Algorithms as Information Brokers: Visualizing Rhetorical Agency in Platform Activities


This article speculates on methods available to rhetoricians to identify and study rhetorical agency that emerges, as Laurie Gries put it, “from the entangled associations among various things, human and otherwise, that constitute everyday life” (Walsh et al. 438) during online search on digital platforms. It considers digital algorithms as rhetorical, and it identifies the rhetoric emerging around algorithmic activity as an aspect of what Tarleton Gillespie calls the politics of the platform. This article describes the influence of algorithms and users on one another in the research platform, represents this influence as rhetorical, and visualizes this shared rhetorical activity. Using the example of a student conducting online research in a library database as a heuristic, the article suggests methods for measuring and describing shared rhetorical agency.

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Copyright © 2018 Present Tense. This article first appeared in Present Tense 6:3 (2018).