What Makes This Rhetorical - WAS

The Rhetorical Artifact: Rice University Homepage

1. Consider these elements of the textualized rhetorical situation. Make notes on what you observe. Refer to Longaker, pp 11-15

2. In an extended paragraph, draw on your notes on observing to consider how this artifact persuades: that is, address The university website uses quick-hitters in the floating drop down menu bar to set the tone with statements such as the following from their About menu:
"Located on a 300-acre tree-lined campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is approximately 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is highly ranked for best quality of life by the Princeton Review and for best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance."
And it follows up those statistics with this boastful statement in the Academics menu:
"No limits, no boundaries, no stopping. At Rice, we learn from our world-class faculty, from each other and from people around the globe. Rice has highly respected schools of architecture, business, continuing studies, engineering, humanities, music, natural sciences and social sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. We offer robust and productive research and teaching endeavors across a wide spectrum of disciplines, with a strong focus on the student experience and outcomes."
And the same theme continues through the Research, Campus Life, Alumni, and Athletics menus. In the historical and cultural context of 21st century American higher education, the rhetor draws on the presuppositions that an elite quality post-secondary education is synonymous with a higher quality of life, and delivers what their intended audience is searching to find - an institution "ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities" and their "student-to-faculty ratio is approximately 6-to-1." The rhetor is selling the university to its prospective community while reinforcing the faith of its current community. But beyond that, the rhetor has met Hurricane Harvey head on to reassure their community that they are pulling together to get through this current trial of life with a smile in every photograph, a helping hand in every image, a community coming together video to reinforce its "highly ranked for best quality of life" review. As a visitor, not directly connected to the Rice University community, it's interesting to note that the deliberate discourse of the university business continues to be the framework for the forum while the epideictic discourse that dominates the majority of the homepage seems to become the genre.

3. And wrap up your notes by using another extended paragraph that addreses this question:
What specific challenge or problem does the specific artifact pose to rhetorical analysis?

In gathering notes and examples in the rhetorical analysis of this particular artifact, the feeling that the kairos was in a constant state of change presented the biggest challenge for the analysis. From the moment this artifact was assigned three days ago, the banner image/story has changed three times. This wasn't a snapshot in time, it was a moving and breathing thing. Much like the storm that was bearing down on the university, the website itself was unpredictable during the course of this analysis because of the constantly changing situation - and the possibility that the situation would be changing to an entirely different topic or genre during the course of the analysis. Not to say that the epideictic discourse would be changing because the rhetor could very well just move on to some other story of praise for another facet of the university community for an entirely different reason, but rather the genre of the discourse could be in flux. It also requires the rhetorician to see on multiple levels. To be completely objective, the analyst must dig past the epideictic fat of the images and stories to get at the deliberate meat and bone of the framework of the university's business website - all the while being consciously aware of how they are selling both discourses. The rhetor isn't just selling the business Monday-Friday and selling the family Saturday and Sunday, they're slinging heavy sales pitches from both ends - 24/7/365.
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