Web Rhetorics for a Digital Age: The Medium AND the Message

By Jason Snart, College of Dupage


The following exercises are designed to get you thinking about the many different "writing situations" on the Web. You will also have the opportunity to write in these situations yourself.

• Situations   • Facebook Rhetorics   • Wiki, Twitter, Blog Rhetorics   • Choice   • Autobiography And Medium   • Interactivity   • Rhetoric Of "Community"   • Customizing   • Dynamic Content


Facebook, the Web site, originally started as a utility for students at Harvard University. In fact, the term “Facebook” has long referred to an actual printed book that included pictures of students and information about them. Printed “facebooks” were a convenient means of developing a sense of community for those included in the book. Facebook as a Web site was originally intended to do more or less the same thing. From being limited to just Harvard students, Facebook expanded to include students at other Ivy League schools and ultimately opened its digital doors to everybody. In fact, in the space of about five years the number of people using Facebook went from hundreds to thousands to millions.

We can also now find many examples of businesses that maintain a presence on social networking sites like Facebook.

Consider these two examples—one a “commercial” Facebook site and the other a “personal” Facebook site:



Describe some of the differences between these two Facebook sites.
Perhaps more interestingly, describe some of the similarities. Think especially in terms of the rhetorical style of each. In a personal Facebook page we might expect a fairly informal style. But would we expect the same for a commercial Facebook site?
What rhetorical styles do we actually find on a commercial Facebook page like the one maintained by W. W. Norton? And why isn’t the style a consistently formal, professional one?

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