Theory in a Digital Age: A Project of English 483 Students, Coastal Carolina University

The Written On Body in the Age of Electracy

 In the introductory video entitled "Rhetorical Bodies," we saw examples of how embodied rhetoric was used to point out or bring to awareness the normativites imposed on the body. We noticed that certain bodily forms and identities were socially accepted, whereas others were shunned. People used apparatuses of literacy, such as written text, to bring these social constructions to light. However, in the transition from literacy to electracy, we see new forms of embodied rhetoric that work to expose social constructions and boundaries, as the previous video demonstrated. However, the rhetoric of the “written on” body in digital spaces is enabled through the technologies and apparatuses of electracy, such as videography and photography. For example, the video showed an example of the Romanian photographer Mihaela Noroc project called The Atlas of Beauty in which Noroc  travels the world photographing women’s bodies and faces in various countries. Her goal in doing so is to celebrate physical and cultural diversity by broadcasting the vast and different faces of women from around the world. Noroc photographs the “written on” body by documenting the way that global norms reflect  on the ground of women’s bodies and on the stage of new media technologies. Another example from the video that reflects bodily rhetoric in a global context is the photography project documenting gender equality around the world as a way to bring the lack of gender equality in the U.S. to fruition and thus, exposing the way that the body is marginalized, categorized, and restricted based off of anatomical characteristics. Both the photography projects about gender equality and beauty demonstrate the global audience that the apparatuses of electracy allow for, more so than the technologies of literacy did. In the age of electracy, forms of rhetoric such as those shown in the examples are both about and reach people on a global scale. This element of electracy allows for more a broader audience to be exposed to view points and cultures other than their own. This act of examining a more global audience can work to expose the injustices and restrictions put on bodies in certain locations, perhaps by showing occupants of that space bodies in other spaces in the world that do not operate under that restriction, such as the photography project about gender equality worked to show the U.S. bodies of children that are not socialized in a culture in which gender is set up in a format of binaries. The movement from literacy to electracy  enables a new kind of rhetoric for the written on body by illuminating a global audience and exposing users of new media technologies to spaces and bodies that are, unlike their own: unrestricted.
    While electracy allows for embodied rhetoric to reach a more vast, global audience than literacy allowed, as the article depicting gender equality around the world does, it also creates an embodied rhetoric that works to expose normativities and their harmful consequences in a more public and political nature. This is evident in the pictures documenting the words of President Elect Donald Trump’s words on, near, or next to women’s bodies. This multimodal project shows Trump’s language toward women on as a way to realize the consequence of a very public rhetoric. This politicized, biased project aims to use women’s bodies as a way to expose the effect that Trump’s rhetoric could have on gendered relations among the population that he governs. My effort in including this example is not to make a partisan or politically opinionated claim of my own, but rather, my goal is to use this example to demonstrate the way that the shift to electracy has brought with it a more public, political rhetoric that is often expressed, performed, and/or practiced by and with the body.
    Pieces of Herself  is another example of the rhetoric of the “written on” body in a digital space. In this work of E-Literature, users can drag and drop colored objects that can be placed on the black and white shape of a female body on the left side of their screen. Once a user does so, they will hear various audio files that “range from music to a biblical pronouncement about the ‘proper’ socio-cultural function of women.” The goal of this interactive piece by Juliet Davis is to “use the motif of the dress-up doll to explore issues of gender identity in the context of home, work, and community.” This piece exposes the ideologies and expectations imposed on the body of the one who identifies as female in various private and public context through the platform of interactive E-Literature. Through the apparatus of electracy, this piece challenges the traditional idea of the novel by incorporating a non-linear, multilayered, and interactive reading experience to establish a new embodied rhetoric that brings the fragmented, marginalized experience that the body of a woman is subject to under current societal expectations. 

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