Archives for the month of: September, 2012

When I first looked at the hulu commercial, I saw that it was mainly a pathos styled argument. The context of the commercial was clearly based on humor more than it was on anything else. It didn’t try to strike the emotions of the audience in a heartfelt way, nor did it try to present real facts or anecdotes about what hulu is, the entire commercial is, rather, trying to appeal to the audience in a joking way. They achieved this form of attracting the audience by making references to aliens, of course without failing to acknowledge popular science fiction elements that many people know well such as the threat of brain eating.

When it came to having to recreate the original argument using a different appeal, my mind soon shot toward the idea of transforming this hulu commercial from a humorous wave of confusion into a straightforward, clear advertisement. I mean, I enjoy the alien threat of brain eating form of humor that the commercials use, but I don’t believe that the exact message of the commercial is made entirely clear to many of those who watch it without paying special attention.

The hulu commercials don’t make a very good effort to outright say what they are advertising, rather the subject ends up being danced around and joked about and the commercials merely end with the threat of the earth on the near horizon. What I’m saying is that a certain amount of effort is definitely required in order for the audience to see that what is being advertised is a website called hulu where videos can be streamed in ways that exceed youtube.

In light of the points I have made on the original commercial, I decided to recreate the commercial in a way that it could be presented in a more serious tone. The argument of the commercial thus changed from one based on humoring the audience into a different sort based on fact. While I knew that it would in no way be as entertaining as aliens walking around the earth disguised as humans and trying to destroy the human race from the inside out, I knew that my method would be more direct with getting the point across. With the change of appeal, hulu’s intended message comes across with a whole new level of clarity.

With its transformation into an entirely different style of commercial, the way that the audience is to be persuaded changes as well. After my alterations, the commercial then sought to persuade through the knowledge of a general interest in watching shows online. With the use of the internet, even if a person has missed his or her favorite show on television on a given day, there are ways online to catch up on that sort of thing. This is what hulu does for people who end up in that predicament frequently, I know I’m one who almost never sees shows right when they air.

By mentioning in my version of the commercial the potential of the site to allow viewers to use hulu for amazing video streaming, the commercial is thus persuading the audience into trying the site out in order to see if it really gives what it offers. This functions differently from the original in that, in the original, I see the audience more leaning toward searching hulu online simply because they are trying to find out what the heck the alien commercial was advertising and not because of any understanding of what the site actually happens to be.

It is my belief that the second evolution of the commercial serves as one that is more persuasive than the original commercial. I say ‘more persuasive’ if only because the point is made clear in black and white, whereas with the original commercial the point was not obvious. I think this remains true even when the original intended audience is brought into question. Sure, it isn’t as funny, but the message is the same and I believe the original intended audience would agree that the second commercial is just as convincing as the first, if not more so.

The other benefit of the straightforward version of the commercial is the potential audience that it gains by being clear and right to the point for less science fiction interested viewers and viewers who do not react to sarcastic humor. The straight to the point argument draws in audience members who prefer simplistic, obvious arguments that they don’t have to pay a whole lot of attention to in order to understand properly. The advertisement basically just goes, ‘this is what hulu is, try us out, thanks’. In turn, with the original commercial, the advertisement is a lot more as follows, ‘we are aliens, we are doing stuff on earth, this is weird but we have a site called hulu’, establishing a state of confusion within the members of the audience. As a result, I see one of the appeals of the second commercial to be drawing in a new group of audience who would otherwise have not been able to decipher the meaning of the first version.

Finally, I felt that the recreated version of the commercial would succeed in targeting an audience who is not as computer savvy as the originally intended. Hulu is such an easy to use website that merely by hearing of the site’s potential to stream episodes of various television shows, one should be able to navigate his or her way there and be able to figure out how to use it. You have only to watch the commercial, moving on from there the many features of hulu quickly become available, so simple and easy to use it’s almost a bad thing not to at least check it out.


