understanding innovation

smart homes, memes, and social media

Heather Suzanne Woods is a scholar and teacher of digital rhetoric.

She has been researching the relationship between technology and culture for nearly a decade. Heather’s research projects focus on rhetorics of futurity and innovation. Her most recent project analyzes the ways memes circulate to create public culture. 

Recent publications

on rhetoric + technology 

ASKING MORE OF SIRI AND ALEXA

Siri and Alexa perform a gendered persona which may ease consumer’s concerns about surveillance.

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THE QUIVER IS FULL

Pregnancy and pregnancy loss are mediated, including by television programming. 

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ANTI-RACIST ACTIVISM AND THE TRANSFORMATIONAL PRINCIPLES OF HASHAG PUBLICS

Hashtag publics are flexible and durable, but so are those formed against activists.

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ANONYMOUS STEUBENVILLE AND THE POLITICS OF VISIBILITY

Visibility is a double-edged sword for activists and the aggreived.

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CASE STUDY

Siri, Alexa, Surveillance

Smart device users must weigh the significant conveniences of a device with an always-on microphone against the substantial concerns. Some of these concerns – security and surveillance – are pragmatic. Others – about whether devices should have a gender – are decidedly more philosophical. The bottom line is this: When people ask devices to act for them, they must be willing to live with what – or who – is on the other side.

Consulting and Commentary

Heather is available for consulting, trainings, and media commentary

Consulting

Heather is available to consult individuals and organization on digital media strategy, online content creation, and political communication campaigns.

Trainings

Heather engages audiences with content-based and pedagogy-focused trainings for organizations of all size, in person and at-a-distance.

Media Commentary

Heather is available for media commentary and interviews on issues related to communication and technology.

MEDIA FEATURE

“We trust our
digital assistants more than we should”


“Many people have come to trust the artificially intelligent virtual assistants (AIVAs), like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, that allow us to talk to our devices. Many of us have these devices, always on, always listening, with us or around us, all day. But new research puts that trust into question.”
Dr. Woods’ research featured on CBC Spark!

More here

Memes are Political

Woods and Hahner’s latest book: Make America Meme Again, is now available in paperback, ebook, and hardback from Peter Lang. 


As demonstrated by the 2016 Presidential Election, memes have become the suasory tactic par excellence for the promotional and recruitment efforts of the Alt-right. Using the tools of rhetorical criticism, Woods and Hahner detail how memetic persuasion operates, with a particular focus on the 2016 election.

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Praise for Make America Meme Again

Make America Meme Again serves as a necessary investigation of memetic discourse and the rhetorics of the Alt-right….Heather Suzanne Woods and Leslie A. Hahner offer a foundational introduction that will remain indispensable for years to come.”

Kelly Williams Nagel

Quarterly Journal of Speech

[T]he brilliance of this book also offers a reckoning with the impressive rhetorical power and viral nature of memes, the continuously shifting format of argumentative appeals, the notable community-building elements of online digital platforms, less traditional yet rapidly emerging forms of rhetorical address, and the ever-evolving nature of persuasive tactics and their role in shaping democracy as we know it.

Mallory L. Marsh

Argumentation & Advocacy

Woods and Hahner are not simply trying to add their savvy contribution to media studies, political science, and political communication; they are challenging these fields to rethink many of the very premises that currently undergird them.

Michael Mario Albrecht

Lateral: Journal of the Cultural Studies Association

CASE STUDY

Weaponizing Memes

“Memes need not be humorous or factual to be functional. All they need to do is attract attention online, which often translates into mainstream media coverage. That makes memes potent tools for distributing disinformation.” -Woods & Hahner

How mainstream media helps weaponize far-right conspiracy theories
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Why Old Tactics Can’t Combat the Alt-Right
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Contact Heather

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