Aesthetic Experience: Be Aware

Does your project combine elements of logos, pathos, and ethos to communicate your underlying purpose?

A rhetorical awareness of how we combine media for persuasive effect can help designers communicate with their audience. We especially like Anne Wysocki's approach (in Writing New Media) when she says that texts are made by composers who are aware of a texts' materiality; the various materials of a text contribute to how it is read and understood. She's saying that media (or mediums for that matter) are not static objects that function independently of how they are made and their contexts. Media are always being made; meanings are always changing based on time, place, and audience.

When designing digital stories, there are a constellation of possibilities for meaning making. To be sensitive to a variety of possible interpretations, we recommend paying attention to three classic modes of persuasion: logos (what an audience thinks), pathos (how an audience feels), and ethos (what an audience believes). A project that is designed to touch the audience in these three ways has a better chance of achieving its underlying purpose.

The Pulitzer Prize New York Times article “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek” by John Branch effectively employs logos, pathos, and ethos to tell an effective story.

While multimedia elements can be immersive and engaging, they can also sometimes overwhelm or disrupt the flow of a story. It is also important to consider the variety of ways an audience might make meaning from your project that you as the author did not intend. Could your project be misunderstood? Could it possibly offend someone or a group of people? Try to take account of the many possible interpretations your project might have.

Comments on Snow Fall from Pulitzer Committee, speaking to how it resonated with readers.