Animoto’d Hulu Commercial


The commercial I chose to work with is a Hulu commercial, located here:

Watching some hulu commercials, I came to the conclusion that the way they present themselves is through the use of pathos. Hulu is appealing to the audience in a humorous way, usually springing random jokes about aliens eating the brains of the population due to too much television. The joking aspect of the context is used in order to get viewers to watch even more episodes of various television shows through the use of hulu’s video streaming site. They are encouraging their audience to watch more and more, causing the brains of the viewers to be tastier for the aliens when they inevitably show up of course.

Since the original videos themselves were so full of such humor as brain eating, my initial idea was to present the commercial in a more serious tone. Instead of using pathos, I used logos when I went about editing the format of the commercial. Some viewers might not, from the original commercial, even understand what exactly hulu is about after having watched it. The difference is that, with the change of appeal, I think the message that hulu is trying to get across has become more clear. Do you want to watch your favorite shows and other shows you might be interested in online? Then check out hulu!

Pathos, as Lunsford put it, are “arguments based on emotion”. When a writer or speaker is using pathos, an appeal is trying to be made toward the emotions of an audience in order to influence them over to the side of the speaker. Such things as “words, images, and sounds can arouse emotions”, which gives a lot of potential tools for the speaker to work with. The thing about pathos is that when you argue a point based on emotion over anything else, persuasion is the way to go and not actually arguing. A person gets farther with their audience when he is seeking to persuade rather than throw his arguments at them. The difference between persuasion and argument? Well, with persuasion, the writer wants his audience “to take action”. Whereas, with argument, the speaker is trying to “convince that something is true”. Pathos has to do with wrapping your audience’s minds around what you are wanting to persuade, usually aided through personal chatter such as indulging them by letting them know you are speaking from personal experience. Additionally, humor such as what is oh so frequently used in plenty of speeches today, is an aspect of pathos and the emotional argument. Jokes help to lighten a mood, relax an audience, if all goes well even putting the audience into a more malleable state.


Ethos, as Lunsford put it, are “arguments based on character”. The fact that these types of arguments are based on character lets you know that what they are appealing to are values and that such things cannot possibly stimulate every varying type of audience. Here in ethos, we have the importance of reputation bringing more credibility to an argument and by extension to its persuasive power. “Authority, trust, and motives” count when it comes to listening to an argument based on ethos. A reader has to keep in mind what the reasonings are suspected to be behind the writer’s arguments, what motived the writer to say the things he’s saying, how much he can be trusted, and whether or not he even has the authority to say what he is claiming. Ethos encompasses the writer’s honesty and respect for his audience. If they aren’t being respected, then what should keep an audience listening to a speaker such as that? Better yet, why would they ever want to agree with a speaker who disrespects them as a group? They wouldn’t! Here, details, appearance, and presentation matter on a large scale. These types of arguments require the message to be clearly conveyed, sources cited, and details, details, details.


Logos, as Lunsford put it, are “arguments based on fact and reason”. He drew an interesting little parallel to the fact that Spock, and his race the Vulcans, approach all of their arguments in this way. Logos also seeks to persuade, but such methods require solid evidence of both hard and factual nature. Evidence gives credence to a claim; it makes the case plausible and capable of being listened to. A writer or a speaker here is trying to get his readers or listeners to believe him, which is why facts are necessary. Statistics, polls, and surveys are also a common part of logos as they can be used as a form of evidence in order to point out specific facts or majority views or what have you, such as when a decision is helped to be made based on a majority vote. Speakers here would probably want to use such techniques as telling anecdotes of the variety that can back up their arguments, providing evidence of the speaker’s own human experience relating to the topic and thus supporting their arguments. Analogies are also a useful part of this, as certain analogies can bring clarity to an audience of otherwise difficult to understand portions of a topic. Like Spock, with logos people seek to fuel the fires of their arguments with logic, reasoning, and common sense. 

