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Murphy 1

Jenna Murphy

Dr. Kevin Brooks

ENGL 275: Summary #1



Hogan, Mary Ann. In the Digital Age, Its a Rhetorical Tetrahedron: Where Composition
Theory Meets Media Literacy. Journal of Digital and Media Literacy, vol. 5 no. 1, 1
June 2015, http://www.jodml.org/2015/06/01/in-the-digital-age-its-a-rhetorical-


Citing J. Elizabeth Clarks proposal that composition instructors reorient first year coursework
from traditional essay literacy to digital literacy goals, Mary Ann Hogan argues that the
rhetorical tetrahedron can more effectively convey communications theory for the digital age
of composition courses. Hogan foregrounds her analysis by outlining the traditional rhetorical
triangle with roots in the rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos as defined by Aristotle,
and modified by James L. Kinneavy as speaker, message, audience (and purpose). Referencing
Marshall McLuhans insight into the dynamic and reciprocally creative relationship between
medium and message over 50 years ago, Hogan argues that the widespread changes caused by
the digital age require that medium, or mesos, be added to the rhetorical model. In a revised
model, also influenced by R. Buckminster Fullers view of the elements of the rhetorical triangle
in a synergistic relationship, Hogan suggests that the rhetorical tetrahedronrather than the
rhetorical triangleexemplifies the multimodal nature of composition in the digital age due to
the way in which the nodes of the tetrahedrons connect to other tetrahedrons. A message hits a
community, which creates new messages, which create new structures of communication.
Conglomerations of rhetorical tetrahedrons may result in tetra-built forms, according to
Hogan, with other models incorporating elements, such as kairos, or time, in addition to
design, genre, and medium. Hogan cites Florida, Arizona, and Michigan State University as
locations where instructors are implementing coursework that reflects the structures of the
rhetorical tetrahedron for digital literacy and provides several of her own examples of such
coursework, including pop quizzes aided by the help of the internet and fellow students,
presentations that incorporate visual representations of information, and projects that use social
media. Hogan concludes by reiterating the relevancy and value of the rhetorical tetrahedron as a
visual representation for fostering literacy in the digital age.
Murphy 2

I found Hogans argument for the abandonment of the rhetorical triangle and the adoption of a
new model to be particularly insightful and substantiated. Her references to numerous figures
who bear upon the field of composition studies extended credibility and aided the development
of her argument for a new conceptual model. At the same time, I often found myself absorbed
and distracted by the nuances involved in these figures theories and desirous for Hogan to
subsume these theories more fully into a conceptual model of her own vision. At various points, I
found that her writing reflected a conglomeration of ideas (much like the tetra-built forms she
speaks of) in contrast to a cohesive and well-developed proposal for the new rhetorical model.