A description of the artifact:

The website is colorful, and interactive from the moment you arrive at the web address. There are sounds that accompany the actions (both involuntary and voluntary) that occur on the screen. Even as you simply stare at the opening portion of the site, the little people move and shift as they stand (as if they are sentient beings being paid to humor you as you navigate the website on your own terms). I'd like to imagine that the time and place in which the rhetorical situation is presented is during the average American work day (being that the main subject of the website is the current [all-encompassing] financial reality that we all [as working citizens] face on a daily basis).

The implied rhetor:

The implied rhetor is most likely someone who is (obviously) very aware of the inner-workings of the American economy (not just how the economy works [macro and micro economics] but especially how wealth is distributed based on profession). Idealistically, the rhetor genuinely cares about relating their understanding of the economy to the general majority of the American population (I say idealistically because it's an unfortunate truth that intelligent folks can often be drawn to the dark side via self-gratification and selfish desires for praise and recognition [in this case: "Wow, look how intuitive and relevant this website is! You sure are a true American for caring so deeply about this sensitive subject!"]). This may seem pessimistic of me to think this, and may seemingly not apply to the overall point of this assignment (but I truly feel this may be an unfortunate possibility when considering the identity of the implied rhetor [especially when you consider the fact that this website on its own may well be thought-provoking--but will it actually CHANGE anything? Who knows]). Anyway, I would like to believe that the rhetor has a genuine interest in appealing to the younger people of America (being that they are more likely to spend more time exploring the website--and will ultimately appreciate it more based on a variety of factors [fluidity, creativity, the overall message--which most definitely applies to them, being that they are the ones who are about to inherit America's rocky economy]). The rhetor hopefully believes that change is born of well-presented (and creatively-presented) information (especially in today's technologically-dependent society--where it's continually harder to wow an audience).

The intended addressee:

I kind of answered this portion in the section above, but I will reiterate: I see the intended addressee being the younger (not kids, but young adults and new adults [20-30]) generation who are beginning to play their part in America's economy. It can also be supposed that the intended addressee could be someone who intends to pursue a career in economics or politics or both (and thus be equipped to actually attempt to CHANGE the current financial reality in America). It could be further supposed that the intended addressee is someone who is already a key figure involved in the economic mechanisms of America (the website being an appeal to the powerful person's conscience--and with luck might push the person towards action). Perhaps this person already KNOWS all of this information, but hasn't given much thought into actually pursuing change.


The occasion:

This was also previously stated above, but the occasion is the current status of America's economy. Wealth is obviously not distributed equally, and this reality is not a hidden truth; the statistics are there, but one has to seek them out (which is made easier by visiting this website). The occasion (based on the context of this website) could also be the Internet in general (meaning the use of the Internet is so normal in everyday life it can almost be considered a second reality in which we all reside in on a minute by minute basis). Many folks' jobs are done via the Internet--so it can be supposed that the message of the website is meant to be first understood/realized on the Internet's digital plane before being integrated in the physical world. This might be reaching...but it's hard to deny the reality that people spend an incredible amount of time simultaneously existing in both the digital and the physical world. And I guess in some ways, money is becoming more and more digital these days...Right? My paychecks are deposited directly into my account and I rarely go to the bank to actually take out amounts in bills...


The exigence:

The American economy is unbalanced, and unfair. Everyone knows it, but who is actually doing something about it? It can also be supposed that the exigence is that it is difficult to find an all-encompassing visual/interactive representation of how the American economy works (thus the creation of this website). It can also be inferred, through working through the website, that understanding/taking part in changing the reality of the economy requires willingness and participation.

