Presentational Enthymemes and the BSU Homepage

We have a theory of presentational enthymeme to work with. You may not understand the theory completely, but this exercise will give you a opportunity to develop your understanding more closely.

Before you start, get these materials beside you as you work

Part 1

Drawing on our first look at presentational enthymemes, encounter the BSU home page with the intent to confront and analyze the presentational enthymemes you can infer from the page.

How to proceed

0. Start a new page titled PresentationalEnthymemesBSUHomePage - followed by your initials. Use this page for your work on this project.

1. Visit and work through the BSU home page at You're trying to encounter the page as a user would - not a naive new user who has never seen the page before but as a more general user. You want to press buttons and make bells ring, roll over menus and click links... You're systematically exploring the page for presentational enthymemes. See what presentational enthymemes you can infer from your systematic encounter with the page. [As Wayne noticed on Tuesday, some images and links will pop up text (tool tips) when they are hovered over. These are typically used to guide vision impaired users, but they still can function as presentational enthymemes.]

2. When you identify a presentational enthymeme, describe it and explain how it works:

3. As part of your analysis, consider the appeals each presentational enthymeme draws on. This would include the appeal made by the cap: a sudden encounter makes a different appeal than the expected appearance of menu items in a drop down menu.

Don't stop with two or three presentational enthymemes. There are going to be a number of presentational enthymemes active on the page. For this exercise you're looking for a complete catalogue of the page. There are presentational enthymemes possible in every encounter with every interface movement. A drop down menu with text and image might cap an enthymeme. Clicking a link might. Scrolling up to reveal the panel rising on the screen might.

Notes on Good Analyses

Your analysis should use the terms for analyzing presentational enthymemes: cap, claim, data, warrant, ideational quality (underlying logic of the enthymeme), shared presuppositions, inference ...

Keep in mind your position as someone analyzing rhetorical messages. You are not the audience. You are outside the rhetorical interaction, looking in.

A good analysis focuses on how the presentational enthymeme functions, how it works. Set aside how well or poorly it is designed. Hold your criticisms at bay for this exercise.

To consider the enthymeme accurately, consider the presuppositions at work in the rhetorical situation of a university home page in general and BSU's home page specifically: the values, interests, qualities, the expectations that the rhetor presupposes are shared.

Part 2

updated 11 Oct 2017
Consider validity and strength

4. Review Longaker on validity and fallacies. Use the list of fallacies on pp 65-66. Check each of your analyses of the presentational enthymemes against the list to see if it's fallacious or not. If it is, make some notes on what that might mean. Does the presentation of the enthymeme show the fallaciousness? or is it more in your construction of the ideational enthymeme from the presentation? Consider if the fallaciousness of the enthymeme has any bearing for the intended audience on the persuasiveness of the enthymeme.

Notes on validity and strength
Fallacies are common errors in the line of reasoning that (tend to) render an argument invalid. Validity is a function of the line of reasoning, and the fallacies Longaker lists are common - in wide circulation - ill-suited lines of reasoning.

We're looking at fallacies as a way of considering the validity of the ideational enthymeme behind the presentation. We're actually checking our construction of the enthymeme. But because the presentational enthymeme shapes that construction, the fallaciousness lies in the presentational side of things. That is, presentational enthymemes might be constructed so that intended viewers create a fallacious enthymeme.

An enthymeme can be fallacious but still be persuasive. Or it can be valid but not persuasive. "Enthymemes ... can be judged as relatively weak or strong, depending on the audience's degree of ... adherence to the reasons and presuppositions of the claim" (64). We see this in my analysis of the chalked sidewalk message below.

The list of fallacies that Longaker presents are fallacies that are in common circulation and use. They are part of the presuppositions that our culture more or less works with. We all use them in common argument, and we tend to overlook their use. When we get critical of each other, we may point them out to weaken the validity of a presentational enthymeme. But as rhetorical analysts, we're obligated to locate them and consider how they work.

An example analysis

The chalked sidewalk message outside HS on 27 Sep 2016. The image is on this page.

The chalked message is a cap that initiates the inference of a presentational enthymeme. The sidewalk typically doesn't have a message on it, so the presence of a message starts the inference. Chalked messages aren't unexpected at a university, and are typically used to announce events of interest to the university community: they are typically not personal messages. Being written in chalk, the message is temporary and timely. Chalk messages that are of interest to the university community are presumably sanctioned by the university administration. They are not graffiti. [considering forum and medium]

The materials involved are the sidewalk (public thoroughfare where walkers can be expected), the medium of chalk (temporary, which lets viewers infer an immediacy to the message), and placement to create a designed encounter for students leaving HS from the south-west door. The message is directed at those students, at the moment when they would choose to follow the sidewalk to the left to get to HMU Info Desk. This positioning is a further emphasis on the immediacy of the claim: Buy a season ticket now."

The message is designed to prompt viewers to infer a claim that suits the content of the stated message. The claim, "You should buy a season now." The data is the message itself as a reminder. There are signals in the message that initiate the inference: use of the word "still" in an emphatic position. The callout placement of "Limited Quantity" in a highlighted space separate from the main message (speech bubble). Three !!!

Appeals: The presentational emphasis on immediacy is an appeal to pathos, especially in winding up excitement in buying the in-demand season tickets. This is deliberative prose, placed and phrased for an instant, immediate, and unconsidered choice. It might also operate as a reminder for students who have been considering the tickets, but the emphasis on immediate action ("Limited Quantity!!!", the temporary presence of the the message, the placement of the message at the Y of the sidewalk) emphasizes pathos over consideration of logos ("Are they expensive? Can I afford this?"). Ethos - the character of the message - is carried by pathos: Excitement of owning, excitement of the games. The !!! carries this blend of pathos and ethos. Pathos doesn't persuade but is designed to put the viewer in an emotional state to be persuaded. This presentational enthymeme is almost all pathos.

Validity and strength: The presentation and the ideation both invoke a bandwagon fallacy: EVERYBODY wants these tickets! YOU should want these tickets! But this use of the bandwagon fallacy doesn't weaken the enthymeme. It motivates it for the intended audience. This audience wants to be on the bandwagon, wants to be part of the group that has season tickets, and the enthymeme is their notification that if they don't act now, they will be left behind.

There are no comments on this page.
Valid XHTML :: Valid CSS: :: Powered by WikkaWiki