For my first object analysis I will focus on the above Facebook status update which was written by my friend in response to Trump’s surprise win. I find this post to be particularly rhetorically effective according to Douglas Eyman’s “Digital Text” analysis in Digital Rhetoric: Theory, Method, Practice. The purpose of this post seems to be to urge readers, particularly those the student has interacted with on his campus, to be more open-minded and to consider a viewpoint besides their own. Eyman cites Beaugrande and Dressler (1981) and their criteria of rhetorically successful texts. First, an effective text is cohesive meaning that it contains linguistic elements that obey grammatical rules (Eyman 21). Unlike many posts found on social media, this post is written formally, with a clearly expressed argument: The same “Wesleyan Bubble” that preaches open-mindedness is making very closed minded statements that are ultimately creating an environment that is toxic for the creation of an open, intellectually-stimulating debate. The author’s purpose is not to be funny, but rather to be insightful and this is evident in the sentence structure and phrasing of the post. Next, an effective text is coherent meaning that it only makes sense when it is connected with knowledge of the world and the text (Eyman 21). This is also the case here, as a post like this would make no sense to someone who is unaware of the election. Such a person would wonder what a long, drawn-out post is doing on a social media site where people typically post funny statuses rather than serious ones.
Next, the post meets the criteria of intentionality and acceptability which means that it not only relates to the writer’s purpose but that the purpose is recognized by the reader’s in the particular situation (Eyman 21). As explained, the post clearly states that the author composed it in response to Wesleyan’s reaction to the election and, based on the comments on the post it looks like the reader’s understood that the poster is not trying to be argumentative but is rather trying to show others that there are two sides to the story. This is demonstrated when he says, “Do you know why people support the opposing candidate” and “Do you know why people are against your candidate?” to emphasize that the other side has just as strong feelings that are often forgotten. Fourth, this post is informative in that it displays a quantity of new information. It asks reader’s to consider something they have never thought of before, and thus might put new ideas in their minds. As he says, “I do this to encourage open discussion. I will bring to the table opposing arguments.” For those stuck in the “bubble” the author dislikes, this post may serve to inform them of their small-mindedness. Fifth, the post meets the criteria of situationally because it is context-appropriate.
Normally, a post accusing a whole group of people of being petty and shallow would not be acceptable on a social media platform, but in the context of the 2016 election, it did not seem unusual for strong feelings to be expressed. The context of this post happens to be a direct response to the given feelings: shock and confusion. Lastly, the post meets the criteria of intertextuality, or that a given text relates to simultaneously occurring discourse (Eyman 21). This is definitely the case here: the post argues against the reactions he had recently witnessed prior to writing the post. If this post had been posted a few days after or a few days before the election it would not be rhetorically effective at all because reader’s would not understand why it was being said. It would appear as though the author were trying to start and argument rather than to start a discussion with consideration for another view.
According to Eyman, “Texts have rhetorical features, originate in and propel social action and are designed material objects; these qualities provide the primary means of relationship between text and rhetoric-as-use” (Eyman 22). Eyman’s argument is based on points made by Darwish who argues that effective rhetoric is transparent – the reader is able to analyze the text and process information — due to the shared knowledge between himself and the writer (Eyman 22). Kress also describes a rhetorically effective digital text to be one that is (1) the result of social action and social forces and (2) a material entity that draws on the social environment from which the text was developed. Both Darwish’s and Kress’ criteria is demonstrated in this Facebook status update. As mentioned above, the reader can critically examine the poster’s argument based on the fact that he is aware of the debate surrounding the controversial election politics. One would have to live under a rock to be unaware of the vast amount of people who couldn’t believe that anyone would vote for Trump. As the speaker himself says, “People simply don’t understand why Trump won. More than that, they don’t understand why sixty million people would vote from Trump.” Along these lines, this status is certainly the result of social action and was developed in a particular social environment. It is very possible that if Clinton had won the election, the poster’s university would not have reacted so strongly, and a post such as this would have been completely unnecessary. Thus, it is only rhetorically effective because it was designed in response to a particularly significant social event.