Rhetoric of the Link

Rhetorics of the Web (by Nicholas Burbules at Wesleyan University) is an often-cited overview of various kinds of hyperlinks and the rhetorical strategies that they employ. In the course of teaching a new media class this fall, I’ve begun to wonder whether Burbules’ examples are too general, ahistorical, or even naive about the possibilities of the link.

I see the central question of the link to be this: in what ways can the same surface text develop wildly different meanings depending upon its link? What political potential resides in every link?

To begin to explore this question I’ve created a simple exercise: the same phrase–Who lives in the White House–repeated multiple times with a different link each time. What rhetorical strategies are at work in each example? How does the tenor of the question change each time?