Scholarship: Instagram Slideshows, Black Lives Matter, and Technoliberalism

My paper, “Technoliberal Participation: Black Lives Matter and Instagram Slideshows” was just published in AoIR’s Selected Papers of Internet Research archive.

After the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, Black Lives Matter protests surged around the globe. Amid COVID-19, activism on social media flourished. On Instagram, use of the ten-image carousel as an informative slideshow akin to a PowerPoint presentation gained significant attention: The New York Times highlighted their “effort to democratize access to information.” In this paper, I rhetorically analyze case studies to illustrate how Instagram slideshows facilitated deliberation about participation. I argue that these posts reveal a tension in platformed digital activism: as digital templates broaden access to participation, technoliberal ideology constrains activist judgment.

Salzano, Matthew. 2021. “Technoliberal participation: Black Lives Matter and Instagram Slideshows.” Association of Internet Researchers Selected Papers in Internet Research.  

This project is ongoing as: a pedagogical guide for college educators (co-authored, under review), a chapter for my dissertation, and an online archive of Instagram slideshows. The pedagogical guide, which we hope will be available soon, details how to facilitate an assignment where students create an Instagram activist slideshow. The chapter looks closely at a media history of slideshows–how did they arrive on Instagram, and what rhetorical features did they bring with them? And the archive (currently in Beta testing) hopes to support scholars, educators, and activists who want to browse a collection of slideshows for education, criticism, and/or inspiration.

I look forward to sharing more, and please reach out if you’re interested in chatting more about Instagram activism via slideshows.

Scholarship: Critical Communication Pedagogy and Rubrics

The first article co-authored by the Critical Communication Pedagogy Research Team, facilitated by the Oral Communication Program in UMD’s Department of Communication, was just published in Communication Teacher.

Ashby-King, Drew, Victoria Ledford, Jeannette Iannacone, Alyson Farzad-Phillips, Matthew Salzano and Lindsey Anderson. 2021. “Expanding and constraining critical communication pedagogy in the introductory communication course: A critique of assessment rubrics.” Communication Teacher.

Rubrics are a commonly used tool to evaluate student work in the introductory communication course. Although rubrics may appear objective, they are continually interpreted by both instructors and students, often reflecting traditional classroom power dynamics. In order to understand how rubrics constrain as well as expand opportunities for the enactment of critical communication pedagogy, we conducted an interpretive analysis of the presentational speaking rubrics used in the introductory communication course at 20 institutions in the United States. In doing so, we identified three levels of rubric context: high, low, and shared. These contexts inform important theoretical and pedagogical implications for the introductory course, as they highlight existing power dynamics, instructor grading practices, and student agency.

This essay was written with colleagues spanning all three tracks in UMD COMM: Rhetoric (Farzad-Phillips and Salzano), PR (Ashby-King and Iannacone), and Communication Science (Ledford).

Scholarship: Local Theories of Argument

Edited by Dale Hample, Local Theories of Argument is a selected collection of essays originally presented at the 2019 Alta Conference on Argumentation.

I’m the author of chapter six: “Beyond Participation, Toward Disparticipation: Contesting White Feminism at the 2017 Women’s March.” It appears you can read that on Google Books.

In this paper, I supplement the analog of movement to view the richness of activist argumentation, specifically revealing what I call “disparticipation.” While disparticipators may be seen as not participating, or even counter- protesting, their arguments are really dissing a protest for a lack of nuanced politics. Building from Jose Esteban Muñoz’s ( 1999) theory in Disidentifications, I contend that disparticipation is the action of someone who takes part in an assembly queerly by defying global understandings of social movement. Disparticipation generates argumentation that expands the topoi of protest rhetoric by revealing and responding to broader structural injustices.

Salzano, 2021, p. 38-39.

I also co-authored chapter 62: “The Bensenville Pause: Argumentation, Sound Figuration, and Local Sound Cultures” with Justin Eckstein.

“Noise” is part and parcel of any pluralist democracy where different cultures must come together and occupy the same space. Hence, one of the most vexed objects is what exactly constitutes a noise and how communities use reason to determine noise regulations. This essay extends the work done in rhetoric, sound, and argumentation by suggesting a local theory of sound argumentation: there is not a universal sound to measure against noise, but only local sound cultures rhetorically constituting vibration into meaning. In other words, there can only be local theories of sound arguments. We argue that this is best illustrated through controversies around what constitutes a noise in the first place and how sound is marshalled to make arguments in these controversies.

Salzano and Eckstein, 2021, p. 419

Happy to provide PDFs via email! mattsalzano [AT] gmail [dot] com

Public Humanities: Research profile on ARHU blog

The University of Maryland’s College of Arts and Humanities recently featured me on their Voices from the Field blog that highlights research from ARHU graduate students.

As his interest in a career in local journalism declined, he found rhetorical studies in a slightly different hallway of the communication department. Matthew knew he was hooked when he started taking courses on media and cultural criticism, social movements, and argumentation, because they linked his interest in media, publics, activism, and education. He ended up at UMD after his undergraduate mentors introduced him to the work of his now-adviser, Dr. Damien Pfister. He thought: “I can do that for the next 5-6 years? Great. Sign me up.” 

Now, as a Rhetoric and Political Culture Ph.D. Student in the Department of Communication, Matthew is researching digital media, social change, and affect. Rhetoric is, by Cicero’s definition, an ancient art of invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery. Matthew is primarily concerned with invention. He wants to explore how digital media could be (and are being) used to invent more equitable, just worlds.

You can read the full profile on the Voices from the Field blog. Thanks to Fatima Montero for interviewing me and Fielding Montgomery for passing on my research to ARHU.

