Dan Anderson and I wrote a somewhat elliptical essay about the figurative and literal dimensions of layering in media composition. We were motivated, at least in part, by the popular tendency to present media as finished and polished products on flat screens. We were also interested in the tensions between the (dis)continuities (if not ephemerality) of media practice and the circulation of discrete snapshots and files. Dan produced a series of “metaterial” videos along the way to enact what we were doing our best to describe in writing. A lot was meant to be left blurry.

We published the essay, titled “The Metaphor and Materiality of Layers,” in Jim Ridolfo and William Hart-Davidson’s collection, Rhetoric and the Digital Humanities. Links to that book, the video channel for our essay, and Dan’s website are below, followed by the official description of the collection. I also point to a related talk I gave at Syracuse in 2016. Thanks to Dan for writing with me, and to Jim and Bill for their editorial work.


Screen grab of "Sun Returning Before Rain" video by Dan Anderson, with a text editor, audio editor, and iTunes layered on top of each other

The Metaphor and Materiality of Layers
Published in Rhetoric and the Digital Humanities (Ridolfo and Hart-Davidson, eds.) in 2014 | University of Chicago Press | written with Daniel Anderson | 4,850 words plus eight videos | purchase required

Links: publisher’s page (HTML); video channel (Vimeo) for the project; iamdan.org (HTML); talk (HTML) at Syracuse with slides (HTML)


Description of Rhetoric and the Digital Humanities
The digital humanities is a rapidly growing field that is transforming humanities research through digital tools and resources. Researchers can now quickly trace every one of Issac Newton’s annotations, use social media to engage academic and public audiences in the interpretation of cultural texts, and visualize travel via ox cart in third-century Rome or camel caravan in ancient Egypt. Rhetorical scholars are leading the revolution by fully utilizing the digital toolbox, finding themselves at the nexus of digital innovation.

Rhetoric and the Digital Humanities is a timely, multidisciplinary collection that is the first to bridge scholarship in rhetorical studies and the digital humanities. It offers much-needed guidance on how the theories and methodologies of rhetorical studies can enhance all work in digital humanities, and vice versa. Twenty-three essays over three sections delve into connections, research methodology, and future directions in this field. Jim Ridolfo and William Hart-Davidson have assembled a broad group of more than thirty accomplished scholars. Read together, these essays represent the cutting edge of research, offering guidance that will energize and inspire future collaborations.


Featured image, edited in Photoshop, and main image both from Dan Anderson’s “Metaphor and Materiality” Vimeo channel. This page was created on 1 August 2019 and last updated on 13 July 2021.