NKRF9: Rhetoric in Digital and Technological Transition

Complex, multimodal forms of communication characterize our time. Digital and technological developments place new demands on rhetoric in all its fields - from teaching to research and on to practical advice. Privately owned platforms, algorithms, and AI are clearly shaping the communication practices and agency of our time, just as the printing press, radio, television and the Internet have done and continue to do. At the same time, rhetoric has a strong analog side, where places, bodies, and materials remain central to communicative action.

With the theme “Rhetoric in digital and technological transition,” we want to foster? support collegial discussions about the opportunities and challenges that rhetorical practice, theory, methodology, pedagogy, and criticism are facing. What multimodal phenomena and conditions should we as a field of study address, and what new research questions does this raise? What are the theoretical and methodological limitations of classical rhetoric in the encounter with the digital – and what are the untapped potentials? How can the rhetorical tradition and contemporary rhetorical research contribute to understanding how the digital and analogue appear in ever-changing mixtures and forms? How can or should rhetoric as a theoretical and critical discipline develop - and in collaboration with other sciences and social institutions? What opportunities does rhetoric have for transdisciplinary collaborations, e.g. with digital humanities?

To frame these topics, we have three keynote speakers who have each placed themselves at the forefront of rhetorical research on topics related to rhetoric and digitality:


Sine N. Just, Professor at the Department of Communication and Humanities, Roskilde University, Denmark

Controversial Encounters: How Digital Technologies Are Stifling Public Debate and What to Do about It

Digital technologies are transforming how we encounter issues of public concern and engage in public debate. On the one hand, data-based personalization means we are increasingly exposed to content that we already like. On the other hand, algorithmic infrastructures intensify and polarize message circulation, favoring clashes between opposed opinions rather than nuanced engagement. In combination, these two tendencies support automated processes of public and private meaning formation in which people are constantly guided by covert persuasion whilst becoming increasingly unaccustomed to overt persuasive attempts. This keynote diagnoses the present situation as ‘the closing of the rhetorical mind’ and suggests that a return to the classical notion of controversia (arguing all sides of a case) may provide a starting point for ‘making disagreement good again’. This is not a call to abandon digital technologies, but an attempt to show how individuals and collectives can use algorithms and data to (re)ignite public debate as a source of societal trust and institutional legitimacy.

Damien Pfister, associate professor, Dept. of Classics, University of Maryland, USA

Rethinking Digitality, Refashioning Ethos: Technics, Ecology, and Rhetoric after Ubiquitous Computation

Rhetoric is in a time of digital and technological transition, spurring scholarly responses that highlight technicity and ecology. Ubiquitous digital technologies are encouraging rhetoricians to address the technicity of rhetoric in increasingly dramatic ways: we cannot escape the mediating roles of platforms, algorithms, artificial intelligence, wearables, and the "internet of things," all programmed to communicate in ever-more complex ways. Digital networks have also quickened the interest around ecological models of rhetoric that highlight the co-constitutive relations humans have with the non-human entities that surround us. Our interfacing with digital objects is not just situated, but situated within larger rhetorical ecologies that are connected by a richer array of computational-rhetorical agents than ever before. Synthesizing the turn to technics and to ecology, I theorize digitality as a "technics ecology" that invites a revision and expansion of rhetorical theory. In this keynote, I offer new theoretical and critical concepts that reconceptualize and expand our understanding of ethos in the context of the digital technics ecology produced by ubiquitous computation. If ethos developed in the ancient world as part of rhetoric's arts for living well with others, this talk considers the conceptual resources needed to live well with others now that digital technics thoroughly mediate and condition experience.

Johanna Hartelius, associate professor, Dept. of Communication Studies, Moody College of Communication, University of Texas at Austin, USA

Learning in Transition: Ethos and Text to Image AI Technologies

Algorithmic thought and artificial intelligence, which have long fascinated tech-enthusiasts and scholars became the center of public attention in late 2022. Media commentaries were abuzz – If ChatGPT writes better than a writer, what will this mean for journalism, education, etc.? If digital art is accessible and infinitely generative, what defines “an artist”? From a rhetorical perspective, questions of legitimacy, accountability, and trust reference the concept of ethos, the emplaced habituation of individual character as one dwells with others. The keynote explores how nonexpert discourses surrounding Midjourney, a visually spectacular text to image tool, interpret and constitute the tool’s “learning” process. Specifically, it assesses how lay-understandings of space and expertise organize the technology’s learning in relation to its users. To assess implications for ethos in the contextual transitions of AI, it connects both the “I” of AI and the “learning” in machine learning to the activity of dwelling as traditionally theorized.


Individual paper

25 minutes are allocated. per presentation, of which 10 are reserved for questions and discussion. A presentation should therefore not last more than 15 minutes. The description must include:

  • Title
  • Abstract (max. 300 words excluding references)
  • 3-5 keywords
  • Contact information: Name, place of employment and email address

Panel session

90 min is allocated. per panel, of which 30 are reserved for questions and discussion. The description must include:

  • Title
  • Abstract (200 words about the overall theme and max. 300 words excluding references per paper)
  • 3-5 keywords
  • Contact information: Names of the chair, presenters (max 3) and possibly respondent, places of employment and e-mail addresses for all participants in the panel

Round table

90 min is allocated. per panel, of which 30 are reserved for questions and discussion. The description must include:

  • Title
  • Abstract (300 words about the overall theme and a maximum of 100 words for the individual contributions)
  • 3-5 keywords
  • Contact information: Names of participants, places of employment and email addresses for all participants in the panel

Poster or multimedia presentation

E.g. internet projects, documentaries, or other types of mediating formats)

  • Title
  • Abstract
  • 3-5 keywords
  • Contact information: Name, place of employment and e-mail address



Important dates and registration

Notification of acceptance: 1 April, 2024
Conference registration and payment: From 8 June to 15 August 2024.

Register for the conference.

PhD course

A PhD course on the topic of rhetoric and digitality is planned for 7-9 October. More information on this will follow.

Nordic Rhetoric Association

The annual meeting of the Nordic Rhetoric Association will be held at the conference. Feel free to
join the association via the Nordic Rhetoric Assosiation website.

Practical information

On the evening of 11 October 2024, the Culture Night in Copenhagen is being held. Perhaps you would like to participate when the conference is over? Read more about Culture Night.

You can also read more about public transport and different ticket types. With a City Pass Small, you can travel freely by bus, train and metro in zones 1-4. You choose whether it should apply for 24, 48, 72, 96 or 120 hours.