Sixth, eportfolios, as technologies, are subject to rhetorical contextualization. eportfolios, at first, have a definite purpose, whether aesthetic or useful (that is, contributing to a reduced workload or monetary gain). eportfolios have a definite/indefinite audience (e.g. individual teacher, higher educational officials, family members, visitors online, or others). Students design for instructors but also for others (e.g. mom, dad, sister, brother, etc.). eportfolios have a definite author (the student designer/technician). Furthermore, through their instrumentality, technologies may become even more rhetorical.
Feenberg in Alternative Modernity discusses broad range of technological concerns regarding pre-modern and modern societies. He discusses how technologies acquire broad cultural meanings and significances, and develops these notions through the text; he concludes: (1) rhetorical procedures invest them with symbolic meaning, such as myths or advertising (or even teaching); (2) design features embed values in the artifact; (3) interconnections with other technologies in a network impose a specific way of life or a specific use in a social continuum.
As I mentioned, eportfolios have “at first” a definite purpose, although they later may be used for additional purposes (or unintended purposes). For example, consider the advent of computer games. Initially, computer games are just a form of entertainment, although educators have taken advantage of these technologies arguing that games teach (Gee, 2003). eportfolios, as compositionists use them, may result from unintended purpose as well. Portfolio approaches are rather new, yet the use of portfolios in other disciplines, such as Art, has been prevalent for centuries. But, I will leave this for a later discussion.
In a separate and significant discussion of the rhetorical qualities of technology, Carolyn Miller (1978), in "Technology as a Form of Consciousness," describes technology as a matter of doing, which can be examined by looking closely at the actions we understand as "technological." She discusses the concept of character relates carefully the notions of ethos and character within the framework of action, a connection between internal intention and external intransigence. Furthermore, technology exists as extensions, which "permit the human species to solve problems and to evolve without changing biologically" (p. 229). She defines primitive technologies (extensions) as tools, citing tools as the intermediate extending our biological capabilities. She discusses the goal of efficiency within the concept of group and mechanization, stating "a machine requires an algorithm or 'effective procedure' to do its task" (p.232).
Discussing the notion of closed and open systems within technology discussing their limitations, furthering the notion "A closed system has a finite set of unites and operations and cannot accommodate any new relations between them," claiming the closed have serious limitations (p. 234). She claims our culture is technological and the ethos, which it inspires, must be technological. She concludes with the idea "The ideological context of technology contributes to what has been called the fragmentation of our culture and thus to the difficulty of making social decisions through rhetorical processes... the ideology surrounding high-context technology has prevented the achievement of communal understanding of prudence and efficiency... technology is not a 'purer' form of knowledge or action; it encourages its own form of consciousness" (p.235-6).