Non-Lethal Farce: "Pepper Spray Cop" Photoshopping as Visual Rhetoric

Andrew M Peck


This paper examines photoshopping as an important emerging genre of vernacular civic discourse on the Internet. By sharing digitally altered images (“photoshops”) across networks, users engage in a vernacular process that creates and participates in discourses concerning social knowledge, shared expectations, and shared values. To demonstrate this process, this paper analyzes how photoshopping was used as a response to the pepper spraying of a group of peaceful protesters on the University of California, Davis campus. Enabled by the affordances of networked communication, this paper argues that photoshopping represents a powerful new form of vernacular rhetoric for the digital age.

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