Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

Joseph M. Moxley

Keywords

collaboration, computer-mediated-communication, ethos, kairos, technological determinism

Abstract

Abstract

This dissertation examines how online Christian communities reconcile the democratizing, anti-hegemonic effects of dialogic web tools, such as wikis, blogs, and video-sharing sites with the authoritarian characteristics of some organized religions. In the first chapter, I discuss technodeterminism and what I call the theme of "revolutionary architectures" in digital humanities scholarship. This theme occurs in narratives that assume that a new interface, Internet tool, or type of coding will redefine the rhetorical relationship between writers, readers, and site administrators, usually in a benevolent way. I argue that scholars within the field of Computers and Composition use narratives of architectural revolution to inscribe communication technologies with certain inherent values even as they claim that these tools require responsible use from an informed, reflective citizenry. The theme of revolutionary architecture reveals the desire within the field of Computers & Composition to view technology as both a space for ideological conflict and a redemptive tool to cure social ills.

In the second chapter I analyze how narratives about the democratizing and collaborative potential of wikis collide with the needs and practices of three Christian wikis. The three wikis--Theopedia, OrthodoxWiki, WikiChristian--are opinionated encyclopedias intended to simultaneously inform and persuade their viewers of each website's respective version of the Christian faith. Opinionated wiki writing complicates assumptions about what should be argued and who should be able to author thesiss. To respond to these complications, the Christian wikis emphasize two different types of ethotic appeals, what I coin "genesis-ethos" and "composed-ethos." Genesis-ethos refers to the rhetor's character outside of the text, whereas composed ethos refers to the textual representation of the rhetor's credibility. I argue that Christian wikis must rely on a combination of genesis and composed-ethos in order to manage a point-of-view argumentative wiki.

In the third chapter, I examine how dialogic web technologies have provided the Emergent Church with an opportunity to create an updated gospel narrative. I define and analyze this narrative with a kairotic lens, especially as defined by German theologian Paul Tillich. The leaders of the Emergent Church movement draw upon the ideas, language, and metaphors of post-Web 2.0 technologies to explain how Christianity can thrive in a 21st century world. Several Emergent Church writers recognize that traditional organized religion has become increasingly irrelevant in a culture that prioritizes decentralized decision making, networked organization, and the opinions of the laity alongside more authoritative voices (i.e. clergy, pastors, and church leaders). They view blogging tools, open source technology, and social networks as a way to convey Christianity to a frustrated audience of Christians and non-believers.

In the fourth chapter, I speculate on the collaborative possibilities of video-sharing sites, such as YouTube. Even though technologists and compositionists have reinforced a narrative of YouTube as a revolutionary collaborative tool, the website fails to foster intimacy between users. This lack of intimacy stultifies the potential for collaboration between video authors and viewers; in turn, the efforts of writing instructors to use YouTube have not yet taken full advantage of the site's possibilities. One alternative Christian video-sharing site, GodTube, has the potential to engage video authors and viewers in meaningful dialogue and a more intimate online atmosphere. Martin Buber's I-You and I-It relationships are used as a lens to describe the difference between the two video-sharing sites.

In the final chapter, I discuss how my research into online Christian rhetoric can be used in writing-intensive classes, especially composition courses. My argument about genesis-ethos applies to previous scholarship on wikis and procedural rhetoric; I speculate on how writing teachers can teach with wikis in new ways. Finally, the rhetoric of the Emergent Church offers an example for how scholars within the field Computers & Composition can articulate their values to students, faculty, and administrators outside of the field of English Studies. In the conclusion, I argue that the counterintuitive uses of these dialogic web tools opens up new imaginative opportunities for their use in the writing classroom.

Share

COinS