Podcast – Communication and Ideological Change

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Systems theory helps the world understand the interactive relationships that exist in many domains of life and events that occur throughout the universe. Kenneth Burke’s theories on ideology explore how, through communication, people develop interactive relationships that create a common framework through which life is interpreted. It is only logical to explore how systems theory can reveal the implications of communication in an interconnected world.

Considerations for communicating to the masses

About ten years ago, I took a doctoral class in Mass Communication at the University of Alabama. In part of our discussion, I learned that research begun in the 1940′s began to reveal something very interesting in the field of mass communicating, something I didn’t anticipate. The research showed that mass communication (speeches, advertisements, etc) really wasn’t for the masses. In fact, it’s influence among the masses was limited. Instead, the research showed that all forms of mass communication influenced what became know as opinion leaders. It was the opinion leaders who actually influenced the masses. And those opinion leaders changed depending upon the topic. This was the foundation of what became the Multi step Flow Model.

Plato originated the term rhetoric. However, prior to that many scholars believe the term logos was a precursor to the actual term rhetoric. Now I know there maybe a difference of opinion regarding the validity of that but assume with me for a moment that was the case.

Just for intrigue’s sake, please allow me to bring in some Greek from the Bible. There are two verses in the New Testament that I want to highlight. John 1:1, that says, “In the beginning was the Word (logos)…” Then in verse 14, “and the Word (logos) became flesh…” I realize that logos used here may be a technical term. However, in using it, the biblical writer is noting the relational aspect of the Word (logos).

Let’s now do a little integration. Combine the meaning of logos from rhetoric and the meaning of logos from the biblical writer and what we come up with, in effect, is a relational rhetoric. Persuasion, influence and change happen within the context of both the masses and the minute (not the time, but …read more

crossword 14

Aristotle’s three appeals – logospathos, and ethos – are effective tools in the rhetorical framework, or the art of persuasion. Using all three as part of a rhetorical strategy, in fact, is one of the most effective methods of persuading others, and as a result, changing how others view reality.

Many people, however, have elevated the appeal to logic, or logos, over the other two, despite Aristotle’s belief that ethos is the most effective of the three. The emergence of contemporary brain research, however, demonstrates that emotion (pathos) is the primary driver of thinking and behavior. As such, strategies may need to change regarding the method communicators use to effectively lead others, persuade others and motivate them to action.

In this first post, let’s look at a brief summary of Aristotle’s appeals.

Considered one of the most important people in the development of Western philosophy, Aristotle developed one of, if not the most important works on persuasion ever written. In it he defined rhetoric as “the art to see or identify in any given circumstance the available means of persuasion” (as cited in Smith, p. 67). According to Aristotle, persuasion is made up of three appeals: logospathos, and ethos. Each of these three rhetorical appeals can, or at least should, be found in any persuasive process.

Logos, as used by Aristotle, attempts to persuade using rational arguments. When a communicator employs statistics, what they deem to be credible sources, or reasoned arguments, they are utilizing logos in their persuasion (Wright, n.d., para 6).

When a communicator uses pathos as a persuasive strategy, they are making an emotional appeal. When the rhetorician appeals to the needs, values, or emotions of an audience, this constitutes an argument based on pathos (Wright, para. 7).

Ethos references the character or credibility of the communicator. Ethos is conveyed through reputation, credentials, tone, or style. Seeking to establish the trustworthiness, expertise and …read more