We need to consider and look at how ethos works in practice. Ethos isn't a feature in a text or artifact. Ethos is an appeal, like logos, that draws on specific presuppositions that the audience carries. An appeal to ethos creates trust, we say, but how does it do that? we have to ask.
Rhetorical critics don't connect ethos to an inherent psyche. We can't legitimately argue that an ethos is a genuine representation of some internal psychological identity because we have no access to that internal psychological identity to verify the clain. Seeking authenticity, we also like to connect ethos to things like handwriting, face to face communication, immediacy in response - the idea that one's first reaction is the least mediated (most im-mediate) and so most sincere. Maybe, but probably not - because rhetors can create a sense of immediacy in a very calculated way. As well, this would mean that a formal, practiced ethos would not be trustworthy, which is not the case. Trust is not a function of ethos but of habitus.
We're looking for something to ground ethos in. If it's not some nebulous psyche, then what? Rhetorical studies looks to habitual social behaviors.
Labeling something as ethos doesn't explain how that ethos works to persuade - in this case, to create IDENTIFICATION. To explain how ethos creates identification, we need to look to shared patterns of social behaviors.
- Identification - We seek identification with a rhetor or seek to differentiate identification with a rhetor. Identification is manifest as trust and by assigning the rhetor credibility.
- Habit - Shared, habituated actions, shared among those in the social field of the action. eg: Buttoning coat. Using a tool belt rather than a bag.
- Habitus - This is not the same as ethos. Ethos is generalized by an audience by way of a consideration of habitus. It is a pattern of action that can be interpreted as socially revealing something significant about the rhetor's character. p 240. It is social, not private.Rhetorical analysts look at the habitus to understand how the rhetor creates identification.
- Social field - The places where people acquire their habits by encountering the dominant habitus. That place where people learn, recognize, and repeat symbolically significant habits. eg: gendered division in buttoning coats. Using a tool belt rather than a bag creates a worker division.
- Successful rhetoric allows audience to connect habitus with ethos by way of IDENTIFICATION: The habitus persuades the implied audience to identify with the ethos of the rhetor.
The heuristic questions in Longaker (pp 249-50) are phrased to connect a rhetor to person. We can adapt them to focus on the digital presentation.
We'll look at a few university website home pages. Universities provide the social field: They are places where people come to acquire their habits by encountering a dominant habitus. Universities are a broad field (they share some elements of a common habitus), but within that broad field, they also present an individual habitus. We're looking at both with the aim of distinguishing the specific
We start by assuming that the university home page is an embodied presentation of that university's habitus. But we'll see that the multiple elements of the web page, as presented within rhetorical situation, establish a habitus: a pattern of actions.
Consider (in notes, of course)
(29 Nov 2016. I'm still refining the questions. We'll continue to in class.)
- Gestures. How are the rhetor's gestures presented and how do they relate one to another? Start wit particular gestures and work towards more generalized naming of those gestures. The gestures will often be subtle, hardly notable. They will appear in the visual elements of the page, the text, the headlines, how those headlines are phrased ... but especially in the content. You're looking for regularity between larger elements on the page: between the main image, say, and the news headlines.
- Watch for figures or tropes that the rhetor relies on that connect to a character type. Watch for the register, keywords that signal beliefs. In use of images, same thing: register, key elements of the image that signal values.
- What is the common thread that runs through the presentation of these gestures? Attention to detail, for instance. Seriousness, cultural awareness, attachment to history ...
- Who else shares these embodied gestures? by gender? by ethnicity? by social class? by geographical position? by historical moment? Here, the question is, What other universities share these gestures?
- How do we characterize the collection of habits this rhetor shares with a group? Give the disposition a name. What kind of university is being presented? Name the habitus. This name will evolve from the how you characterized the presentation.
An analytical question to return to is, Overall, how does the habitus established by the presentation now inspire or help inspire ethos? That is, what overall ethos emerges from the overall pattern of presentation? Consistent? Inconsistent? Moderate? Immoderate? Something else entirely?
HabitusOnHomePages11Nov: Identification (trust, credibility) is created by the means of public behavior of appropriate respect for the moment.