Actionable Media

(Oxford University Press, 2018)

In 1991, Mark Weiser and his team at Xerox PARC declared they were reinventing computers for the twenty-first century. The computer would become integrated into the fabric of everyday life; it would shift to the background rather than being itself an object of focus. The resulting rise of ubiquitous computing (smartphones, smartglasses, smart cities) have since thoroughly colonized our digital landscape. In Actionable Media, John Tinnell contends that there is an unsung rhetorical dimension to Weiser's legacy, which stretches far beyond recent iProducts. Taking up Weiser's motto, "Start from the arts and humanities," Tinnell develops a theoretical framework for understanding nascent initiatives--the Internet of things, wearable interfaces, augmented reality--in terms of their intellectual history, their relationship to earlier communication technologies, and their potential to become vibrant platforms for public culture and critical media production.

It is clear that an ever-widening array of everyday spaces now double as venues for multimedia authorship. Writers, activists, and students, in cities and towns everywhere, are digitally augmenting physical environments. Audio walks embed narratives around local parks for pedestrians to encounter during a stroll; online forums are woven into urban infrastructure and suburban plazas to invigorate community politics. This new wave of digital communication, which Tinnell terms "actionable media," is presented through case studies of exemplar projects by leading artists, designers, and research-creation teams. Chapters alter notions of ubiquitous computing through concepts drawn from Bernard Stiegler, Gregory Ulmer, and Hannah Arendt; from comparative media analyses with writing systems such as cuneiform, urban signage, and GUI software; and from relevant stylistic insights gleaned from the open air arts practices of Augusto Boal, Claude Monet, and Janet Cardiff. Actionable Media challenges familiar claims about the combination of physical and digital spaces, beckoning contemporary media studies toward an alternative substrate of historical precursors, emerging forms, design philosophies, and rhetorical principles.


"John Tinnell's Actionable Media is part of the next generation of required reading at the intersection of rhetoric and media studies. His book cuts across a wide swath of past and present forms of post-desktop computing to give us the tools we desperately need not just to understand the products of digital culture but to intervene in and reimagine our contemporary, digitally-mediated world. At this point in time, what could be more important than making our media actionable?"

-- Lori Emerson, Associate Professor and Director of the Media Archaeology Lab, University of Colorado at Boulder, Author of Reading Writing Interfaces


"By linking rhetoric and ubiquitous computing, Tinnell offers a fascinating view into new forms of writing, meaning-making, and spatial practice as we move into a new era of ubiquitous computing. Tinnell's writing style is approachable, sophisticated, well-researched, and thoroughly entertaining."

-- Jason Farman, Associate Professor and Director, Design Cultures & Creativity Program, University of Maryland, College Park, Author of Mobile Interface Theory

Augmented Reality

(Parlor Press, 2017)

Augmented Reality: Innovative Perspectives across Art, Industry, and Academia offers a wide-ranging exploration of the implications, challenges, and promises of augmented reality. Traditionally only covered from a technical perspective, augmented reality has become an increasingly important area of cultural inquiry in humanities scholarship and popular media outlets. This collection attempts to cross-pollinate the discourse, creating a multidisciplinary exchange among leading researchers and professionals who each advance different ways of understanding current (and future) forms of augmented reality. Another underlying mission is to bring critical reflection and artistic ingenuity into conversation with design thinking and software development. To that end, the collection features a mix of essays from humanities scholars, artworks by pathbreaking artists, as well as interviews with software developers and industry consultants. Among the first of its kind, the book also incorporates augmented reality into its own design by placing relevant digital content within the printed page using Aurasma.

Chapters by Scot Barnett, Jason Farman, Jordan Frith, Jason Helms, Steve Holmes, Jason Kalin, Sean Morey, Brett Oppegaard, Isabel Pedersen, John Tinnell, Douglas Trueman, and Joseph Weakland.

Interviews with BC Biermann, Sidney I. Dobrin, Maarten Lens-Fitzgerald, Blair MacIntyre, Christine Perey, and Jay Wright.

Artworks by BC Biermann, John Craig Freeman, Bryan Leister, Conor McGarrigle, Mark Skwarek, and Tamiko Thiel.


"In sum, this volume does an excellent job of enlarging the space of discourse for augmented reality, illustrating the contribution that humanistic and artistic approaches can make to assessing the significance of a new media technology.  I would definitely consider using this collection in various graduate or upper-level undergraduate classes that we teach here at Georgia Tech."

-- Jay David Bolter, Wesley Chair of New Media and Co-Director of the Augmented Environments Lab (AEL), Georgia Institute of Technology


"Morey and Tinnell’s collection fills an invaluable gap in its focus on the cultural and digital rhetorics of AR. In particular, this collection is well-suited for graduate and/or upper-level undergraduate courses on digital rhetoric, media studies, and/or multimodal composing in that it offers an array of valuable methodologies, definitions, and analyses that are sure to be of value to a range of disciplines."

-- Jacob Greene, Assistant Professor of English, Arizona State University