As discussed in Ridolfo and DeVoss’s webtext “Composing for Recomposition: Rhetorical Velocity and Delivery”, one major consideration, and often problem, to be had when creating pieces for public consumption is maneuvering “a digital age characterized, for instance, by swift, easy, and deep web searching and by copying and pasting practices.”
In terms of our campaign, the vast majority of our campaign pieces are being created, published, and accessed online. All of this text can be copied and pasted with little effort, which means that this aspect of recomposition discussed in the webtext is highly relevant.
Particularly on Facebook, one of the common conventions of the genre of sharing a post on the platform is adding text above the shared link featuring a person’s opinion or perspective on the text or topic. These insights might include calls to action (“Why does no one talk about this? Spread this like wildfire”), complaints and critiques of a piece (“This writer’s examples are trash but this is still important”), a fitting anecdote or personalization to complement the original text (“Sarah, remember we were literally just talking about this yesterday?”), or some other kind of addition (#metoo). It is also very common to include a quotation from the original text as a way to highlight a particularly strong piece of the text, to give possible readers a sample so they can get a feel for whether they would like to read more, or to distill the point of the text into one easily digested chunk so that even those who do not read the whole text can take understand the general message of the text before moving on.
This kind of recombination has an unpredictable rhetorical velocity because it puts the power of recombination directly and autonomously in the hands of the reader. People generally choose to share texts, themselves, inserting their opinions into (not juxtaposing them with) the original text, and doing it of their own volition. This means that the timing of the spread of the pieces cannot be planned beyond their initial release.
This is true to a certain extent with any sort of public writing, but dormantly, in the way that someone may find a flyer on the ground for an event after it’s passed. In a situation like that, it would not be natural to make copies of the flyer and post them around. However, on social media, an old post can be jettisoned into relevance again with one well-placed shared post.
Sharing a post publicly moves the piece of writing into continually new social spheres, and an old article or other piece of writing online can be shared again long after its first publishing and regain new life as its velocity increases, having been pushed forward by a Facebook post or Tweet.
Articles and blogs often reference each other (much like this blog post is itself doing right now), weaving a large tapestry of opinions pieces and posts and arguments. From there, entire websites are dedicated to writing “articles” that are really just curated lists of quotes from other sources and screenshots of posts from Twitter and Facebook, attempting to present how what they usually refer to as “the internet” feels about a certain topic. These articles are then themselves shared online, taking its contents several iterations from its original context.
This removal from a specific context does not necessarily result in the obscuring, simplifying, or erasing of a text’s meaning, however. Campaign pieces can be optimized to prepare for this kind of recombination. If a writer plans for this possible eventuality, and writes in a way such that every sentence’s telos works on several levels – both toward the higher meaning of the final argument and independently as a meaningful statement on its own – then recombination can be a powerful, if unwieldy, tool for reaching a wide audience.