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Dec. 14, 2014: Published here is a rough, partial draft.

Forthcoming. [1]

In this paper I will argue that we can understand digital curation as rhetorical in nature, that is, we can view digital curation as a set of theories and practices developed to help us think about digital artifacts in terms of their use and reuse, in how they exist within larger (digital) ecologies, and in how we can imbue them with meaning for both ourselves and others. In making this argument I am not suggesting that digital curation is a part of rhetoric; rather, I am arguing that digital curation is an architectonic productive art, that is an art of "knowing, doing, and making" (McKeon 127) that "produces subject-matters and organizes them in relation to each other and to the problems at hand" (McKeon 130), which makes it inherently rhetorical. [2] To make the case that digital curation, as an architectonic productive art, is inherently rhetorical, I first define digital curation and rhetoric. I then define architectonic productive art and explain how both rhetoric and digital curation are define architectonic productive arts. Finally, drawing from Richard McKeon's positioning of rhetoric as the universal or meta-architectonic productive art, I use the issue of access to demonstrate how digital curation is inherently rhetorical in nature. In making this argument, my goal is to bring digital curation and (digital) rhetoric into closer conversation with each other, and to highlight how rhetoric can help digital curators think through the processes and issues inherent in good stewardship of digital data, and how digital curation can help digital rhetoricians and digital humanists think through a number of issues and concerns inherent to working within digital environments.

The Digital Curation Centre (DCC) in the United Kingdom offers a straight-forward, bare-bones definition of digital curation as the "maintaining, preserving and adding value to digital research data throughout its lifecycle." [3]  Crucial to understanding this definition is that it situates digital curation as not limited to issues of archiving and preservation but also interested in "adding value" to digital objects, and that these three concerns extend over the entire existence of a digital object's life, from its creation to its destruction. As Brian Lavoie and Lorcan Dempsey suggest in "13 Ways of Looking at...Digital Preservation," the field of digital curation grew out of the need for the broader issue of "digital stewardship," and the need to think of such issues as digital preservation not in isolation from one another but as components "of a broad aggregation of interconnected services, practices, and stakeholders which together constitute a digital environment." The Digital Curation Curriculum (DigCCurr ) Project at the University of North Carolina identifies a some of the challenges that led to this need for stewardship rather than simple archiving and preservation:
Our cultural heritage, modern scientific knowledge, and everyday commerce and government depend upon the preservation of reliable and authentic electronic records and digital objects. While digital data holds the promise of ubiquitous access, the inherent fragility and evanescence of media and files, the rapid obsolescence of software and hardware, the need for well-constructed file systems and metadata, and the intricacies of intellectual property rights place all of these materials at risk and offer little hope of longevity for information that is not intentionally preserved. A decade of work in digital preservation and access has resulted in an emerging and complex life-cycle constellation of strategies, technological approaches, and activities now termed "digital curation" [...]. (DigCCurr)

While the Digital Curation Centre offers a good, minimalist definition of digital curation, the phrase "digital research data" can be interpreted as limited in scope, especially in light of the DigCCurr's inclusion of "cultural heritage" and "everyday commerce and government" alongside "modern scientific knowledge." For this reason, while I would suggest that the DCC's use of "research data" here is intended to be interpreted as broadly as possible. Seeing as how the DCC's use of "research data" can be interpreted narrowly, I prefer Harvey Ross's definition of digital curation because it is clear in its understanding of digital curation as a broad-based practice applied to all sorts of digital objects for any number of reasons. In Digital Curation: A How-to-do-it Manual, he explains that digital curation:

[...] is concerned with actively managing data for as long as it continues to be of scholarly, scientific, research, administrative, and/or personal interest, with the aims of supporting reproducibility, reuse of, and adding value to that data, managing it from its point of creation until it is determined not to be useful, and ensuring its long term accessibility, preservation, authenticity, and integrity. (8).

