Electronic Theses and Dissertations


Adam Hughes



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Antonio de Velasco

Committee Member

Marina Levina

Committee Member

Amanda N. Edgar

Committee Member

Scott Sundvall


This dissertation examines public deliberation on the social media site reddit regarding two controversial technologies: Alexa and Bitcoin. Such vernacular deliberation of prominent new technologies is widespread online and increasingly significant—with Alexa and Bitcoin generating numerous controversies throughout the 2010s & early 2020s—yet understudied by rhetoric and media scholars. Arguments for and against the technologies consistently emerge, and so I ask: What are the terms, patterns, and logics in the binarized reddit deliberations of emergent technology? There is also an alternative rhetorical practice of those conflicted and ambivalent, yet not absent from the deliberations. I name it glitching, a paleologism used to describe a digital version of a transhistorical and transgressive anti-idealism (i.e., kynicism). My second question is: In what way do redditors glitch the deliberation of emergent technology? Rhetorical-archaeological analysis and digital rhetorical ethnography are the methods I utilize to answer the first and second questions, respectively. Arguments for Alexa employ terms “connect,” “work,” and “convenience,” in patterns emphasizing expertise and rationality, toward a logic of technological progress. “Listening” and “labor” are the terms which appear throughout anti-Alexa posts and comments, in patterns resembling investigative journalism, to advance a logic of economic justice. Pro-Bitcoin arguments employ terms “buy” and “celebration,” in a pattern resembling that of speculative finance, undergirding a logic of prosperity technology. “Privacy” and “scam” are the terms which appear throughout anti-Bitcoin posts and comments, in a pattern of technical expertise which supports logics of technological and financial skepticism. Glitched rhetorics are ambivalent and irreverent interruptions in the binary oscillation of vernacular deliberation about technology which frequently appear in online fora, and closely resemble the kynicism of Diogenes of Sinope. The glitched rhetorics about Alexa and Bitcoin diverge in extremeness, but share embrace of risk and use of sexual vulgarity to challenge customs and interrupt sober deliberations which otherwise lead to the synthesis of managed decline. Glitched rhetorics are not the collective action necessary for systemic change in the matter of society’s relationship to technology, but as a kynical signal not unlike the barking of a dog they persistently reveal that such action is necessary.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest


Open Access