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15: Additional Key Concepts

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    In this chapter, we offer four additional key concepts that some students and instructors may find useful. As with all of our key concepts, they are not meant to be learned in isolation, but to be practiced and applied in relation to all of the others.



    Juxtaposition is the positioning of items next to each other to create a particular effect or meaning. The effect or meaning of the items side by side is different than either item could accomplish alone. At the same time, each item individually takes on new meanings. Juxtaposition can refer to elements within a single mode (words or phrases juxtaposed in a sentence) or different modes next to each other (somber music playing over a seemingly happy scene in a video).

    One way to understand the power of juxtaposition is when it fails. (The internet loves juxtaposition failures—try a Google image search for “juxtaposition fail.”) A juxtaposition failure might be a bright “Back to School Supplies!” sign next to a rack of condoms, or a billboard advertising a gun show right above a billboard advertising caskets. You might also feel the effects of unintentional juxtaposition in your Facebook or Twitter feed, when one person you follow posts a trivial comment (“I love Spaghettios!”), and the next person to appear in the feed posts news of a personal tragedy (“News from the hospital isn’t good. Dad may not make it through the night.”)

    These examples are of unintentional juxtaposition, but they illustrate how juxtaposition works. The store running a back-to-school sale is typically appealing to parents purchasing supplies for their (young, innocent) children who are looking forward to a year of art projects and math tests. Next to a rack of condoms, though, school becomes a place for hook-ups, and children are not young and innocent, and they are not looking forward to art projects. Likewise, thinking of condoms as “supplies” brings connotations to sex that typically do not exist. Juxtaposition changes the meaning of each item—the words on the sign and the rack of condoms—and together they create a humorous effect that neither would have alone. 

    As you approach the arrangement of a piece you’re working on, you can deliberately juxtapose items for humorous or dramatic effect. An image could take on new meanings next to something you’ve written, and together the alphabetic text and image could have an effect that neither would alone. Juxtaposing two adjectives in a surprising way could enrich a narrative. You might also play around with the ways that different types of music create different emotional effects (pathos) when juxtaposed with images in a video you’ve created. You might also use juxtaposition while you’re drafting a piece, as a way to generate ideas. For example, if you were assigned to write an essay about Chicago, you might make a list of the best things about the city next to a list of the worst things about the city. The juxtaposition of those lists could yield interesting connections and help you come up with ideas that one list alone could not.



    Modes are the material resources we have available to us as we make decisions about how best to communicate with other people. We discuss two modes in this textbook at length: alphabetic text and image. Additional modes include moving image, spoken word, music, gesture, and 3D objects. We think of these as material resources, because each mode is made up of stuff that exists in the material world—ink or pixels in the shape of letters in the case of alphabetic text, for example, or sound waves in the case of music, or our bodies in the case of gestures. The affordances and constraints of these different material properties should be considered when choosing which is the best mode for a specific purpose. A fairly straightforward example is when you are communicating with an audience that may include deaf people. Using a mode that relies on sound waves will be far less effective than a mode that relies on visual stimuli.

    Likewise, we might consider what Gunther Kress refers to as different modes’ specific orientations to the world: some modes are temporally oriented, some are spatially oriented, and some are a combination (154). For example, sound is temporally oriented; it happens in time. We hear one sound after another and meaning depends on the order in which we hear the sounds; therefore, the producer of the sound is primarily responsible for the organization of the meaning. (Think of the significance of the order of words in speech or notes in music.) Alphabetic text is what Kress refers to as a “border category” in terms of temporal or spatial orientation (81). Alphabetic text is written on the page or screen so that it moves from left to right and it occurs in lines, so in these respects it uses spatial logics for meaning to occur. However, writing also shares with speech the fact that we need to put our words and phrases in a particular order for them to make sense. How a mode works also depends on the social context. Modes mean different things at different points in history. We might argue that the mode of image is undergoing a shift right now. For example, in literature we have associated pictures with children’s fiction. Put another way, images in a book have meant something like “this story is for young people.” However, now the graphic novel has achieved far more recognition as a way of dealing with serious and adult themes in both fiction and non-fiction. Modes can also mean different things in different cultures. If you’ve traveled outside the U.S., you may have learned that what we accomplish with swear words, some other cultures accomplish with gesture.

    Though we sometimes intuitively choose the mode that will work best for a given communicative task, thinking about the affordances and constraints of different modes in this way will help us make the best choices. Moreover, while each mode brings its own affordances and constraints in different rhetorical situations, even more complicated and exciting is the potential for multimodality. Multimodality simply refers to communication that includes more than one mode. This textbook includes images and alphabetic text, and so is multimodal, for example. The potential in digital, networked texts for productive combinations of modes is limitless. When a website can include words, images, videos, music, audio files of speech, and so on, and when we have available to us a limitless number of texts to draw on and remix in our own work, authors must consider what each mode contributes and how the modes can best be arranged to work together.



    Pathos is an appeal to emotion. (The Greek word páthos is the root of several English words suggesting feelings or sorrow or compassion, such as “sympathy” and “empathy.”) In On Rhetoric, Aristotle identified three methods of persuading listeners to think or do something: ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos, which you can read more about in the chapter in this textbook, indicates that the author uses his or her own character to persuade an audience. Logos, which also has its own chapter, is the appeal to the soundness of the argument itself. Pathos involves the writer’s attempt to make the audience feel a certain way so that they do or believe what the writer wants them to. In any communicative situation, we might use all three. 

    An organization that is trying to raise money for people in need might focus on pathos in persuading people to donate. Through words and images, they could try to make their audience feel sad for the people, or they might try to make the audience feel guilty about ignoring the individuals’ situation, or they could arouse a sense of patriotism: “We’re a nation that helps each other!” The different emotions may be more or less effective in achieving the goal, depending on the audience. 

    As you approach a situation in which you are called on to produce and circulate a text, you need to consider what types of emotion are appropriate in this situation. It’s worth noting that in some situations, audiences might resent or dismiss a text that seems to be trying to manipulate their emotions, or one that seems to be trying to cover up a lack of substance with excessive or inappropriate emotions.

    Likewise, as you approach a text, it’s worth paying attention to how it affects your emotions. Savvy advertisers and politicians are particularly adept at foregrounding emotion over reason, pathos over logos. You might study a range of ads and try to articulate what emotions they inspire: is it desire to be a certain type of person? Fear that without a product, you will be unpopular or unhealthy? Humor and happiness that the product promises? Or look at the campaign slogans of candidates running for president and figure out which of them rely on ethos, which rely on logos, and which rely on pathos.

    There is simply no tried and true method for determining how pathos works in every situation. Especially in networked, digital texts, we have available to us a wide range of resources—from sad images to happy music to bittersweet metaphors—that can help us evoke a variety of emotions in our readers. The affordances of different modes may lend themselves to evoking different emotions in a particular rhetorical situation.  



    Design is the deliberate and thoughtful arrangement of elements to achieve a specific purpose or desired outcome. It encompasses the careful selection and use of various components such as typography, layout, color, imagery, and structure, to create visually pleasing and communicatively impactful works. In writing and rhetoric, an understanding of design principles empowers writers to communicate their ideas effectively by influencing how information is presented, perceived, and understood. 

    It's a common misconception that design is just about making things “look pretty.” Good design makes use of the affordances of specific elements and can influence how an audience interacts with and perceives a text.