Chapter 1: Networks, Place, and Rhetoric

In chapter 1, Rice uses metaphors of mapping and, in particular, databases to guide concepts throughout not only this chapter, but the remaining chapters as well. While Rice utilizes mapping as one means to develop his theories across the networks of Detroit and of new media, mapping also serves as an analogy for navigating the communication systems of the database. Databases, Rice argues, provide opportunities for an emerging rhetoric because they connect the new and the “old” rhetorics through similar traditions of arrangement, delivery, and place (31). Additionally, the emerging rhetoric multiplies the possibilities of these traditions. Arrangement, delivery, and place also undergird the rhetorical act of invention which connects to the idea that database serve as a layered, relational system where a rhetor may invent multiple compositions with multiple meanings across multiple spaces.

Rice turns to the work of numerous theorists to help construct his theories, including Jean-Francois Lyotard who offers insights of the database as a way to imaginatively resist the grand narratives that control how ideas are spatialized in relation to one another. Grand narratives are totalizing and unchangeable, Rice writes, and Detroit is often represented in a grand narrative that repeats the same byline of political and economic failure (40). Not wanting to deny the difficult material realities that the people of Detroit face, Rice moves beyond the “rhetorical limits” of this narrative to introduce a “rhetoric of the network” (43) that includes Henri Lefebvre’s concept of social relations, an infrastructure made possible by the relational and communicative systems of the database and of the network.

Finally, Rice addresses affect in what he calls the story of a space called Digital Detroit; Rice writes that “Digital Detroit is the technological intervention I make as a larger exploration of the city, space, rhetoric, and networks” (30). Rice is clear that he has an emotional connection to this city where he once lived and worked. Because of this emotional attachment, Rice wants to intervene in the grand narrative that pigeonholes Detroit as an abandoned, hopeless place. Thus from this impetus emerges the title of the book and the name of a rhetorical process that invents new representations and identities (52).