The discourse:

I consider the discourse to be largely deliberative (since I feel it's obvious the overall point of the website is to promote economical change). This is further reinforced when (on many occasions during navigation/participation within the site) you are prompted to tell someone how angry you are about this inequality (via Twitter) or to donate money to the website (and ultimately the cause). However, it can also be considered judicial (in that once you actually delve into the website, one of the first things it presents to you is the changes in the relationship between productivity and compensation that have taken place since the end of World War II [thus referring to the past and blaming those in power at the time for acting as catalysts, knowingly or unknowingly, for economic unfairness that continues to develop to this day]).

The forum and the genre:

The forum/genre is an interactive website. It's not enough to say that it's just the Internet in general. There are plenty of websites that probably have similar information on the economy that are in no way interactive (especially when considering you don't just interact with the website, but you are enticed to interact via other forums as well [twitter] upon making it to a certain point in the 'narrative' of the site). In this, you can also suppose that the forum/genre is almost a class of some kind. Much like a college course, it is designed to both teach/inform and elicit participation in order to reach the ultimate goal of enlightenment and real-world application.

The physical material:

As I mentioned earlier, there are little people in the website that are meant to look sentient (perhaps a rhetorical way of saying: the American economical problems are REAL and are at play RIGHT NOW). They are dressed in different apparel (meant to denote profession). Initial text is presented in the form of menu buttons at the top of the screen (real, personal, expensive, created, fixable). This is no different than pretty much any website that exists--but only at first glance. More text pops up on its own, and asks you to click in order to progress through the website's presentation (or lecture, if viewing it as a short, condensed class). When clicked, these prompts make sounds that could be considered appealing (as opposed to annoying or abrasive--innocent sounds almost [that kind of tell me subliminally: "See? See how easy it is to just sit down and consider the American economic reality? All it takes is a little participation! Come on buddy, keep going!"]). Subsequently, there are graphs and statistics that pop up and relate America's economic inequality to the website visitor (and they are not simply pictures, but rather animations that coincide with time passing [when they refer back to the end of World War II and trace economic changes up to the present]).

The presuppositions:

It can be presupposed that the rhetors have done their research. They have gone through great lengths to collect, scrutinize, sort, condense, and arrange the information in such a way that pretty much anyone with a functioning brain can understand the message they are trying to convey. To think of how much time actually went in to this research (and this, of course, is not even taking the amount of time it took to actually build the functioning interactive website into consideration) is confounding. I find it massively disorienting to even START trying to figure out what the hell is going on in the world day by day (thanks to the tidal waves of information that wash over me everyday from every technological/physical outlet [iPhone news feed, Facebook feed, TV news, NPR and radio in general, college courses, etc]). It can also be presupposed that the rhetors have a plan (of some sort) in regards to changing the reality of America's economy (beyond, I hope, merely enticing the everyday American to tweet about how unhappy they are with their wage/salary compensation).

The issue or question:

I feel that the question is more important than the issue. The issue is something that we are all aware of (definitely now that we've participated in the interactive website). The ultimate question is: what are YOU going to do about it? What is the person who just took the time to explore the website going to do now that he/she has just been provoked into not only considering the unfair reality of America's economy but also into taking action? Will the person take action? And is that what ultimately leads to what the issue truly is? (Everyone knows that there is a massive problem with the economy, but no one is attempting to a damn thing about it).


Presentational Enthymemes:

(REAL)
1.
Claim: Inequality is real.
Cap: The image (circle with adjustable arrow) that informs us that income is split up between the top 10% and the other 90%.
Data/Warrant: Top 10% receives 48% of actual total income while the other 90% receives 52% of total income.

(PERSONAL)
2.
Claim: Inequality is personal, and varies in degree based on a person's: age, ethnicity, education.
Cap: You fit into this web of inequality (initiated by the on-screen prompts that ask the user to provide information).
Data/Warrant: On average, someone like you makes "this much money" (If you keep going back and entering in different information [pretending to be a different age/ethnicity/etc] the information changes).

