Blog Post 1
Ice bucket challenge
For my first blog post, I chose to look at a social movement that swept the nation in recent years. This movement was known as the ALS ice bucket challenge. ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Lou Gehrig was a professional baseball player he developed this disease, and ultimately brought it to the public eye due to his professional spotlight. Before we go into detail about the significance of the ice bucket challenge or how media helped promote it, we first need to apply Bitzer’s theory to understand how it can relate to civic media.
We learned in class that Bitzer developed the rhetorical situation to help us specify what makes this situation unique in comparison to others. Bitzer’s first element of a rhetorical situation is exigence. He defines exigence as the problem that causes someone to speak up and address it. The ALS challenge was a social movement that really took off in the recent years, roughly 2014. The challenge was created to help raise money for ALS treatment, research and hopefully a cure. When Bitzer’s Theory is applied, one can see that the exigence of this rhetorical situation is the need for a cure to this disease. The “problem” that has come to light, is that with the current method of treatment, ALS patients lives are only extended by roughly 2 to 3 months. (A Life Story Foundation) The ice bucket challenge is designed to raise money through a pledge to donate money through a video recording of “the challenge”. In the ice bucket challenge, a person who was nominated would be required to dump a bucket of ice water on their head, prior to nominating a number of other acquaintances. The idea of the “challenge” was that if you did not accept the challenge and drench yourself in frigid water, then you pay a penalty by way of charitable donation to the foundation. Once you completed the challenge, you would post the video to your social media pages (Instagram/Facebook/Twitter) and tag your nominees. The movement was created to raise enough money so that scientists and researchers could develop a cure, rather than treat the disease for a few more months.
The next element in Bitzer’s theory is the audience. Bitzer describes the audience as the group of people that need to be persuaded to take action. The intended audience for the ALS challenge could be considered the general public. The organization was not looking for donations from any specific person, but would accept any help they could get to reaching their goal. More specifically, the audience could be seen as the general public that does not have any knowledge of ALS or how it impacts both the patients and their families. This approach allows for ALS to both educate the public on a rare disease and ask for support for their organization. The audience may not need to be persuaded because they don’t agree with the exigence, rather they are just unaware of it.
Bitzer’s final element of the rhetorical situation is the constraints. This is defined as anything that can stand in the way of resolving the exigence. The constraints in this rhetorical situation do not appear to be people whom refuse to donate to the cause, rather that there is a lack of funds and research that can eventually lead to a cure. Regardless of the success that the ice bucket challenge may have, if the scientists are unable to find a way to eliminate this disease entirely, it will be seen as unsuccessful.
Now that we have successfully identified the elements of the rhetorical situation and have distinguished why it is unique, we will analyze how this social movement applied the five canons of rhetoric to appeal to the target audience. Cicero developed 5 “canons” that help organize the speaker’s thoughts and allow them to have a more impactful presentation.
The first of the five canons is invention. Invention can be defined as what you want to say to the audience. With the ALS movement, one can see that the invention was to educate the public on the startling conditions of ALS. The foundation aims to share the stories of both patients and their family members, in hopes that one may see the severity of the disease.
The second canon is arrangement. Arrangement can be seen as the order that you wish to display the information. With the ALS foundation, the arrangement followed a more informative approach. The goal to educate the audience on the devastating disease was at the forefront. Narration of symptoms along with testimonies from patients and their family allow the audience to see first hand how this disease can alter many peoples lives. The proof that is provided supports the vision that this is an important matter. One statistic from the foundations website (www.alifestoryfoundation.org) claimed that every 90 minutes someone is diagnosed with ALS. The arrangement leaves the audience inspired to do their part in saving the lives of these patients and the patients to come.
Our third canon is style. Style allows the audience to better understand the message. For the ice bucket challenge, the style was very modernized. It was promoted throughout social media through the use of hashtags and retweets. This allows the audience to feel a comfort with the message and an urge to carry it on. The challenge itself allows for the public to join in on “the new trend”. Following the ice bucket challenge, other trends such as the “polar plunge” began to circulate around social media. This modern social media style has invited the public to join in on the movement.
The fourth canon that we will look at is memory. How can one make a message memorable without following trends of the past? ALS chose to do this by promoting a challenge that called for the participation of the public. As videos were retweeted and celebrities joined in, the challenge had reached the standard of being memorable. In fact, the challenge was so memorable that it continues to be an annual challenge every summer to raise money for ALS research.
And the final canon that we will apply is delivery. This is where the prior four canons come together to form the final product. This is where the audience has to be wowed. The ALS ice bucket challenge was able to wow the audience through their appeal to Ethos, Pathos and Logos. The foundation was able to establish ethos, or credibility, through the statistics that were given when informing the audience on the details of ALS. Logos or logic, was created when we saw the dire need for donations to help fund the research for treatments. They presented us with the facts that after being diagnosed, the average patient only lives two to three more months on the current treatment plan. And possibly the most evident portion would be pathos or emotion. The movement tugged on heart strings as we read about the conditions of patients and the impact that the disease has had on both them and their families. By using all three of these forms, the audience is left with a heavy heart and a desire to help find a cure for these patients.