Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 2015


Pfister, D.S. (2014). “A short burst of inconsequential information:” Networked rhetorics, avian consciousness, and bioegalitarianism. Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture, v. 9, iss. 1, pp. 118-136; doi: 10.1080/17524032.2014.910243


Copyright © 2014 Taylor & Francis. Used by permission.


This essay uses the concept of “avian consciousness” to reconsider assumptions about human communication and theorize networked rhetorics. By adopting an ornithomorphic frame, I critically read Don DeLillo’s The Body Artist as an exploration of overlaps between human and avian consciousness. I then argue that avian consciousness provides a richer metaphor for understanding networked rhetorics than autistic consciousness, which is an increasingly dominant trope for explaining interaction with digitally networked media. I explore how Twitter, explicitly modeled on avian communication, can be understood as circulating information in ways analogous to the contact and assembly calls of birds. The essay concludes by noting that seeing avian features in human communication diminishes the perceived gap between human and nonhuman animal, holding out hope for a more bioegalitarian relationship between species.