When the Rhetorical Triangle Met the 4 Vs of Data
I believe the characteristics of data and the principles of Rhetorics can create a special mix for communicating effectively on the web.
What follows is a map of a thought journey across times and disciplines at the end of which I hope lies a deeper understanding of how content writing can serve us better in the age of semantic web.
A Web of Trust?
The Web of Trust is the final stage of a fully evolved web, writes the inventor of the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee in his book Weaving the Web.
And further adds:
It would be wrong to assume that the Web of Trust is important primarily for electronic commerce, as if security mattered only where money is concerned. The Web is needed to support all sorts of relationships, on all levels, from the personal through groups of all sizes to the global population.
(cit. Weaving the Web: the original design of the World Wide Web by its inventor / Tim Berners-Lee with Mark Fischetti, p. 145)
Next, Berners-Lee introduces an “Oh Yeah” button to illustrate how automated systems will be able to check for us whether we should believe the information that is presented to us. For example, our browser would ask for certificates and authentication, when we are offered something.
As you can see, the above sentences contain two very important words: to believe and authenticity. Words that are challenging themselves and even more challenging when it comes to translating them in the language of technology, in the language of the tools we use to cooperate, work and live together.
And these words, I see as the doors through which one can enter a world where the principles of Rhetorics and the 4 Vs of data meet.
The Rhetorical Triangle
The Rhetorical Triangle is a visualization of what the Greek philosopher Aristotle outlined in 4th century BC as the three “modes of persuasion”. He did that in Rhetorics, a treatise on the art of persuasion:
Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds.,
The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself.
(cit. Rhetorics, Book I, Ch. 2: http://goo.gl/Ks9RhE)
These three are the “appeals that a writer should use for an effective argument.“
They are: ethos, logos, pathos.
Trust is actually what Aristotle believed is what one should build in the first place. Trust relates to ethos. What relates to logos is the ability to consistently present an argument. As for pathos it is about the emotional connection that is being built throughout the interaction with the audience.
Today, these three elements of effective communication can be translated into the characteristics that define data. What allows that is looking at communication and data as tools for transferring meaning.
A quick reference to the 4 Vs of data
The 4 Vs of Data are what characterizes data:
- volume (the amount of data),
- variety (it’s diversity),
- velocity (the speed it travels at),
- veracity (can data be trusted)
How can the principles of Rhetorics and the characteristics of data possibly work together?
Here’s how: mixed as to provide a deeper understanding of content writing (i.e. communicating through writing) as a practice serving the interconnectedness in the age of semantic web.
Еthos (the personal character of the speaker)
“Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible.”
Ethos, translated into the language of data:
Ethos, translated into the language of content writing:
Pathos (putting the audience into a certain frame of mind)
Secondly, persuasion may come through the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions. Our judgements when we are pleased and friendly are not the same as when we are pained and hostile.
translated into the language of data:
Your data will travel faster, be more diverse and grow when people interact with it. And they do so, when the content appeals to them!
Pathos , translated into the language of content writing:
Logos (the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself)
Thirdly, persuasion is effected through the speech itself when we have proved a truth or an apparent truth by means of the persuasive arguments suitable to the case in question.
Logos, translated into the language of data:
Logos, translated into the language of content writing:
In a word, we are writing in an ever more traceable environment with an ever increasing set of connections and touching points.
Putting our face on and communicating (through writing) in an open way that will truly deserve the trust of our audience is crucial.
In the unfolding web of trust, creativity and authenticity are your unique mark. Use it.
Here’s a handy table with the parallels: Rhetorics, Data and Content Writing Parallels.