Abstract - The Information Society 28(5)

PERSPECTIVE: Synthetic ethos: The believability of collections at the intersection of classification and curation

Melanie Feinberg

This paper explores the rhetorical notion of ethos, or a believable character, in the context of both classification schemes, or means of organizing documents, and of the resource collections that make use of those schemes. Ethos, the paper contends, explains how a particular audience is more or less likely to accept the interpretive frame that classification or collection inscribes on its contents. Two case studies, one of a classification and one of a resource collection that incorporates a classification, show how these communicative artifacts can generate ethos despite their lack of typical textual mechanisms, such as linear narrative. The paper concludes by suggesting that properties of collections—their synthesis of multiple, often independent parts, their continuous versioning—stretch the basic idea of ethos itself, and the notion of synthetic ethos is proposed to better encompass these properties.

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