Back to Helps homepage
Analyze a rhetorical artifact in terms of HOW it communicates (not just what it communicates).
Communication happens in the moment, but often it leaves some permanent record: a written document(s), an picture, a video, or an audio tape. These are called "rhetorical artifacts," and these are what rhetorical analysts usually write about (Foss 7). They do this because rhetorical analysis, like any scholarly or scientific field, is really a conversation, and it's hard to converse about things we can't experience together. In this sense, artifacts are like scientific data, or literary texts. They are the object of the conversation--what's being talked about and studied and discussed together. (Foss 7).
Most of the time people talk about WHAT is communicated. But rhetorical analysis is interested in HOW people communicate, because the purpose of this activity is to understand how rhetorical communication works. Of course we have to talk about what is communicated (and often perceive it differently or even disagree about it). But the conversation (analysis) must also talk about the HOW, or it won't be useful to rhetorical analysis. It would be in a different kind of conversation, a different field of study.
Once rhetorical anlayses have chosen an artifact to discuss, they usually have a brief description of the artifact, to orient their readers to what they are discussing. That description usually contains information about who produced it, when, where, why, and for whom (audience).
Here are links to some examples of descriptions of the artifact in several student analyses. If you want to get back to this page, just press BACK on your browser menu.
IES Utilities' Tree-Trimming Notice: Style and Delivery as Manipulation
Change the World:
Ethos as Brand Recognition in an Apple Commercial