The five canons of rhetoric, articulated for so many centuries, included the canons of memory and delivery along with invention, arrangement, and style. However, it is often noted that with the advent of written discourse and a move away from oral culture, memory and delivery have been largely ignored and no longer have a place of prominence in the study of Western rhetoric. This position has been challenged, however, and views have emerged positing that memory and deliver do continue to hold a place of prominence in rhetorical theory, though the forms they take may need to be reimagined in light of current composing practices.
In the article, “Recovering Delivery for Digital Rhetoric,” Porter identifies five components of delivery (Body/Identity, Distribution/Circulation, Access/Accessibility, Interaction, and Economics) that are relevant in contemporary practices. These domains “operate heuristically and productively across multiple situations to prompt rhetorical decisions regarding production,” influencing choices made in the creation of texts (208). Though contemporary mediums may have changed from the days of Aristotle and Quintilian, the connections between delivery and the ethos of the speaker remain relevant. Porter points out that, although the term “delivery” is not typically utilized to describe print mediums, the ways by which texts are printed and distributed still constitute a type of delivery and influence the way that a text is received by an audience.
Delivery comes even more into play through digital mediums, which once again bring the body of the speaker into direct play with the texts (broadly defined) that they have created. In multimedia realms, the body and identity of the speaker may be even more apparent than in alphabetic texts, and in digital mediums, the hard binaries between “human” and “machine” blur. In these areas, a “robust rhetoric of digital delivery” is needed to interrogate these spaces as “digital rhetorical performance is becoming increasingly multimodal and increasingly synchronous” (213). Distribution and circulation are also components of delivery in digital spaces as texts are not only consciously distributed in particular ways, but may also be recirculated through reposting, remixing, and redistribution by other, often unknown parties. This, too, is an act of delivery that needs to be accounted for in contemporary conceptions of delivery, as do questions of access and accessibility, which remain a long way from equal for all members of society. When accessibility is taken into account as a heuristic for creating a text in the first place, it changes the production process where one starts with considerations of audience and “works backward” to the artifact produced (216). Interactivity, too, is a part of delivery and “refers to how users engage interfaces and each other in digital environments” (217). In digital spaces, interactivity can range from rather passive absorption of information, to higher levels of co-creation, thus in this case, delivery is not confined to the way a “final product” is delivered, but may also include aspects of creating that product and/or the possibility of artifacts that resist closure altogether. Economics, too, comprise a domain of delivery in that the “value” of a text will alter significantly within various domains of values, and thus will influence the creation and production of rhetorical objects. Reimagining and revaluing rhetorical theories of delivery offers the possibility of a framework within which to more fully understand how this canon of rhetoric continues to operate in contemporary spaces, albeit in altered iterations from those imagined in classical theory.
John Frederick Reynolds argues, too, that memory and delivery have never ceased to serve important functions within rhetoric, but likewise notes the degree to which they have been ignored at many points in history, including the present. He notes that, “the western transition from oral-dominance to writing-dominance altered, rather than eliminated, the use of mnemonics,” and that making a text “memorable” is included under the heading of memory (247-9). Making connections between the canon of memory and advice given in the very popular St. Martin’s Guide, Reynolds articulates the various ways that memory is still used and encouraged in writing today, including its link to psychology. Though not as fully adapted to multimedia contexts as Porter’s article, Reynolds nevertheless shows how attention to memory in contemporary realms offers the potential to illuminate the ways in which the traditional canons can provide insights, heuristic assistance, and explanatory models with which to understand contemporary rhetorical practices, including articulating new ways to interrogate digital spaces.