Rhetoric Online: The Politics of New Media 2nd Ed.

Authors: Barbara Warnick and David S. Heineman

Review by Pam Cochran, The University of Findlay, Findlay, Ohio


“Our contemporary moment is marked by dizzying flows of information, a discursive cacophony that is increasingly multi-mediated, transportable, and pervasive. Our political communication is shaped, in part, by the many capacities of new media technology – political blogs, mobile phone applications, viral videos, hyperlinking, and other forms of persistent and archived public discourse that continue to alter the political landscape.” (140)

- Barbara Warnick and David S. Heineman

Reading the second edition of Rhetoric Online: The Politics of New Media is like traveling through a dense forest of terms and theories to get to the brighter meadow of application and examples of the uses of online rhetoric in politics. It's a difficult journey in the beginning but well worth the effort to get to the bright openness and understanding of how new media impacts and affects our political processes in America.

According to Warnick and Heineman,

“In the 2010 midterm elections…73% of adult Internet users (representing 54% of all U.S. adults) went online to get news or information about the elections [and]…far more than in the 2006 contests, online users took advantage of…affordances, including social media and Twitter to track developing political events ” and “…it is important to track developments in online politics so as to better understand how the introduction of new media forms and practices has reshaped the functionality and effects of public communication…” (Preface).

Rhetoric Online: The Politics of New Media is a response to the overwhelming use of the internet for information gathering, networking, and opinion-based commenting not only in the 2010 election cycle, but to other online situations as well. It is a response worth reading not only for its descriptions of the different political modes which were utilized but the application of rhetorical ideas and theories used on those modalities.

One use of this book, and one that I appreciate as a teacher of composition and a student of rhetoric, is that it would be of good use in a classroom setting as a supplement to the textbook. It is well organized and lists relevant examples which would motivate lively group discussion. Political Science classes as well as multi-modal rhetoric classes would find this book to be valuable as an example of rhetoric in action. Both types of classes will be able to study the results of online media use, see the mistakes and successes which were made, and learn the types of audiences political-oriented groups need to address.

The beauty of reviewing a subject like politics and new media with the lens of rhetoric is that not only do you see politics and online media in a new light, an expansive light, but you see a new reflection and opening up of its rhetorical applications, too.


Warnick, Barbara, and David S. Heineman. "Rhetoric Online: The Politics of New Media Second Edition." NY, NY. Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. 2012.