other consideration to make when designing a website these days is accessibility: are you relaying your information in an effective and efficient manner, one with which any reader (or your target audience) can connect? The NCDAE has helpful tips on accessibility for those with impaired abilities which isn’t any less generalizable to the population. They believe a designer’s goal should be to create websites that reach the greatest audience possible. To do so, readability and descriptive visuals can be extremely helpful. One seemingly innocuous suggestion is to utilize white spaces. It sounds trivial but can have big impacts on design. A website or document need not be cluttered for it to be “good”. Sometimes simple is better and white spaces can be great ways to guide attention or give the eye a break.

Color is just as important as accessibility and textual design, perhaps even more so. The human eye recognizes patterns and colors quickly and without great thought. Subconsciously, our minds generate opinions and judgments at a moment’s notice, a notice that can quickly turn a reader off from a creation. A design must take color into account. Whether color is implemented is an entirely different question. One website might decide it needs a striking color that quickly evokes an emotion (like red with hunger) while another website remains minimalist, deciding color isn’t necessary. Never mistake the absence of color as lack of good design. Sometimes color is intrusive and unnecessary.

The website dedicated to basic color theory states that “Extreme unity leads to under-stimulation, extreme complexity leads to over-stimulation. Harmony is a dynamic equilibrium.” From my experience, this is true in most design elements. This is most true when trying to balance accessibility and “good” design. While one does not preclude the other, compromises often need to be made between the two. You want to have just enough stimulation to keep someone interested. At the same time, readers don’t want to be affronted with blocks of text or a menagerie of colors. Despite this, discretion ultimately lies in the designer’s hands. Some pieces might require more accessibility while others still might want to confront an audience and shock them. Under and over-stimulation might be the goal; in that case, if your design choices are made with consideration to the objectives set forth, planned with intent and purpose, I’d consider it “good”.