Erika Gifford, The University of Findlay
“rhetoric is not an exclusively human product; rather it emerges from the entanglement of actors, human or otherwise”Gruwell, p. 4
Making Matters: Craft, Ethics, and New Materialist Rhetorics
By Leigh Gruwell
University Press of Colorado, 2022
Having just attended Conference on College Composition and Communication 2023, the book Making Matters: Craft, Ethics, and New Materialist Rhetorics by Leigh Gruwell (2022), seems to be entering a kiros (Gruwell defines as an opportune time), in our discipline, especially as it comes to the intense focus on agency highlighted in many of the sessions I attended on grading and first year composition. Gruwell’s attention to agency in a rhetoric where even non-human actors, as in the case of ChatGPT, have significant, political influence is a necessary conversation to have amidst these tectonic shifts in the discipline. Gruwell’s timely perspective allows her to ask questions of voice, who is being heard and who is being silenced, and how non-material actors are at play.
Gruwell states her purpose early on saying: [w]ith the radicle reframing of new materialist rhetoric and the emergence of nonhuman actors (technologies) that influence our writing, there is a call for the discussion of the ethics involved with them” (p. 5-6). She frames this discussion of ethics through looking at the similarities between New Materialist Rhetorics (NMR) and craft theory. Craft is defined as: “a material, process-oriented practice that takes seriously the entanglements of humans and nonhumans” (p. 14).
Combining this process-focused theory with NMR helps Gruwell build a better understanding of how non-human actors influence our necessarily political rhetoric. Gruwell then applies this to three case studies—general craftivism rhetoric, the online knit/crochet pattern sharing community Ravelry, and the 2017 women’s march—in order to highlight how non-material actors influence rhetoric in unbalanced ways. This in turn supports her argument of using craft to give NMR a new ides of ethics. Gruwell concludes that NMR paired with a better understanding of craft allows for more ethical communications that better reflect our understanding of the way non-human actors influence our communication.
Making Matters is organized into six chapters: the first two outline craft agency and history; the middle three tackle case studies in craftivism, Ravelry and the Women’s March; then the last chapter concludes with the fall of craft, and argues for why it should return.