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Abstract

Whether as an application on our tablets (such as an I-pad or an Android device) or as a single application piece of hardware such as a (Nook or Kindle), the handheld digital reading device is quickly becoming a fixture in contemporary life. It is not only changing the way in which books are bought and sold, but it is changing the nature of what it is to read and how our knowledge is constructed. Drawing on Walter Ong’s theories of secondary orality (2002) and McLuhan’s concepts of technologies as extensions of particular faculties with trade-offs in other areas (McLuhan, 1964), this paper argues that the handheld digital reader is not only a device which allows for reading of books, but it is also a rhetorical device. In order to accomplish this, the paper demonstrates that the handheld digital reader came as a response to a deviance amplifying rhetorical situation (Bitzer, 1968) brought on by the advent of easy duplication and a dwindling readership. This paper shows that the handheld digital reader functions as a social intervention (Brown, 1978; Opt & Gring, 2009) creating an attention shift (Brown W. R., 1982) which initially alters one’s epistemology, but with ontological and axiological repercussions. Finally, the paper discusses the potential ramifications of a rhetorical future populated by people whose worldviews have been heavily influenced by the inherent rhetoric of the handheld digital reading device and advising changes in rhetorical theory and practice which will have to be considered in light of these changes.

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