Sample Dissertation Papers

This study simultaneously illuminates the structural and fundamental levels of design through which the web persuades as well as how—as rhetoricians from Plato’s King Thamus to Marshall Mc Luhan have recognized—media inevitably shapes the message and culture of its users.”“My dissertation argues that fiction produced in England during the frequent financial crises and political volatility experienced between 17 both reflected and shaped the cultural anxiety occasioned by a seemingly random and increasingly uncertain world.The project begins within the historical framework of the multiple financial crises that occurred in the late eighteenth century: seven crises took place between 17 alone, appearing seemingly out of nowhere and creating a climate of financial meltdown.

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This dissertation, then, constructs a cultural narrative of the process of controlling birth.

Moving away from a focus on “negative birth control”—contraception, abortion, sterilization—the term “controlling birth” also applies to engineering or encouraging wanted or desired reproduction.

I argue for “persuasive architecture” and “persuasive communities”—web design on the fundamental level of interface layout and tightly-controlled restrictions on discourse and community membership—as key components of this strategy.

In addition, I argue that evangelical ideology has been influenced by the web medium and that a “digital reformation” is taking place in the church, one centered on a move away from the Prosperity Gospel of televangelism to a Gospel focused on God as divine problem-solver and salvation as an uncomplicated, individualized, and instantaneously-rewarding experience, mimicking Web 2.0 users’ desire for quick, timely, and effective answers to all queries.

Mitchell has famously noted that we are in the midst of a “pictorial turn,” and images are playing an increasingly important role in digital and multimodal communication.

I argue that the relationship between the two media is more dynamic, and can be better understood by applying ’s concept of dissociation, which Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca developed to demonstrate how the interaction of differently valued concepts can construct new meaning.

My dissertation expands the range of dissociation by applying it specifically to visual contexts and using it to critique visual arguments in a series of historical moments when political, religious, and economic factors cause one form of media to be valued over the other: Byzantine Iconoclasm, the late medieval period, the 1950’s advertising boom, and the modern digital age.

In each of these periods, I argue that dissociation reveals how the privileged medium can shape an entire multimodal argument.

As a contribution to scholarship in religious rhetoric and media studies, this dissertation offers evangelistic websites as a case study into the ways persuasion is carried out on the Internet.

Through an analysis of digital texts—including several evangelical home pages, a chat room, discussion forums, and a virtual church—I investigate how conversion is encouraged via web design and virtual community as well as how the Internet medium impacts the theology and rhetorical strategies of web evangelists.


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