Ehren Helmut Pflugfelder

Geoengineering, Persuasion, and the Climate Crisis: A Geologic Rhetoric (2023)

A rhetorical exploration of an underexamined side of climate change—the ongoing research into and development of geoengineering strategies

Geoengineering, Persuasion, and the Climate Crisis: A Geologic Rhetoric exposes the deeply worrying state of discourse over geoengineering—the intentional manipulation of the earth’s climate as means to halt or reverse global warming. These climate-altering projects, which range from cloud-whitening to carbon dioxide removal and from stratospheric aerosol injection to enhanced weathering, are all technological solutions to more complex geosocial problems. Geoengineering represents one of the most alarming forms of deliberative discourse in the twenty-first century. Yet geoengineering could easily generate as much harm as the environmental traumas it seeks to cure. Complicating these deliberations is the scarcity of public discussion. Most deliberations transpire within policy groups, behind the closed doors of climate-oriented startups, between subject-matter experts at scientific conferences, or in the disciplinary jargon of research journals. Further, much of this conversation occurs primarily in the West.

Ehren Helmut Pflugfelder makes clear how the deliberative rhetorical strategies coming from geoengineering advocates have been largely deceptive, hegemonic, deterministic, and exploitative. In this volume, he investigates how geoengineering proponents marshal geologic actors into their arguments—and how current discourse could lead to a greater exploitation of the earth in the future. Pflugfelder’s goal is to understand the structure, content, purpose, and effect of these discourses, raise the alarm about their deliberative directions, and help us rethink our approach to the climate. In highlighting both the inherent problems of the discourses and the ways geologic rhetoric can be made productive, he attempts to give “the geologic” a place at the table to better understand the roles that all earth systems continue to play in our lives, now and for years to come.

Geoengineering, Persuasion, and the Climate Crisis: A Geologic Rhetoric is the first book in rhetorical studies on the controversial topic of geoengineering. More importantly, the concept of geologic rhetoric it develops is the best discussion of rhetorical theory and the problematics of climate change that I have seen, and it provides an exciting new direction in rhetoric of science and the environment. It is carefully researched and theorized, but it is also very readable and engaging.”
—Carl G. Herndl, coeditor of Green Culture: Environmental Rhetoric in Contemporary America
“Ehren Helmut Pflugfelder takes what could easily be viewed as the tectonic rift between the sciences and the humanities and helps bridge the divide. Here he offers a ‘geologic rhetoric’ that is grounded not in ‘either/or’ propositions and hierarchical assumptions but rather in more nuanced ideas about how humans may work alongside our planet in deliberative and responsive ways to achieve a sustainable future.”
—Amy D. Propen, author of Visualizing Posthuman Conservation in the Age of the Anthropocene
“This is an exceptional overview of what we might justifiably consider a terrifying science—geoengineering—that asks us to think about how our worldviews quite literally shape our world. ‘The earth,’ Pflugfelder writes, ‘is being rhetorically weaponized,’ and in this powerful but accessible account we’re told a story that weaves together materiality, non-Western rhetorics, risk, capitalism, and communication. Academic books have a reputation for dryness; this one is not. I not only read this cover to cover but enthusiastically came back for more.”
—Derek G. Ross, editor of Topic-Driven Environmental Rhetoric

SIGDOC ’19 Proceedings of the 37th ACM International Conference on the Design of Communication

Richards, Daniel P., Tim Amidon, and Ehren Helmut Pflugfelder. Portland, Oregon — October 04 – 06, 2019. ISBN: 978145036790-5.

20 Research Papers; 14 Experience Reports; 2 Industry Insights; 2 Panel Abstracts; 3 Poster Abstracts; 9 Student Research Competition Poster Abstracts.

Communicating Mobility and Technology: A Material Rhetoric for Persuasive Transportation (2017)

Winner of the 2018 CCCC Technical and Scientific Communication Award in the category of Best Book in Technical or Scientific Communication.

Responding to the effects of human mobility and crises such as depleting oil supplies, Ehren Helmut Pflugfelder turns specifically to automobility, a term used to describe the kinds of mobility afforded by autonomous, automobile-based movement technologies and their ramifications. Thus far, few studies in technical communication have explored the development of mobility technologies, the immense power that highly structured, environmentally significant systems have in the world, or the human-machine interactions that take place in such activities. Applying kinaesthetic rhetoric, a rhetoric that is sensitive to and developed from the mobile, material context of these technologies, Pflugfelder looks at transportation projects such as electric taxi cabs from the turn of the century to modern day, open-source vehicle projects, and a large case study of an autonomous, electric pod car network that ultimately failed. Kinaesthetic rhetoric illuminates how mobility technologies have always been persuasive wherever and whenever linguistic symbol systems and material interactions enroll us, often unconsciously, into regimes of movement and ways of experiencing the world. As Pflugfelder shows, mobility technologies involve networks of sustained arguments that are as durable as the bonds between the actors in their networks.

“Technical communicators, engineers, and designers in the automotive industry, as well as researchers with expertise and interest in actor-network theory (ANT), will find Communicating Mobility and Technology: A Material Rhetoric for Persuasive Transportation a valuable book. [It] offers a unique contribution to scholarly work on professional communication in the transportation industry.” 
— Aimee Kendall Roundtree, IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication

“What Pflugfelder’s book reveals is that when we think about whether transportation technologies are persuasive, we create the possibility for intervention.”
— Kathleen F. Oswald, Villanova University, Transfers: Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies

“Communicating Mobility and Technology: A Material Rhetoric for Persuasive Transportation is a unique contribution to studies in both technical communication and automobility and should be of interest to anyone working in industrial rhetoric,mobility technologies, automotive transportation projects, or the history of rhetorical language.”
— Mark W. Shealy, Texas Tech University, Rhetoric Society Quarterly

“The text will be of particular interest to scholars and practitioners who work within and around large systems and ecologies similar to automobility, including fields and sites like disaster communication, public transportation systems, government agencies, environmental rhetorics, and logistics planning.” 
— Daniel L. Hocutt, Universtiy of Richmond, Communication Design Quarterly


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