Ian Hill

Associate Professor

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Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Invocation of the word: identifying influences of terminology across extremist rhetoric (2020)

The thesis seeks to identify the rhetorical purpose of three key terms used by ISIS – martyr, Caliphate, and paradise –, extracted from the records of ISIS recruitment propaganda. At the outset, the thesis frames the discussion of these terms in the context of existing literature in order to evaluate the efficacy of contemporary counterterrorist measures. The material reveals the limitations of counterterrorist efforts that solely employ suppressive and militaristic resistance against extremists, while also revealing the effectiveness of narratives that promote community and empower the individual to shape and contribute to their surroundings. The thesis then presents a rhetorical analysis of the prevailing “war on terror” narrative, asserting that it promotes the very conditions of divisiveness and fear that ISIS capitalizes upon for its recruitment, which in turn impedes counterterrorist initiatives. The subsequent analysis of the ISIS terms martyr, Caliphate, and paradise reveal the ways in which the words tap into feelings of helplessness and isolation, offer the idea of community, belonging and purpose, and promise would-be recruits the ability to become part of the constitutive narratives that shape the identity of ISIS. In light of the limitations of the prevailing “war on terror” narrative and the efficacy of ISIS’s dialogue in manipulating vulnerable targets, the thesis asserts the need for counterterror measures that study and demystify ISIS’s recruitment rhetoric by engaging and subverting the ideological bases for the terms, and by offering moderate alternatives that appeal to at-risk targets.. 

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A Grammar of Animals: Dramatism, Animal Experimentation, and the Narrative of Biomedical Progress (2016)

Using Kenneth Burke's dramatistic understanding of language as action, and drawing from literature in rhetoric of science and medicine, this thesis argues that the rhetoric of biomedical researchers, advocates, and popularizers perpetuates a progress narrative when using and advocating for the use of experimental animals that disregards animal interests and ethics. First, this thesis examines how transgenic experimental animals are rhetorically constructed as the place, and researchers as the means, of biomedical data, which provides discursive distance from the acts of experimentation. Likewise, the terms affixed to research animals, such as “Oncomouse,” “model,” and even “rodent” function to reflect realities of these research animals that creates discursive distance as they are used to produce knowledge. Second, this thesis examines how biomedical researchers and advocates who disagree about the efficacy of the animal model are united in their rejection of serious animal ethics in biomedical research. Critics of animal experimentation are made into monsters, while serious animal ethics itself is considered either monstrous or irrelevant to biomedical inquiry by groups of researchers who otherwise disagree about animal experimentation's usefulness in biomedical research. Third, it examines how the genre of popular biomedical entertainment seeks to persuade non-expert audiences to be entertained by biomedical research using animals. In addition, biomedical research and animal entertainment industries such as zoos and pet production have a complex, mutually beneficial relationship that makes use of animals to produce knowledge and entertainment at the expense of animal interests. This thesis concludes that the narrative of biomedical progress is underpinned by powerful rhetorical forces applied to animals that reject the serious consideration of their interests that could otherwise complicate such a narrative. A suggested way forward could be a more complex biomedical narrative that includes serious animal ethics as part of biomedicine's “moral progress”.

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Rhetorical Emergence and the Economy: The Sante Fe Institute Artificial Stock Market, Complexity Economics, and the Rhetorical Dimensions of Economic Activity (2016)

Drawing on work in digital and algorithmic rhetoric, I analyze the organization of space and time in complexity models. I argue that the success of complexity economic models is a consequence of their ability to reflect the rhetorical situation of the marketplace: they represent time as a series of causal interactions and space as a consequence of coordinated interaction. Complexity economics investigates the inclination of markets to behave as complex systems: self-organizing, emergent, and non-linear. The 1999 Artificial Stock Market designed by Sante Fe Institute theorists Blake LeBaron, William Brian Arthur, and Richard Palmer is perhaps the fundamental expression of a complex marketplace. It was among the first models to accurately predict market downturns, a success that followed as a consequence of its construction. In ordinary market models, traders are driven by profit maximization and a simple recursive strategy: they remember their mistakes, and respond to analogous market situations with new information in a linear, causal process. In their model, LeBaron, Arthur, and Palmer created a series of overlapping causal processes in which the market could operate as a persuasive agent. In complexity economics, the market is itself an interlocutive agent, thereby permitting nonlinear, bidirectional causality. These causal modes have spatial and temporal corollaries. The unique compositions of complex economies is rhetorical. Their complex causal processes reflect a discursive marketplace in which space and time to emerge as relational properties.

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