As he turns from functional literacy (appropriately utilizing technology in the correct context) and critical literacy (recognizing and questioning the politics of technology) to rhetorical literacy, the purpose of his book starts to make more sense at the same time that the fear swells within me that I will in some way use the word rhetoric incorrectly. After consulting the Wikipedian Oracle to help me understand this strange word, I find myself no more enlightened as to its meaning, yet less uncomfortable due to the fact that the Wikipedia community has also had a difficult time putting together a concise definition.
The main point behind Selber's chapter on rhetorical literacy is that the way we communicate now is fundamentally different than it used to be. As Wiley points out, taking old lecture slides and posting the PDF to a website does not transform it into online content. It's offline content that has been copied and pasted onto the web. Materials and methods of communication that we use have to follow the Web 2.0 rhetoric of connecting and remixing content from various sources in a dynamic way, rather than publishing static articles.
Selber points out that the popularity of WYSIWYG html editors have made it easier for more people to design effective interfaces that are optimized for the content they are creating, which is an important component of rhetorical literacy. I would go another step and point out that even WYSIWYG editors like Dreamweaver are becoming passé. The interface has taken a back seat to the content on the web, as it should be. That is not to say that the interface does not matter, but using the appropriate content management system (CMS) means that whatever client requests your content will automatically get the content optimized for that client, whether for mobile devices, RSS feeds, etc.
Just this past week, a question was asked regarding the availability of personal web space, since the campus server that currently provides web space for faculty and students will be shut down soon. Several options are actually available from the IT department, but none of the new options allow users to upload entire existing sites; they have to upload their content into the CMS and choose one of its preexisting templates. One user pointed out that he has 10,000+ files in his website on the old server that he does not want to have to sort through and that most faculty would likely not want to redesign their websites as well. My response was, "I don't necessarily think that is a bad thing to have to redesign a website once in awhile, especially if doing so places it into a CMS that makes it easier to maintain. How many people really want to spend a ton of time working on their own from-scratch website anymore?" Looking at that particular user's site, it has some good content, but the interface is very confusing and difficult to navigate, with personal and professional content intermixed. No tagging, no RSS, and no networking tools means outdated pages that no one ever looks at.