In response to a polarizing letter to the editor published in the student newspaper from an alumna in early 2012, members of the Smith College community took to the web to create a public response through the blog service, Tumblr. Students and alumnae acted together to “send a message” through writing short biographies, posting self-portraits, and sharing other multimedia texts reaffirming the school’s pride in its diversity. This presentation examines the rhetorical appeals writers can use to foster collective action. In particular, this case demonstrates how rhetorical action can invoke participatory audiences and blur distinctions between writers and readers on the Internet. Using the Pearls and Cashmere blog as a case study, this presentation argues that collective action does not depend on cohesion, and while a set of texts may share a goal, a blog can represent a site of civic discourse where ideologies are contested and negotiated.
Presented at Conference on College Composition and Communication, Las Vegas, March 2013