While we also see in Ross's definition the issues of archiving, preserving, and adding value to digital objects throughout their entire lifecycle, it differs from the definition by the DCC is a few important ways. First, it is much broader in scope: Ross makes it clear that digital curation includes all digital data that is of interest regardless of why it is of interest. [4] Second, he identifies two additional aims beyond the functions of archiving, preservation, and adding value: that of supporting reproducibility and reuse of the digital objects. To give us a glimpse of the wide range of issues involved in digital curtaion, Ross offers the following summary of the processes digital curation entails and the issues it addresses:

Digital curation begins before digital objects are created by setting standards for planning data collection that results in 'curation-ready' digital objects that are in the best possible condition to ensure they can be maintained and used in the future. Digital curation emphasizes adding value to data sets and digital objects, through things such as additional metadata or annotations, so that they can be reused. Digital curation involves a wide range of stakeholders cutting across disciplinary boundaries: as well as cultural heritage organizations such as libraries, archives, and museums, it also involves funding agencies, government bodies, national data centers, institutional repositories, and learned societies. (In fact, digital curation is the concern of all who create and use data.) Digital curation is also concerned with risk management: it 'is about converting uncertainties into measurable and manageable risks" (DRAMBORA, 2007). It is also about good data management practices. (7-8)

In this context, it is easy to see why Ross argues that digital curation is no longer just the prevue of librarians and archivists but, instead, has become central to everyone who works in digital environments (3).

Drawing upon both Ross's definition of digital curation and his summary of the processes and issues digital curation involves, we can identify four general stages in the digital curation process: acquisition, representation, access, and preservation. Acquisition involves issues surrounding when and how an object or set of objects are acquired, including legal issues involved and decisions as to whether or not to accept the object. Representation involves issues of documentation and metadata that are attached or added to the object. Access involves issues of storing and maintaining digital objects so that they can be found and used, and in placing digital objects within a specific collection or exhibit. Preservation involves issues related to preserving digital objects and the ability to access them in light of issues such as technological obsolesce and stability of storage media.

The process of adding value to objects, physical or digital, is central to the practice of curation and is one of the key factors that distinguishes acts of curation from acts of collection and aggregation (Wolff). In his lecture "Where is Curating Today" Justin Wolff suggests that there are three ways in which curators add value to objects: adding metadata to the object, providing an interpretation of the object, and contextualizing the object by placing it alongside other curated objects. While these acts of adding value are most readily understood within the context of a professional curator or archivist working with objects within a museum or archive's collection, most of us engage in curatorial acts as part of our professional and personal lives.

In the broadest sense, a sense argued by the University of Maine Digital Curation faculty members Richard Hollinger, John Ippolito, and Justin Wolff in the "Digital Curation Roundtable 1 of 5: What is Digital Curation?" video, acts of digital curation can be as simple as deleting unwanted emails or adding items to Pinterest (UMaineDigCuration). By deleting unwanted emails, they explain, we add value to the emails we keep by improving our access to those emails we believe important. In a similar fashion, when we add items to Pinterest those items are placed within the larger context of a Pinterest collection, the meaning of which derives from the grouping together disperate items (UMaineDigCuration). [5]

Despite its 2,500-year history and its place of privilege in the Trivium as one of Seven Liberal Arts, rhetoric is often thought of as something negative: as empty speech or pretty or flowery language used to deceive. Immanuel Kant himself wrote that rhetoric is the art "of deceiving by a beautiful show (ars oratoria)" (171) and Ezra Pound defined it as "the art of dressing up some unimportant matter so as to fool the audience for the time being" (83). Even for those who do not immediately equate rhetoric with something negative, it is generally associated with persuasive speech, and, arguably, its most familiar definition is that by Aristotle, who defined rhetoric as "an ability, in each [particular] case, to see the available means of persuasion" (Aristotle 36). As George Kennedy stresses in his edition of Aristotle's On Rhetoric, rhetoric is not the act of persuasion itself but "the art of 'seeing' how persuasion may be effected" (36, n. 34). Aristotle regarded rhetoric as a art, and, as Kennedy explains, he defines all arts "as a reasoned capacity to make something and says that it is concerned with the coming-into-being of something that is capable of either being or not being. [6] Art is thus for him not the product of artistic skill, but the skill itself" (36 n. 34).

