English Ph.D. Dissertations


Remediating Democracy: Youtube and the Vernacular Rhetorics of Web 2.0

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Kristine Blair (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Lee Nickoson (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Michael Butterworth (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Louisa Ha (Committee Member)


This dissertation examines the extent to which composing practices and rhetorical strategies common to “Web 2.0” arenas may reinvigorate democracy. The project examines several digital composing practices as examples of what Gerard Hauser (1999) and others have dubbed “vernacular rhetoric,” or common modes of communication that may resist or challenge more institutionalized forms of discourse. Using a cultural studies approach, this dissertation focuses on the popular video-sharing site, YouTube, and attempts to theorize several vernacular composing practices. First, this dissertation discusses the rhetorical trope of irreverence, with particular attention to the ways in which irreverent strategies such as new media parody transcend more traditional modes of public discourse. Second, this dissertation discusses three approaches to video remix (collection, Detournement, and mashing) as political strategies facilitated by Web 2.0 technologies, with particular attention to the ways in which these strategies challenge the construct of authorship and the power relationships inherent in that construct. This dissertation then considers the extent to which sites like YouTube remediate traditional rhetorical modes by focusing on the genre of epideictic rhetoric and the ways in which sites like YouTube encourage epideictic practice. Finally, in light of what these discussions reveal in terms of rhetorical practice and democracy in Web 2.0 arenas, this dissertation offers a concluding discussion of what our “Web 2.0 world” might mean for composition studies in terms of theory, practice, and the teaching of writing.