Incident Report #1201817

Report Entered: 09/20/2012 13:42:12

            Witnesses: Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet, and myself (Mr. Green)

            Offenders: Unknown




On Thursday September 20, 2012, Colonel Mustard of 3 Crocodile Street, New York City was found dead in an old mansion in Connecticut after having spent most of the night surrounded by friends. At the time the incident occurred, I was off duty, my free time being consumed by a planned get together with Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet, and Colonel Mustard himself. The night’s festivities included cocktails and various appetizers and snacks, the alcohol of which could have potentially been the reasoning behind the events that transpired.

We four gathered together in the mansion at approximately 6:00 pm. I arrived on scene a little behind schedule at about 6:20 pm, when I knocked on the heavy double doors the other three were all already inside. For near on four hours, until 10:30 pm give or take a few minutes, our group of friends did little else other than consuming the aforementioned cocktails and food while we informed one another of our individual activities of recent times. Everyone in the room appeared to be having a good time.

It was roughly 11:00 pm when discussions became a bit more uncomfortable to bear. A heated argument began between Colonel Mustard and Professor Plum about the importance of preserving crocodile and alligator wildlife. Colonel Mustard fervently disagreed with the professor’s views of putting a stop to crocodile hunting. I was completely uninterested in the conversation and, as I learned from my interview with Miss Scarlet later that night, she too had no thoughts invested in the subject.

At midnight on the hour, the lights went out as if on some sort of cue. The entire room was pitch black, so dark that I could not even see my own hand in front of my face. I expected the lights to come back on momentarily, but instead I suddenly heard a gunshot that I never would have expected. Following the gunshot there was a loud thump and I knew that the sound I’d heard had indicated that a body had fallen to the floor, but I did not know who it had been. The lights came back on a minute later, my eyes darted to the figure on the floor that was, to my horror, my best friend lying in a pool of his own blood. As I was unable to interview myself, I quickly called the incident in and the immediately proceeded to interview the other two witnesses left in the room.

Miss Scarlet claimed through stutters and crying that Colonel Mustard’s death had “completely caught her off guard” and that “he shouldn’t have had to die so young”. I was unable to get much else out of her as we were both very broken up about the loss of our dear friend, but I did later hear her murmur that “he never should have hidden the truth from him”. Who is this ‘him’ and what truth was Colonel Mustard hiding? It was at that moment that I began to suspect Professor Plum was far more likely to be behind this than Miss Scarlet. When I interviewed Professor Plum, however, he seemed genuinely confused as to what had just happened. A person can’t fake that level of ignorance; it was as if he had not even been present when the incident occurred though I know for a fact that he was sitting in the chair right to the left of my own.

What truly happened to Colonel Mustard is still unknown, investigations are in progress. But if it was really Professor Plum who did it, then where did he acquire a gun? Upon the conclusion of this report, I fully intend to check my things and make sure that my hidden work revolver is still where I left it… I’ve seen the man take things that were not his before, but to commit theft and then murder a close friend, I wouldn’t think that he had it in him.


The writer is Mr. Green, a close friend to Colonel Mustard and the two witnesses.

The audience is Green’s fellow police officers who are just hearing about the incident that occurred.

The context is the suspected murder of Colonel Mustard and the evidence and all known information that could potentially shed some light on what really happened at the scene of the shooting.

The purpose is to try to figure out who killed Colonel Mustard and to inform the police officers what is at present known about the murder.


In order to produce the police report, I had to do some research into the genre mainly so that I could see how to go about setting up the structure of a real police report. Once I knew the way it was supposed to be formatted, I described the situation how I would imagine a police officer would, which is assumed to be formal, proper, detailed, and straightforward. A police officer filing a report isn’t going to dance around the subject, try to make the murder sound interesting, or try to tell the story in a mystery story style manner. No, a police officer would give the facts clearly and one after another, keeping it simple and straight to the point. So that was how my knowledge of the genre contributed to my production of the police report.