(EXPENSIVE)
3.
Claim: The amount of money you make every year is most likely unfair (either to you or to everyone else--depending on your individual situation, obviously).
Cap: You could be making MORE money (this is assuming most of the people who visit this site are not in the top 10%. It definitely seems to be tailored to that likelihood).
Data/Warrant: You make "this much money", which is either below or above (or miraculously exactly) the national average.

(CREATED)
4.
Claim: Economic inequality was created (via policy decisions on tax, wage, etc)
Cap: Inequality was created to help protect the rich and exploit the normal American worker.
Data/Warrant: Overall profits are high, whereas worker compensation is at an all-time low.

(FIXABLE)
5.
Claim: The economy can be fixed
Cap: There are specific facets of the economy that can be adjusted in order to fix the economy.
Data/Warrant: Reworking trade agreements can help protect workers' rights, battling unemployment will altogether work in favor of the overall economy, if workers are given a voice and are allowed to form unions--minimum wage will begin to increase, regulation of banks and other financial institutions will stop the top 10% from (essentially) stealing money from workers, raising taxes on the top 10% will help redistribute America's overall wealth fairly.


(HELP FIX THIS)
6.
Claim: You can help fix this economic inequality
Cap: The actual button that says "Help Fix This" (inferring that by the very click of a button, you can start down this path)
Data/Warrant: The menu that appears after you click on "Help Fix This" (Know the issue, take action, stay informed, tell your friends, donate). Actual paths of action are presented to the user.



Focus on 2 Enthymemes:

First, I will focus on the first one I identified.

The claim and the cap are both presented within the text and the images on the screen (the text claims that the wealth in America is split between the top 10% and the other 90%, and the image furthers this contention [by prompting the user to first guess what he/she thinks the split really is, and then by revealing what the split is in reality]). The data is presented in the text and the interactive image after the user makes a guess as to what the split is.

I feel like there are other claims that can be identified. One such claim is that money = happiness. The demeanor and overall physical appearance of the little people changes depending upon how many money bags they have. The more money they have, the more they leap into the air in satisfaction. The less they have, the more slouched and bummed they are. I guess the money itself could be identified as the content in this instance. As for warrant, I'm not sure there is actual evidence within the realm of this website that can confirm that money makes everyone happy. It's, of course, fair to say that having a lot of money wouldn't necessarily make anyone UNHAPPY (by principle)...But it's also fair to say that normal working class people might value other things over money (perhaps they CHOSE to work a regular job as opposed to pursuing higher education). I'm not intending to argue the philosophical value of money; I feel that this initial claim in the first "area" of the website operates on this presupposition (that money = happiness).

Within this section, the user is then prompted to find out on a personal level how economic inequality is real--by progressing onto the section in which the user provides personal information in order to find out how much he/she is being cheated every year by the powers that be.

Second, I will focus on the fourth enthymeme I identified:

The claim and cap are encapsulated in the on-screen "video" that pops up once the "CREATED" tab is clicked on. A scholarly-looking aged white male appears and explains how (over time--since WWII) policy changes in tax laws, wage, etc have continuously been tampered with by the powers that be to exploit the normal American worker while benefiting the upper 10%. Warrant/data is presented in the form of charts and graphs in the on-screen video, mixed, of course, with the words of the aged white male (who provides explanations of what the charts and graphs are signifying). Even though, I (and a lot of people around age 30) played no part in this tampering, the aged white male on screen uses the word "We" extensively--which not only supports the claim that economic inequality was created, but that YOU (whoever the user is, whoever is participating in this interactive website) is somehow responsible for this problem. In reality, this may not actually be the case, but the rhetoric is powerful--in that the user may very well be able to say that I didn't cause this (but it's still my fault now if I don't DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT). The operating presupposition here is that no matter who you are, you must be unhappy with your lot in life (or if you are lucky enough to be happy with your lot in life, you are still unhappy in that others are unhappy with their lots in life). So I guess the overarching presupposition is that Americans all care about each other and the country as a whole and are willing to take action and progress towards a more equal, fair, unified economic reality.

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