In his book Digital Detroit: Rhetoric and Space in the Age of the Network, Jeff Rice begins to develop a theory and pedagogy of the network, with the network indicating “the ways ideas and information function in the age of new media” (6). Rice argues that all spaces are digital (8) in that space and the (digital) network are based on relationships. Relationship building is practiced throughout the book as Rice weaves together philosophies of space and the city as well as personal and public cultural memories, stories, landmarks, artifacts, and discourses.
The city of Detroit serves as both a metaphor and a material place in which Rice can gather these resources to develop his theories. Rice also projects his explorations of the network on Detroit, though there is a clear attachment to the Motor City as Rice takes care to treat this often misaligned metropolis with nuanced, even if critical, attention. In fact, a major conceit threaded through Digital Detroit is Rice’s effort to disrupt the binary representation of Detroit and, more broadly, digital space. With this disruption Detroit and the digital space of the network can be recognized as agential and as mediating multiple “meanings and interactions” (6). This framing of city and space as mediators and producers of information reinforces Rice’s grounding in rhetoric. Through concepts such as rhetorical production, arrangement and organization, invention, and rhetorical situation, Rice argues for a new rhetoric that is based on Latour’s concept of the “very many” “external allies” (5-6) that a theory of the network allows for.
This review is organized as follows: Chapter 1, a framework-building chapter, is assigned its own page. Fittingly, Rice titles the remaining chapters with the names of Detroit landmarks; each of these chapters shares space on a page with one other chapter. The “Analysis” section includes specific criticism, my thoughts on relevant audiences for Digital Detroit, and a brief consideration of the book’s place in the field of rhetoric and composition.