Mr. Green is bringing forth an argument that claims a few things. The first of which is him trying to say, in not so many words, that he did not commit the murder. Obviously he doesn’t want to sound defensive so he is unable to outright say it, and he cannot claim that he knows it had to have either been Plum or Scarlet because he knows for himself that he did not do it, and that makes things complicated for him. The point of his argument, on a whole, is to inform. He is trying to inform his audience (the police officers) of all the facts that he knows for sure so that they are able to decide for themselves what really happened in the mansion before and during the murder. 

Kerry Dirk said to, “think about genres as tools to help people get things done” (Dirk 252). Genres are rhetorical situations that are repeated, with each new response to the mentioned situation being based on past responses. As an example of different genres that are commonly used in day to day life, Dirk brought up how telling jokes, writing emails, and updating Facebook statuses are a variety of genres that we participate in. For these three things, predicting how they function rhetorically is not so hard because we know that a joke should make people laugh and that from a sent email we should receive a reply and finally that a Facebook status should encourage comments. And as Dirk puts it, “Possibly without even thinking about it, you were recognizing the rhetorical situation of your action and choosing to act in a manner that would result in the outcome you desired” (Dirk 253). It’s not as if a person would put just anything into a joke or in an email or on Facebook, we have filters learned from past experiences that guide us in the choices we make for certain genres. This is why it is said that genre is rhetorical, because “more than form matters here, as knowing what is appropriate in these situations obviously requires more rhetorical knowledge than does filling out a credit card form” (Dirk 253).


In short, Kerry Dirk gives a few good suggestions that are helpful when you have to write in a specific genre. She suggests as follows,

  • “First, determine what action you are trying to accomplish,” this helps you to determine what genre to use.
  • “Second, learn as much as you can about a situation for which you are writing. What is the purpose? Who is the audience? How much freedom do you have? How does the location affect the genre?”
  • “Third, research how others have responded to similar situations. Talk to people who have written what you are trying to write.”
  • “And finally, ask questions.”


According to Deborah Dean, “Today, genres represent all sorts of interactions (some textual and some not), are defined more by situation than form, are both dynamic and flexible, and are more an explanation of social interaction than a classification system” (Dean 9). So what I’m seeing is that, like rhetoric, the term ‘genre’ is a difficult one for people to define. However, we can see that in the previous quotation, those are some of the characteristics of genre. She also states that genre is social, this is because social situations bring about genres because we use them to act in specific situations. She says that genre is rhetorical, this is because “they allow users to choose among options to effectively accomplish their purposes in each particular situation” (Dean 13). And she claims that genres are dynamic, because genres change frequently and in their contexts create change as they are both rhetorical and social. Genres are historical, as that when they go through such changes, their development is dependent upon previous related genres.


Continuing on with Deborah Dean’s characteristics of genre, she says that genres are cultural, because of how important context is to a situation and that sometimes you won’t be able to understand da certain genre unless you know the context of the culture from which it came. She additionally claims that genres are situated, referring to the information of the immediate context. Finally, Dean states that genres are ideological because of all the above stated characteristics put together. She says, “Because genres are social, cultural, and situated, it should be no surprise that they are also ideological, that they represent ways of thinking about and valuing the world” (Dean 18). Such are the characteristics of genre.


Sources: Kerry Dirk’s “Navigating Genres”

              Deborah Dean’s “Explaining Genre Theory”

Exigence is basically the catalyst of a rhetorical situation. Without the exigence, a person will not go into speaking rhetoric because he or she faced no such problem or situation that had prompted him or her to do so. Bitzer says, “an exigence is an imperfection marked by urgency; it is a defect, an obstacle, something waiting to be done” (6), I think because an exigence is something that needs to be overcome and that is exactly what sparks a rhetorical situation – the need to overcome an exigence.

