Habitus


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.

Precepts


Practice

Longaker discusses an ironic habitus used by VW in a print ad, but we can see others at work in other forums. (In fact, we can consider how VW's ironic habitus suffers in light of last year's discovery of emission test tampering.)

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.)


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?

The Rhetors




HabitusOnHomePages11Nov: Identification (trust, credibility) is created by the means of public behavior of appropriate respect for the moment.



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