Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version

Winter 2011


Published in ARGUMENTATION AND ADVOCACY 47 (Winter 2011): 141-162.


This essay examines the significance of a particular metaphor, flooding the zone, which gained prominence as an account of bloggers' argumentative prowess in the wake of Senator Trent Lott's toast at Strom Thurmond's centennial birthday party. I situate the growth of the blogosphere in the context of the political economy of the institutional mass media at the time and argue that the blogosphere is an alternative site for the invention of public argument. By providing an account of how the blogosphere serves as a site of invention by flooding the zone with densely interlinked coverage of a controversy, this essay theorizes how the networked public sphere facilitates invention with speed, agonism, and copiousness. The essay then identifies how flooding the zone has been adopted by corporations and the state in order to blunt spontaneous argumentation emerging from the periphery of communication networks.