Cultural Rhetorics and the Digital Humanities: Toward Cultural Reflexivity in Digital Making

Published in Rhetoric and the Digital Humanities, edited by Jim Ridolfo and William Hart-Davidson, University of Chicago Press

In this chapter, I introduce a culturally-reflexive heuristic for multimodal analysis, production, and organization of bodies in digital texts. This heuristic comes from the findings of a study of the discourse on East Asian double eyelid surgery on YouTube. By paying attention to the discourse on double eyelid surgery through YouTube’s multiple modalities–including not only videos and their visual, aural, and textual elements, but also the site interface via viewer comments, titles, tags, likes, and dislikes–through a cultural rhetorics framework, I extrapolate five tropes through which people rationalize the decision to get–or not get–double eyelid surgery: racialization, emotionologization, pragmatization, the split between nature and technology, and agency. Using these tropes, I show how the discourse on double eyelid surgery can help us move toward greater cultural reflexivity in the kinds of digital making that take place across rhetoric and the digital humanities.