Friday, October 12, 2012

MassMedia: Textual Analysis, Rhetorical Criticism & VP Debate (U4-P1) [VID]

To answer research questions (RQs) researchers use research methods.

The four main research methods, at least in the social sciences, are experiments, surveys, ethnographies and textual analysis.

A researcher who does textual analysis is a researcher who studies a particular text or set of texts.  A text is a communication artifact. A text could be written, visual, electronic, etc.  Examples of a text are an email, a news broadcast, a film, a recorded conversation, an advertisement, a speech, an editorial cartoon or a song.

There are two main types of textual analysis.  One is more quantitative and the other is more qualitative research.

Content analysis is "a form of textual analysis used to identify, enumerate, and analyze occurrences of specific messages and message characteristics embedded in relevant texts" (Frey, et al.)

An example of content analysis would be a researcher who studies post 9/11 editorial cartoons to determine how the enemy is portrayed in the cartoons by caterogizing and counting up the occurrences of certain types of portrayals.

Rhetorical criticism, on the other hand, is more qualitative.

Rhetorical criticism: "research involving the description, analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of persuasive uses of communication" (Frey, et al)

Notice how rhetorical criticism focuses on persuasive texts, texts that potentially influence an audience.

There is a long history to rhetorical criticism from ancient times to modern times.

A person doing rhetorical criticism may study, for example, campaign speeches or advertisements to analyze how the text attempted to persuaded and how effective it was in persuading.

Take for example the closing comments of the 2012 U.S. V.P. debate.  What are the ways in which the two campaigners attempt to persuade?  Is there anything they do nonverbally?  What about their choice of words.  Also, how effective are they?

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  1. There are several things that stand out in Biden's performance in the video clip. One is that he doesn't stare into the camera and try to "address the world" as Ryan does. He speaks more naturally and addresses those around him. Secondly, his hand and body movements are more natural and genuine. Ryan's movements are stiff. Lastly, Ryan refers to Romney frequently in his closing remarks. It makes it seems as if he can't stand alone - as if he is not a separate entity from Romney. Although they are indeed a team, he should be able to state what he stands for without constantly referring to Romney. Biden doesn't do that.

    1. Very observant. You've noted some key verbal and nonverbal aspects. Anybody disagree? Spot anything else?

      So, evaluate the texts. Who was the most effective in persuading and why? What evidence do you offer to support your claim?

  2. I like Gia's depiction of the candidates speeches as a performance. Both speakers employed vastly different styles, both verbally and non-verbally, to finalize their arguments. It seems that Biden was more analytical, using his notes from the debate to address key points. Ryan on the other hand appeared to deliver a prepared closing, essentially re-establishing points that he already made during the exchanges. Biden seemed to be thinking about what he was saying as he delivered his closing, while Ryan's closing appeared "canned". However, Ryan did look directly into the camera a if he were speaking to viewers, while Biden spoke to the moderator (even calling her by name).
    I believe that Biden was more persuasive. He evoked empathy and emotion by bringing up his parents, who he identified as hard working citizens who lived their whole lives as a part of the 47% that Romney doesn't care about. He projected the image as being an every-day guy with the ability to understand the suffering of the middle and lower classes. Ryan, on the other hand, seem more of an elitist who is out of touch with those who he attempted to address. He seemed to talk "at" the audience instead of "to" the audience.

    1. Remember when I mentioned that there is a long history to the study of rhetorical criticism? Many trace it back to Aristotle. One of Aristotle's contributions to the study of rhetoric is his identification of 3 means of persuasion: ethos, pathos and logos.

      logos - trying to persuade with facts and logic
      pathos - trying to persuade by evoking emotion in the audience
      ethos - trying to persuade by stressing the credibility of the speaker.

      See briefly-

      You are saying that Biden was, at least in part, using pathos to persuade?

    2. I agree with Gia and Terry. Biden's closing remarks seemed more realistic. I like how he compared his family to the American people. Although he may not have used eye contact like he should, his speech still seemed more real to me. He talked like he was sincerely concerned about the needs of the American people. Ryan's speech, on the other hand, seemed rehearsed. He sounded like he was reading from a teleprompter.
      I also think that Biden's was using pathos to persuade. He evoked emotion into the audience by using his family as a similarity to the American people.


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