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With digitalculturebooks, the University of Michigan Press publishes innovative work in new media studies and digital humanities. We began in 2006 as a partnership between MLibrary and the Press, taking advantage of the skills and expertise of staff throughout Michigan Publishing. Our primary goal is to be an incubator for new publishing models in the humanities and social sciences.

Ethical Programs

Hospitality and the Rhetorics of Software
James J. Brown, Jr.
Explores the rhetorical potential and problems of a new era of hosts and guests


Living in a networked world means never really getting to decide in any thoroughgoing way who or what enters your “space” (your laptop, your iPhone, your thermostat . . . your home). With this as a basic frame-of-reference, James J. Brown’s Ethical Programs examines and explores the rhetorical potential and problems of a hospitality ethos suited to a new era of hosts and guests. Brown reads a range of computational strategies and actors including the general principles underwriting the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), which determines how packets of information can travel through the internet, to the Obama election campaign’s use of the power of protocols to reach voters, harvest their data, incentivize and, ultimately, shape their participation in the campaign. In demonstrating the kind of rhetorical spaces networked software establishes and the access it permits, prevents, and molds, Brown makes a major contribution to the emergent discourse of software studies as a major component of efforts in broad fields including media studies, rhetorical studies, and cultural studies.

“Jim Brown’s work is a critical contribution to the growing body of scholarship studying software as a cultural form. Ethical Programs exposes the way computer programs—typically understood as strictly utilitarian tools—in fact embody, structure, and project a sense of ethics in networked environments.”
—Mark Sample, Davidson College

“James J. Brown Jr. is without question one of the most sophisticated theorists working in the rapidly emerging field of digital rhetoric today. Not many writers can knowledgeably combine readings of continental philosophy, close interpretation of lines of computer code and data analytics, and commentary on Internet policies and practices; yet Brown does so expertly and confidently. This book is a must read in for scholars of digital culture interested in the politics of protocols. With examples that range from Wikipedia entries to updates from the Obama campaign website, the reader grows to understand not only how software promotes particular arguments but also how it advances an ethical agenda endowed with considerable nuance that must by necessity expand our understanding of conflict and hospitality.”
—Elizabeth Losh, University of California, San Diego

Ethical Programs offers digital studies, rhetoric and composition, computers and writing, and new media an important work on the question of hospitality. Brown demonstrates that hospitality is at the core of network interactions—particularly where exploits, political campaigning, wiki editing, and other activities occur.”
—Jeff Rice, University of Kentucky 

“Poised at the intersection of digital rhetorics and software studies, Ethical Programs is an important contribution to both fields. Brown argues that our machines are not only means and sites of rhetorical practice, but participants as well. In a culture increasingly defined by algorithms, interfaces, and protocols, Ethical Programs orients us towards the future of rhetorical theory.
—Collin Gifford Brooke, Syracuse University

“In Ethical Programs, Brown extends a welcome hand to netizens enduring the onslaught of information that arrives in gigabytes at our networked doors.  Examining the rhetoric of machines and the machines of rhetoric, he makes a compelling argument for a rhetorical approach to the arguments made by, with, and in software. His book is a must read for anyone interested in Critical Code Studies or software studies.”
—Mark Marino, University of Southern California

Cover: © “No Vacancy” by Cameron Russell 

James J. Brown is an Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Digital Studies Center at Rutgers University–Camden. His teaching and research focus on rhetoric, writing, new media, and software studies.

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 248pp.
  • 9 figures.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2015
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-07273-6

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  • $69.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2015
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-05273-8

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  • $29.95 U.S.

  • Open Access
  • 2015
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-90008-4

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  • software studies, hospitality, ethics, rhetoric, composition, digital rhetoric, rhetorical theory, new media, computation, ethical programs, digital humanities, rhetorical, Internet, media studies, cultural studies,