"A short burst of inconsequential information:" Networked rhetorics, avian consciousness, and bioegalitarianism

Damien Smith Pfister

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

3 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-136
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironmental Communication
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2 2015



  • DeLillo
  • avian consciousness
  • bioegalitarianism
  • ecocriticism
  • networked media
  • neurodiversity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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