Communication and Culture | Senior Seminar in Communication and Culture: Rhetoric and Democracy in the Electronic Rpublic
C401 | 14938 | Robert Ivie

Topic:  Rhetoric and Democracy in the Electronic Republic
Class Number: 14938
MW 2:30 PM-3:45 PM

A portion of this course reserved for majors.

Professor:  Robert Ivie
Office: Mottier Hall 203
Phone: 5-5467

This course is about communication and the challenge of democratic
citizenship in the contemporary world of electronic media.

Democracy is a rhetorical practice of collective self-rule and,
accordingly, an object of both apprehension and attraction in
American political culture.  In Walt Whitman’s approving
words, “America and Democracy” are “convertible terms,” but a
skeptical Alexander Hamilton had previously warned that democracy is
America’s “real disease.”  Indeed, “Democracy has failed,” according
to W. E. B. Du Bois, “because so many fear it.”  Yet, as
presidential candidate Al Smith remarked, “The only cure for the
evils of democracy is more democracy.”

Indeed, Lawrence Grossman argues, “America is turning into an
electronic republic, a democratic system that is vastly increasing
the people’s day-to-day influence on the decisions of state.  New
elements of direct democracy are being grafted on to our traditional
representative form of government.”  This means, for example, that
rhetorical democracy, as the discursive practice of civic engagement
and collective self-rule, must be understood from what Bruce
Gronbeck calls a “cyberpolitical perspective.”  The role of various
rhetorical strategies and multiple media of democratic expression
will be considered, with attention given especially to how the media
system works in the United States under a regime of corporate
control that undermines citizen participation and healthy democratic

Accordingly, readings, lectures, and class discussion will consider
the meaning of democracy, the character of democratic communication,
and the role of the democratic citizen and nation in a global
information age marked by diversity and conflict yet interconnected
by transnational networks of commerce and communication.  We will
pay particular attention to what it means to enact democratic
citizenship in an era of electronic media, globalization, and empire
confounded by a rhetoric of freedom and democracy.

The course is designed to emphasize class discussion, based on
lecture materials and assigned readings, as well as active
engagement in the democratic process through student-designed term
projects and reports.   While the specific books have yet to be
chosen for the course, students should expect to read about three
assigned books in the course of the semester plus the research they
undertake for their individual term projects.  Students will write
three short response/review papers of the three assigned books (in
lieu of examinations), will make an oral presentation based on their
term project, and will write a term paper of approximately 2,000
words.  Regular class attendance is expected.

Books being considered for adoption include, for example, Henry
Jenkins and David Thornburn, ed., Democracy and New Media (2003);
Ben H. Bagdikian, The New Media Monopoly, rev. ed. (2004); Wim van
de Donk, et al, eds. Cyberprotest: New Media, Citizens, and Social
Movements (2004); Martha McCaughey and Michael D. Ayers,
Cyberactivism:  Online Activism in Theory and Practice (2003).