As you may well be aware by now, the
World Wide Web really is world-wide. In almost every country on earth
one can access the web, and, coincidentally, publish to it. You don’t
have to have a lot of money, or special connections in the publishing
industry, and you don’t have to have advance degrees in whatever
subjects you care to write about, or really any qualifications at all.
On one hand this seems like a terrific
equalizer, a democratization of media access. However, because many
traditional methods of filtering and often validating content (for good
or ill) are absent, this democratization also creates an explosion in
the volume of material that exists out in the cybersphere. How does one
establish credibility on the WWW? How does one determine the difference
between a website created with good intentions against created to
obfuscate, distort, or mislead? How does one differentiate between a
crackpot’s site and an authoritative source? How does one distinguish a
site that represents a large entity and one that is just some hobby site
put up by someone for kicks? How can hoaxes be detected? Is it possible
for a site put up by a college freshman somewhere, despite its humble
origins, to have more credibility than a corporate site of impressive
design and depth?
Ethos, Pathos and Logos are the three key
aspects of rhetoric, or the art of persuasion, as defined by Aristotle.
Although, naturally, the World Wide Web didn’t exist in Aristotle’s day,
the concepts he described still apply to our apprehension of this latest
form of mass media.
– the reputation and character of a speaker or writer in an argument.
A speaker or
writer may argue from his or her own personal qualities as a sensible,
moral person of good character
Moves an audience
by proving credibility and trustworthiness – the audience trusts
the speaker Ideally based on intelligence, virtue, and goodwill. Conveys
a respect for subject and audience
a person can have enormous credibility about a subject
despite what you think of him or her as a person
Domain experts of
poor personal behavior
e.g. Dick Morris
Or, can have
credibility in an area that that is not directly related to the source
of their credibility
logic as in Michael Jordan’s endorsement for palm pilot (http://www.palminfocenter.com/view_story.asp?ID=1574)
How is ethos used
in this site?
the part of an argument consisting of evidence and the reasoning
based directly on that evidence
May argue from
the subject matter by using the inductive logic of examples and/or the
deductive logic of enthymemes
Are the premises, or evidence, for the argument just and appropriate?
Does the proper conclusion follow from the assumptions of the premises
and what would prevent the audience from accepting the conclusion?
How is logos employed in this site?
What other appeals can you find?
part of an argument which touches the emotions of the reader or
Also called the
pathetic or emotional appeals,
May appeal to the
character or mental state of the audience
Seeks to change
the attitudes and actions of the audience by playing on the feelings of
Where are the
appeals to emotions in this site?
appeals can you find here?
Note that there is more at work here than just words.
Because of the capabilities of the web, other elements of media control
can have rhetorical effects. Pay close attention to these other, less
obvious capabilities in this medium.
Visual Information Structure
How does the text
appear on the screen?
are used, and what textual effects?
How is the text
How are headings,
titles, and white space used?
What colors are
used, and to what effect?
How does contrast
between colors affect perception?
What pictures are
present? How are they used?
How are buttons,
icons and other devices designed and employed?
non-textual resources used to support or contradict the text?
How is the site
techniques are used?
How are links
references are used to establish credibility?
With this in mind, investigate each of the following websites and apply
both rhetorical and visual analysis to them to see if you can discover
things below the obvious surfaces presented. Answer the following
questions for each site:
What is the primary appeal of the site in its visual presentation?
What is the primary appeal of the site in the textual content and
do these interact to support or weaken the message of the site?
What examples of ethos, pathos, and logos can you find in either the
text or the presentation of the site?
does the site’s structure and navigation affect its effectiveness, if at
©2003 Northern Arizona
University Writing Program