Rickert’s goal in Ambient Rhetoric is to get scholars of rhetoric to see the potential in the viewing rhetoric from the ambient perspective. He says, “we are entering an age of ambience, one in which our boundaries between subject and object, human and nonhuman, and information and matter dissolve” (1). He says that “we do not need a new rhetoric, however; rather we must work anew with what has been brought forward in rhetorical theory and practice…[Rhetoric] can no longer be understood solely as subjective, verbal, visual, or even performative art” (33-4). In order to define and understand ambient rhetoric, Rickert draws upon several areas of scholarship including Heidegger, cognitive science, materialism studies, embodiment work, Biesecker, Latour, Miller, ecology, music, and words like dwelling and attunement.
I thought it was pretty fascinating that Rickert was pulling from so much scholarship, including work we’d looked at in the class, such as work from Biesecker, Latour, cognitive science, Miller, and ecology. One specific connection I saw was Rickert’s discussion of humans as privileged actors and how that isn’t necessarily a good thing. I thought about Latour, and ANT. I realized that while ANT recognizes the agency potential of nonhuman things, it still privileges human actors in the sense that it says they can narrate the experience or the tracing of associations. We’re not really able to have nonhuman actors/actants do that kind of narration. I realize that these are limitations, but also understand why Latour still says that it is important for this kind of narration to take place, so that the researcher and her (his) ideas don’t override the thoughts, ideas, etc.
Although Rickert defines ambience multiple times, the definition I found easiest to understand was in the introduction where he writes, “ambience here refers to the active role that the material and informational environment takes in human development, dwelling, and culture, or to put this differently, it dissolves the assumed separation btween what is (privileged) human doing and what is passively material” (3).