Although we can only guess at the motivation of these women who contribute their narratives to the archive, there is little doubt that they are deploying literacy—either consciously or unconsciously—as a form of political and social action within the mediated site of this “messy” 2.0 archive called the DALN. Their communicative actions suggest that they value engagement with others and perhaps even believe that they can exert some efficacy in this space, which as an example of a 2.0 archive (Workman, 2008), invites users of all kind to participate in a kind of ethical rhetorical exchange with these authors. 

This rhetorical responsiveness is not the same kind of response that we might accord to a piece of objective data in the framework of a positivist project.  Rather it is an interpretive response that, in Zygmunt Bauman’s (1990) words, is unlike what passes for objectivity. This interpretive response, refuses, for instance,

…to share the hubris of empirical proof, interpretation does not set itself outside the text, trying to uncover its hidden possibilities. However psychologically assertive, interpretation is therefore inevitably, even if unwittingly or reluctantly, tolerant and accommodating. It can ill afford that arrogant pretence of objectivity which barely disguises the never satisfied, yet never relenting bid for monopoly. (p. 11)

Because of the risks involved in this kind of communication to multiple others (Omizo, 2010; Lange, 2007), the potential “loss of face” to which these individuals have opened themselves, and the vulnerability they have assumed, they call forth from us not only a minimal “considerateness” (p. 7), as Goffman (1967) would say, but also an appropriate rhetorical responsiveness that shares some of the same features as Krista Ratcliffe’s (1999) “rhetorical listening."

Part of this rhetorical responsiveness acknowledges these women’s attempts at communication as already and always risky acts. These acts are undertaken, in Ratcliffe’s words, to “promote an understanding of self” (p. 204) and our own reception and rhetorical interpretation of these communications as proceeding from “a responsibility logic, not from within a defensive guilt/blame one” and a desire to identify within the discursive spaces of these narratives “both commonalities and differences” (p. 204) to which we can respond.

In this responsive framework, we operate—not within the illusory belief that these narratives are verifiable data or that they are valid or reliable in the sense of evidence—but rather from a very human understanding that these young people are entering into a risky social commitment to attempt communication about the fundamental importance of literacy in their lives.


When a person begins a mediated or immediate encounter, he already stands in some kind of social relationship to the others concerned, and expects to stand in a given relationship to them after the particular encounter ends. This, of course, is one of the ways in which social contacts are geared into the wider society…. A social relationship, then, can be seen as a way in which the person is more than ordinarily forced to trust his self-image and face to the tact and good conduct of others.

(Goffman, 1967, p. 11-12)


The other is always there where the self is. The self comes into being together with the Other.

(Bauman, 1990, p. 14)


Rhetorical listening turns hearing (a reception process) into invention (a production process), thus complicating the reception/production opposition and inviting rhetorical listening into the time-honored tradition of rhetorical invention.

(Ratcliffe, 1999, p. 220)