Your audience is exactly what you would imagine it to be; it is the people listening to you, each one hanging onto the edge of his or her seat if you’re lucky. The thing is, an audience in the context of rhetoric does not exactly have to be a giant group of people, it could be anywhere from one to an infinite number of listeners and they don’t even have to be seeing you face to face to be counted. Say your rhetoric is written down and published, well then your audience is anyone anywhere who decides to sit down and read whatever it was you had to say.  As Bitzer says, however, “a rhetorical audience consists only of those persons who are capable of being influenced by discourse and of mediators of change” (6).

According to Bitzer, “Standard sources of constraint include beliefs, attitudes, documents, facts, traditions, images, interests, motives, and the like” (7). Constraints limit the view of the audience just as they shape the way a rhetor speaks to his audience. Constraints are important because they play a large role in the decisions made during a rhetorical situation.

In the beginning of his writing, I found that Bitzer wrote in such a way that it was a bit hard for me to follow. He goes for paragraphs saying “In saying this, I do not mean…”, “Nor do I mean…”, “Nor would I equate”, etc, by the time he gets to his point, I’ve already forgotten what it was he was trying to tell me in the first place. It makes it confusing and I suppose that in that way, it was hard for me to understand precisely what some of Bitzer’s concepts were. He later defines, to my confusion, a rhetorical situation as, “a complex of persons, events, objects, and relations presenting an actual or potential exigence which can be completely or partially removed if discourse, introduced into the situation, can so constrain human decision or action as to bring about the significant modification of the exigence” (Bitzer 5).

Source : Lloyd Bitzer’s “The Rhetorical Situation”

Rhetoric… the term that is apparently impossible for humans to define (despite the fact that humans created it to begin with), and incapable of acquiring an agreed upon understanding of (irony!). In James Herrick’s Overview of Rhetoric, Herrick defines rhetoric as an examination of a huge system of various symbols, all with hidden or understood meanings. He thinks it’s important to suggest that rhetoric involves symbols and signs much of the time. What he means by a symbol is “a general term referring to any mark, sign, sound, or gesture that communicates meaning based on social agreement” (Herrick 5). Such symbols if we were to clarify further would be things such as language, music, gestures, postures, and facial expressions. Even trying to understand the symbolic meaning of monuments apparently has to do with the ‘symbols’ that were used; the material a monument is made out of, the shape, the size, the engraving!

In further defining the word rhetoric, he goes on to say, “If persuasion is central to social organization, and if the art of rhetoric takes in the study of persuasion, then our lives as members of human communities are inherently and inescapably rhetorical. It may even be the case that individual conscious thought often is rhetorical in nature. Understanding rhetoric, then, is crucial to the success and happiness of communities and of individuals” (Herrick 6). He believes the goal of rhetoric is using persuasion to get someone else to see why your idea is the right one, using symbols in order to make clear precisely what you mean to convey, and in the end to accomplish mutual understanding in such a way that you know you have gotten your listener to agree with your side of the argument. In short, he defines the art of rhetoric as “the systematic study and intentional practice of effective symbolic expression” (Herrick 7). Simply put, it all has to do with knowing how to use symbols properly in order to achieve your goal. He claims that rhetoric was originally meant as an art of persuasion using language, but now it has evolved into something more that is less… deceptive… yet significantly more tricky to pinpoint an actual definition for.

According to Herrick, there are “five distinguishing qualities of rhetorical discourse” (7). How can you tell that someone is using rhetoric? If their pitch sounds like it was “planned”, if what is being said was “adapted to some sort of audience” (doesn’t everyone adapt to the people in their audience?), if “human motives are shaping” the speaker’s words (I think this will always be true as long as we’re human…), if the speaker is “responding to a situation”, if they are “seeking to persuade”, and (sixth characteristic, I guess?) if the speaker in question is “concerned with contingent issues” (Herrick 8).

