For many people in North America—and indeed, across the world—the idea of living without smartphones is almost unthinkable. Since their arrival on the market in 2007, these convenient, pocket-sized devices have become a crucial tool for making our way in, and making sense of, our world. This is especially true for Millennials (Gen Y) and Zoomers (Gen Z), in which a staggering 93% and 98% of individuals, respectively, own smartphones. Smartphones’ locative, connective, and information-sharing technologies have been lauded for increasing freedom of mobility, expression, and information. However, smartphones’ capabilities are also being critiqued for the new forms of unfreedom they promote: constant connection means 24/7 tethering and tracking; personal preferences are monitored and monetized; long-term consequences of device usage cannot yet be fully understood or accounted for.
In this presentation, I seek to further these critiques using the combined approaches of procedural rhetoric (Bogost) and captology (Fogg) to examine the rhetorical mechanisms through which smartphones influence users. I lay out three aspects unique to the smartphone’s rhetorical address that make it so persuasive and pervasive: it is constant, it is customizable, and it alters the perceived consequentiality of the actions and interactions conducted through and with our devices. In proposing this framework, I offer a unique perspective on how physical and affective relationships form between users and their devices, as well as on how these devices mediate—and thus shape—users’ relationships with the rest of the world.
Bogost, Ian. Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames. MIT Press, 2007.
Fogg, B.J. Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do. Morgan Kaufmann, 2002.
Shannon Lodoen (she/her) is an English doctoral candidate at the University of Waterloo. She holds an Honours BA in English Literature and Rhetoric from UW and an MA from Western’s Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism. Throughout her doctorate degree, Shannon’s interests have largely revolved around how the products of late-capitalist techno-industrial society (technologies, cultural objects, institutions) either affirm or deny dominant narratives of positivity and progress. She has published work on narratives of progress in literature (Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction) and institutional settings (Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics). She is continuing this line of critique in her SSHRC-funded dissertation, which studies how smartphones impact users’ subjectivity using a combination of rhetorical theory, media theory, and Frankfurt School critical theory. Shannon is the founder and chair of the PRES Lecture series, a sessional instructor, and a workshop facilitator with the Centre for Teaching Excellence.
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151 Charles Street West, Suite 100