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The Material Poetics of Digital Voice: A Creative-Critical Inquiry

Anderson, Erin R. (2014) The Material Poetics of Digital Voice: A Creative-Critical Inquiry. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation theorizes the aesthetic and ethical potential of digital voice as a material for composing and (re)inventing texts in multimedia platforms. Traditionally, the field of composition and rhetoric has imagined voice as either a silent textual metaphor or an embodied instrument of live oratory. However, as we turn to embrace digital writing, voice reemerges in a new form, no longer reducible to language nor tied to the time and place of the live speaking body. Building on recent discussions of orality and aurality, I argue that we must also attend to a related but distinct concept of vocality—as a newly accessible compositional material, which raises complex questions about the relationship between language, bodies, and technologies in digital composing contexts. Providing a survey of the ways that voice has been employed in composition and rhetoric over the past half-century, I argue that the inventive potential of voice is constrained by linguistic and representational values that we continue to ascribe to recorded voices in the age of digital reproducibility. Next, I draw on interdisciplinary theories of voice from philosophy, physiology, film, and digital aesthetics in order to rearticulate voice’s relationship to language, bodies, and technologies, and to propose a more flexible, material theory of digital vocality. Finally, I put this theory to work through a pair of critically informed media projects, which experiment with voice’s affective, performative, malleable potential across media platforms. In a video series, Coerced Confessions, I employ a technique of reverse remix to digitally “coerce” reenactments of real-life confessions from the bodies of unwitting actors, reflecting on the materiality of language and the boundaries of performance and agency in digital editing. In an experiment in posthumous poetics, I take up recorded voices of deceased individuals from oral history archives and reimagine them as “actors” or “performers” in a fictional audio drama, considering possibilities for collaboration with archival voices of the dead. Ultimately, by taking seriously the possibility that we might write not only with words, but with voices, my dissertation contributes a more expansive sense of the methods, materials, and ethics available to contemporary composition practice.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Anderson, Erin
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBialostosky, Don Hdhb2@pitt.eduDHB2
Committee MemberCarr, Stephenscarr@pitt.eduSCARR
Committee MemberMajumdar, Neepanmajumda@pitt.eduNMAJUMDA
Committee MemberJackson-Schebetta, Lisalisajsch@pitt.eduLISAJSCH
Date: 16 September 2014
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 15 May 2014
Approval Date: 16 September 2014
Submission Date: 13 May 2014
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 242
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: composition, rhetoric, voice, vocality, orality, aurality, audio, ethics, materiality, digital media
Date Deposited: 16 Sep 2014 19:36
Last Modified: 16 Sep 2019 05:15

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