While Aristotle's definition of rhetoric, which associates it directly with persuasion, might be the most well known definition, it is not the only definition of rhetoric. [7] Nor is rhetoric always associated so directly with persuasion, especially since the Twentieth Century. Kenneth Burke, for instance, equates rhetoric with identification, with the attempt to overcome division between people (19-23): "If men were not apart from one another," he writes, "there would be no need for the rhetorician to proclaim their unity" (22). I.A. Richards has defined rhetoric as "the study of miscommunication and its remedies" (3). Sonja K. Foss, Karen A. Foss, and Robert Trapp suggest that rhetoric "is the human use of symbols to communicate" (1) and note that "humans construct the world in which they live through their symbolic choices" (2). Erika Lindemann has defined rhetoric as "a form of reasoning about probabilities, based on assumptions people share as members of a community" (42). And in "Design as Rhetoric," Gesche Joost and Arne Scheuermann note that one of rhetoric's intrinsic characteristics is its intentionality and argue that its focus on effective production closely ties rhetoric and design together: "Production of effectiveness is the central driving force behind rhetorical communication, and thus follows that every decision regarding production is made taking account its impact on the public" (5).

Ian Bogost argues that one important implication for these expanded notions of rhetoric made by Burke and others, which occurred during a time of "increasingly inescapable presence of non-oral, nonverbal media," is that they opened the way to apply rhetoric to "multiple forms of cultural expression" (21). This in turn, he argues, opened the way to new forms of rhetoric such as visual rhetoric and digital rhetoric (21-28). I would also note that we saw at this time an increased interaction between rhetoric and other disciplines such as design. [8] It is also worth noting, however, that rhetoric has since antiquity been applied to non-verbal and cross-disciplinary production such as architecture, painting, and music. 

An important take away here is that rhetoric has never been static but has, instead, has always been rooted in its time and culture; nor has it only been applied to oral discourse. Whereas rhetoric was in ancient Athens an art of oration, it was by the time of Cicero refashioned into an ars disserendi, an art of correctly discussing or analyzing something, and it was refashioned again during the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance, and so on. Likewise, rhetoric's importance and its application to other forms and disciplines has waxed and waned over time. Regardless of when and where and how rhetoric has been practiced, effective production that makes meaning has been its key concern, whether that production is a speech, a letter, a website, or a building, a painting, a graphical interface, or a cell phone. While it would be correct to say that rhetoric, especially today, is concerned with far more than persuasion, we are also not all that far from Aristotle's definition of rhetoric when we remember another of Burke's characterizations of rhetoric: "Wherever there is persuasion, there is rhetoric. And wherever there is 'meaning' there is 'persuasion" (172). 

1. Originally written as the final project for DIG 500: Introduction to Digital Curation, taught by Richard Hollinger and John Ippolito as part of the University of Maine's Digital Curation Graduate Certificate Program

2. The use of "art" here and throughout this paper harkens back to the Greek tekhne and the Latin ars rather than to the more modern notion of the fine or performing arts. In Nicomachean Ethics 6.4, Arisotle defines tekhne as "a reasoned habit of mind in making [poiesis]," which he differentiates from "a reasoned habit of mind in doing [praxis]" (Aristotle 289). In this section of the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle identifies architecture as a tekhne (289), and he identifies rhetoric as a tekhne in his Rhetoric (29). In the Nicomachean Ethics, after defining tekhne and identifying architecture as an example, Aristotle then explains that an art [tekhne] only deals with things made: 

All art is concerned with coming into being and continuing and seeing how something may come to be among things that are capable of being and not being and of which the first principle [arkhe is in the maker but not in what is made; for there is no art of things that exist by nature; for these things have their first principles in themselves. (289)

In "The Uses of Rhetoric in a Technological Age: Architectonic Productive Arts," Richard McKeon explains that architectonic comes from the Greek architectum (architectonic artist or master craftsman) which Aristotle made into a technical term in his schema for the sciences, one of which is the poetic [poiesis] science (127). In doing so, Aristotle brings together making and doing, what McKeon identifies as architectonic productive arts, with rhetoric as the architectonic productive art of architectonic productive arts. I discuss both terms -- architectonic productive arts and rhetoric -- in more detail below.

3. For a summary of the digital curation lifecycle, see the Digital Curation Centre's "DCC Curation Lifecycle Model."

4. Earlier in his book, Ross defines digital data as "any information in binary form" and includes both simple and complex "digital objects and databases" (3). A simple digital object, he explains, are discrete individual items "such as textual files, images or sounds, along with their related identifiers and metadata" (3). A complex digital object is one that is "made by combining a number of other digital objects, such as Web sites" (3).