Herrick’s take on rhetoric, I believe, extends the definition of rhetoric presented in “In Defense of Rhetoric: No Longer Just for Liars.” It seemed that just about everything he claimed rhetoric to be was similarly addressed and discussed in the video from my previous blog post. His idea of rhetoric is that it isn’t just used for deception as in the case with politics, but that it is also used for the greater good. Well, in the video they were kind of against even saying the rhetoric could simply be a means of persuasion for self-gain, in fact they argued pretty hotly against it, but I think we all know that anything can be used for great good or for great evil. That includes rhetoric.

Herrick says, “rhetoric stresses commonality between a rhetor and an audience, something rhetorical theorist Kenneth Burke termed identification. Such identification is crucial to persuasion, and, thus, to cooperation, consensus, compromise, and action” (9). You need to be able to understand your audience when you are standing right in front of them in order to identify with them and succeed in presenting evidence or, according to Herrick, so that you may be able to use the proper symbols in order to get your audience right where you want them. Without there being some common ground – that pertains to the conversation – between the speaker and the listener, it could potentially be impossible to achieve a mutual understanding and agreement.

When the art of rhetoric isn’t being severely misused in order to deceive and is instead applied by ethically grounded rhetor, as Herrick puts it, then there are six functions of note, “ideas are tested, advocacy is assisted, power is distributed, facts are discovered, knowledge is shaped, and communities are built” (16). Indeed, this sounds as though it is certainly a less harmful means of going about using the art of rhetoric, but in my opinion, even if a person is ethical his motives are still always going to be fueled by his perspective as a human being and thus, rhetoric can never be as benign as Herrick attempts to suggest that it can be.

Source: “James Herrick’s Overview of Rhetoric”.

In Defense of Rhetoric

Most of the time, people define rhetoric as a method of communication that is meant to trick the listener into believing the lies of the speaker. This definition, however, is of course inaccurate. Rhetoric is not a means of deceiving others and it has nothing to do with lying either. Rhetoric as an art form is centered around knowledge, having to do with the combined facts that are put together about whatever topic is being considered or discussed.

Aristotle defined rhetoric as “the art of finding the available means of persuasion in each case”. Someone else defined rhetoric as “the science which refreshes the hungry, renders the mute articulate, makes the blind see, and teaches one to avoid every lingual ineptitude”.

Yet the exact definition of rhetoric is not entirely clear. To really define rhetoric accurately would require an integration of the opinions of the various video creators and scholars interviewed in the video.

  • That rhetoric “enables people to create and assess messages effectively no matter what the facet is of any field” is among the first ways I heard it being defined.
  • “Rhetoric is about how we persuade each other or how we make arguments”.
  • “Rhetoric has to do with the emotional appeals that we make and how we try to identify with the listener, it isn’t just about the words that are being used”.
  • “Rhetoric makes you more self-conscious about your practices so that you can alter the way you approach a variety of situations depending on what experience tells you best fits the situation”.
  • “Rhetoric can help individuals break down components of language and argument”.
  • “Rhetoric enhances communication and presentation skills for students in university and benefits them in their personal life and as they prepare to enter the work force”.
  • Rhetoric answers the questions, “how can I make my argument effective” and “what are the best tools to use in order to achieve such an effective argument”.
  • “Rhetoric is used almost constantly throughout our lives, this is in choosing what to say and how to say it for the purpose of getting someone to either understand us, believe us, or agree with us”.

When the creators say that rhetoric is epistemic, they are referring to having that knowledge of something and being able to take it and weigh decisions based around the knowledge of the thing, using what is known in a systematic approach to come to a well thought out decision. When you have one argument against the other, epistemic rhetoric is a way of presenting the facts of both sides and using a process in order to determine which is the better option. One of those interviewed in the video said, “to say rhetoric is epistemic is to say rhetoric is a way of knowing”.

The study of rhetoric can be helpful for college students and even people outside the academy because rhetoric used properly can be applied in order to make good, well thought out decisions in life. Rhetoric helps a person to make better decisions when it comes to his job, leading to better job performance, etc.