Scholarship: NCA 2020, “Digitizing Fictocriticism”

Inventing and Intervening in the bath with ContraPoints

This paper was presented at the 2020 National Communication Association during the Top Papers Panel for the Critical and Cultural Studies division.


Hi all, thank you for coming today and for listening to my paper. I’m Matthew Salzano, a Ph.D. Student at the University of Maryland, coming to you live from my bedroom-office-conference room in Hyattsville, MD.

ContraPoints, despite what she says, cares.

Continue reading “Scholarship: NCA 2020, “Digitizing Fictocriticism””

Scholarship: Review of Rhetoric As a Posthuman Practice in QJS

My review of Dr. Casey Boyle’s book, Rhetoric as a Posthuman Practice, was just published online-first in the Quarterly Journal of Speech. Here is the first paragraph of the review:

Through examples as varied as glitch art, urbexer photography, and DIY digital networks, Casey Boyle suggests a redefinition of rhetoric, one summarized in the title of his book: Rhetoric as a Posthuman Practice. “Practice,” like rhetoric, has many definitions; rhetoric is both a social practice and something that individuals practice. But this is not a rhetoric handbook in a posthuman register. Boyle’s project is not simply offering “posthuman methods” that rhetors can use to increase their persuasiveness. Instead, he is attending to the rhetorical consequences of contemporary digital information technology by transcending a humanist framework and theorizing that rhetoric “is a practice that exercises serial encounters within ecologies to inform bodies” (27). Boyle draws from scholarship on rhetorical ecologies and circulation, critical affect studies, and posthumanism to recast well-worn, ancient practices from rhetorical training as ways to exercise rhetorical capacities. Boyle’s work is thus relevant to seemingly disparate subfields of rhetoric and communication studies: rhetoricians engaged with in situ field methods may find his discussions of topoi complementary and provocative, scholars of historic public address may contend with his implication that persuasion is a result of serial encounters, and teachers of public speaking might consider whether assigning self-reflection papers about persuasive speeches is an adequate way to prepare students for contemporary civic life.

You can read the entire review at the Quarterly Journal of Speech. Contact me if you don’t have access to QJS and would like a PDF.

Scholarship: Lemons or Lemonade? in Women’s Studies in Communication

Matthew Salzano presenting his Women's and Gender Studies Capstone at Pacific Lutheran University, Thursday, May 24, 2018. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)
Matthew Salzano presenting his Women’s and Gender Studies Capstone at Pacific Lutheran University, Thursday, May 24, 2018. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)

I’m excited to announce the publication of my first sole-authored scholarly article, “Lemons or Lemonade? Beyoncé, Killjoy style, and Neoliberalism” in Women’s Studies in Communicaiton. You can read the whole article at T&F’s site. The abstract is below:

This article focuses on the controversy surrounding bell hooks and Lemonade to contend with the neoliberal constraints of digital, feminist, public intellectual argumentation. I argue that hooks’s critique reveals her killjoy rhetorical style. Drawn from Sara Ahmed’s theorization of the feminist killjoy, hooks’s killjoy style provides a rhetorical interruption that reshapes the affective orientations of feminist communities. Its snappy affect opens up the potentiality for critical feminist theory amid the challenges of neoliberalism.

This essay was originally written as my PLU Capstone (pictured above). Thanks to all the killjoys that helped me take this paper from there to here.

Digital humanities: #TeamRhetoric Twitter Bot

For my final project in MITH 610: Intro to Digital Studies, I created a Twitter Bot. It now (as of May 16, 2019) tweets once a day. You can read all about it on my medium post, “#TeamRhetoric, Time, and In(ter)vention: Twitter Bots, Tactical Media.”

As @RhetoricTweeter spews out formulaic criticism, it pushes on an existing paradigm of intervention. The tweets try to seem like they intervene in some ongoing theoretical or conceptual conversation in rhetorical criticism or in academic literature more broadly. In this way, I hope it asks us to think about how the form of academic writing might encourage a specific interventional approach.

But at the same time, as its tweets develop, it may be an inventional resource. The strange pairing of expansions that may not otherwise be placed together (e.g. in a test case, the bot wrote: “In my next paper, I will use decolonial theory to claim that Hilary Clinton’s emails frustrated the public sphere. #TeamRhetoric”) may lead to interesting new critical ideas. It may encourage a way of playing with how rhetoric and criticism happens on twitter, whether directly with the bot or inspired by it.

Here are a few of my favorite tweets it made and responses to it.

Continue reading “Digital humanities: #TeamRhetoric Twitter Bot”

Public humanities: “Women who ran for Congress avoided women’s issues in their campaign ads”

Authored by Shawn Parry-Giles, Aya H. Farhat, Matthew Salzano, and Skye de Saint Felix for The Conversation.

The journalistic story we wrote stems from research we did, along with other researchers, for the Political Action Research Center at the University of Maryland’s Rosenker Center for Political Communication. View the full-length research paper here.

Below is an excerpt from The Conversation; you can read the full journalistic summary of our report that we wrote on their website.

A record number of women were sworn into Congress on Jan. 3.

The influx of women candidates helped turn the midterm election into what many observers dubbed a “Year of the Woman.”

But despite a tide of voter sentiment favoring women, these winners got to Congress or a statehouse not by defining themselves as “women’s candidates,” but instead by sidestepping issues typically associated with their gender, from equal pay to reproductive freedom.

We are experts on women and politics, and in a recent study we conducted at the University of Maryland’s Rosenker Center for Political Communication & Civic Leadership, we examined 2018 political ads to understand how woman defined their candidacies and qualifications for office.

We found that, despite the momentum of the #MeToo movement, women were careful in playing the “gender card.” They avoided what are often construed as “women’s issues” that are associated with gender equality such as abortion, pay equity, sexual violence and harassment.