5. For a discussion of how placing disparate items within a collection adds value, see Rahel Aima's discussion of James Bridle's The New Aesthetic tumblr in "Desiring Machines." By brining together a seemingly random collection of videos, images, and quotes -- what Aima describes, in part, as "Drones mapping, mirror worlds, machine vision, surveillance infrastructure...render ghosts nostalgia for the glitch, 8-bit reveries, #botiliciousness..." -- Bridle was defining a new artistic sensibility. In other words, Bridle was adding value to all of these digital objects by presenting them as parts of a whole.

6. See Note 2 above.

7. Aristotle's On Rhetoric represents one of the earliest forms the technical or handbook tradition of rhetoric, one of three major forms of rhetoric identified by George Kennedy in Classical Rhetoric and Its Christian and Secular Tradition: From Ancient to Modern Times. The other two are the sophistic rhetoric and philosophic rhetoric (13-15). As Kennedy explains, each of the three forms of rhetoric emphasizes a different element of the three-part rhetorical situation, the speaker, the speech, and the audience (14).

8. Joost and Scheuermann date the first intersections between rhetoric and design to 1961 with Gui Bonsiepe's "Persuasive Communication: Towards a Visual Rhetoric" and has since been applied to visual design but graphic, audio-visual, information, and even industrial design (4).

Aima, Rahel. "Desiring Machines." The New Inquiry 4 (May 2012). 29 May 2012. Web. 9 Sept. 2014.

Aristotle, and George Alexander Kennedy. On Rhetoric: A Theory of Civic Discourse. New York: Oxford UP, 1991.

Bazerman, Charles. Shaping Written Knowledge: Genre and Activity of the Experimental Article in Science. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1988.

Bogost, Ian. Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Video Games. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2007.

Bonsiepe, Gui. "Persuasive Communication: Towards a Visual Rhetoric." uppercase 5 (1961): 19-34.

Buchanan, Richard. "Design and the New Rhetoric: Productive Arts in the Philosophy of Culture." Philosophy and Rhetoric 34.3 (2001): 183-206.

Burke, Kenneth. A Rhetoric of Motives. 1950. Berkeley: U of California P, 1969.

DigCCur. "About DigCCurr I." DigCCurr Carolina Digital Curation Curriculum Project. University of North Carolina. n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2014.

Digital Curation Centre. "DCC Charter and Statement of Principles." Digital Curation Centre. n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2014.

---. "DCC Curation Lifecycle Model." Digital Curation Centre. n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2014.

DRAMBORA. Digital Repository Audit Method Based on Risk Assessment. Edinburgh: DRAMBORA, 2007. 

Foss, Sonja K., Karen A. Foss, and Robert Trapp. Contemporary Perspectives on Rhetoric. 3rd ed. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 2002.

Joost, Gesche, and Arne Scheuermann. "Design as Rhetoric: Basic Principles for Design Research." Symposium of Swiss Design Network. 2007. Paper. PDF file.

Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Judgment. Trans. J. H. Bernard. New York: Hafner Press, 1951.

Kennedy, George A. Classical Rhetoric and Its Christian and Secular Tradition: From Ancient to Modern Times. 2nd ed. Chapel Hill: The U of North Carolina P, 1999.

Lavoie, Brian, and Lorcan Dempsey. "13 Ways of Looking at...Digital Preservation." D-Lib Magazine 10.7-8 (July/Aug 2004). Web. 4 Dec 2014.

Lindemann, Erika. A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers. 4th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2001.

McKeon, Richard. "The Uses of Rhetoric in a Technological Age: Architectonic Productive Arts." The Prospect of Rhetoric. Ed. Lloyd Bitzer and Edwin Black. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1971. 44-63. Rpt. inProfessing the New Rhetorics: A Sourcebook. Ed. Theresa Enos and Stuart C. Brown. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1994. 126-144. 

Pound, Ezra. Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir. New York: New Directions, 1974.

Richards, I.A. The Philosophy of Rhetoric. 1936. London: Oxford UP, 1965.

Ross, Harvey. Digital Curation: A How-to-do-it Manual. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2010.

UMaineDigCuration. "Digital Curation Roundtable 1 of 5: What is Digital Curation?" Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube. 15 Sept. 2012. Web. 13 Sept. 2014.

Wolff, Justin. "Where is Curating Today?" Digital Curation at the University of Maine. n.d. Lecture. MP4 file.