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Michael Dalebout

Dissertation Title

Rhetoric as Techne in the 21st Century: Rethinking Persuasion and Technology in Stand-up Comedy

Research Interests

philosophy of technology, rhetoric of selfhood, public oratory, aesthetics and politics, histories and theories of comedy


My current project investigates the role of technology in contemporary American stand-up comedy during the last decade. In general, I research humanity’s ineluctable, agonistic relationship with technology, leveraging insights from many disciplines—including science and technology studies, critical theory, political and aesthetic theory, philosophy, rhetoric, and film and media studies—to understand how our technical objects and practices persuade us. My scholarship considers the processes through which technology organizes personal and political experiences of human life; I write about exemplary ways in which people participate in technical mediation, creating new structures of identity between themselves, others, and the world. By theorizing these critical and creative acts of self-fashioning, I mean to articulate practicable techniques for confronting the increasingly digital, algorithmic, and virtual contingencies we collectively face in the 21st century.

Each summer, I teach the Rhetoric department’s public speaking course. Rhetoric 2 is a six-week workshop in which students cultivate their own speaking style while developing strengths in skillful communication with diverse audiences in a variety of situations through multiple media. Enrollment for Summer 2020 opens this spring.