Theory skulks behind EVERYTHING!

What do I refer to when I say “everything”?  This is probably what circumnavigates your mind. Well,  when I say everything I mean it. I apologize for my initial vagueness but, I will give you some concrete evidence.

When thinking in which ways the new media may contribute to the social sciences, the virtual aspect inherent to it (Lister, 2003) could transform (or it is already transforming) the landscape of education and learning process.  Digital Museums represents one of these novel applications.

Therefore, somebody theorized about what could be done to enhance the experience of digital museums’ users. Because, ultimately the purpose of creating an old school or a new media-based exhibition is to reach out to a specific niche. Thus, a group of professionals in history and new media reviewed the work done at the Virtual Museum of Canada (VMC), and at the Smithsonian virtual exhibit “September 11: Bearing Witness to History.” Suhas Deshpande, Kati Geber, and Corey Timpson in their article “Engaged Dialogism in Virtual Space: An Exploration of Research Strategies for Virtual Museums.

So, what is the theory behind engaging audiences and buying your discourse in the virtual realm? According to Deshpande, Geber, and Timpson it can be accomplished by combining two already existent theories, classical rhetoric and appraisal theory. The first one goes back to Aristotle, including his definition of ethos, pathos and logos. The second one, deals with affect and emotions mainly in the psychological and communication arenas.

The argument here is that virtual spaces need to present a rhetoric that is persuasive by establishing trustworthiness with its users (ethos), evoking emotions to keep them around (pathos), and to utilize their knowledge of the internet (logos). Another interesting concept is enthymeme. How do virtual audiences understand the content in a digital space? Is it a rigid discourse consumed without questioning or can be allowed multiple questions that can be answered in different ways by exploding to the maximum the possibilities of the virtual interface? Another situation that the authors of this article defend has to do with authorship. If the users are empowered to participate, and to select in a virtual scenario consequently the users are creating their own discourse. Does that make them co-authors of their own virtual exhibition?

The authors also leave the door open for further research. Can predictability and randomness, when talking of users browsing through a given virtual place, be reconcile in the same category? And, how can appraisal theory help to study the ways that the audience engage with virtual spaces?

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