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Ethos and the Construction of a Believable Character for Information Systems

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Title: Ethos and the Construction of a Believable Character for Information Systems
Author(s): Feinberg, Melanie
Subject(s): information organization rhetoric information credibility ethos humanities
Abstract: Within information science, work on information credibility often focuses on generalized models of user assessment behavior and associated properties that mark credible information across document types, user groups, and communicative purposes. As conceptualized within the field of rhetoric, however, ethos, or a form of persuasive appeal that centers around a speaker’s believability, is situational. A speaker generates ethos within a particular text by constructing a character that aligns with the values of a selected audience for a specific rhetorical event. In this paper, I define ethos and contrast it with ideas of credibility from information science. I then illustrate how information systems generate ethos by analyzing two schemes for organizing information, the Women’s Thesaurus and the DrugSense newsbot concept dictionary, showing how these two schemes use different strategies to build ethos with different audiences. I conclude by discussing how rhetorical concepts such as ethos can help illuminate the ways in which information systems function as communicative devices, and how this understanding might facilitate system design. As social software continues to proliferate, and the division blurs between user and designer, between content consumer and content provider, research on the expressive potential of information systems seems particularly apt.
Issue Date: 2009-02-08
Genre: Conference Paper / Presentation
Type: Text
Language: English
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/15237
Date Available in IDEALS: 2010-03-24
 

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