Rhetorical Analysis

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Thearticle “Does the Internet Make You Smarter?” by Clay Shirkypresents arguments that reveal how the various online sites have awide range of intellectual content that is beneficial to the onlineusers. His arguments show that the internet strives to make peoplesmarter since they will access a wide range of academic stuff (FigureOne).

Figure(1). Students are using the internet for academic purposes. Retrievedfrom:http://mdist-fit.blogspot.co.ke/2011/11/using-internet-as-learning-resources.html

Morespecifically, Shirky uses rhetorical appeal such as ethos, pathos,and logos to ensure that the audience understands the arguments hepresents. In fact, Shirky uses logos in referring to various eventsin the past such as the spread of the Gutenberg Press in Europe aswell as the religious conflicts to support his arguments. Pathos usesthe problems that the printing press faced as it emerged to appeal tothe emotions of the audience. The ethos is also crucial since theaudience sees the author countering various arguments that thecritics present. Apart from that, the formal tone and voice alsocapture the seriousness that the author presents in the article. Theevidence-based organization of the paper has the claims and theexamples to support the arguments that he presents. This essay willillustrate how Shirky uses ethos, pathos, and logos to appeal to theaudience and how he applies a formal tone and an evidence-basedorganization to strengthen the arguments he presents.

Theauthor uses logos to prove that the internet is a producing item asopposed to being an activity that wastes crucial time. Morespecifically, the critics of the article have argued that theinternet has a list of stupid stuff that will keep making the onlineusers dumber. However, Shirky counters such arguments and reveal thatthe internet has given various intellectuals a chance to producevarious important materials that are benefiting the online users. Hecompares the two functions of the internet and he provides enoughevidence to persuade the readers. For instance, he reveals howvarious intellectuals have provided information on blogs, socialnetworking sites and a number of downloadable materials that are alsoacademic in nature. He proves that the presence of the internetplatform has motivated the creation of peer reviews that has been aninstrumental element in the development of scientific research. Morespecifically, the peer reviews have provided feedback to theparticular scientific research done and that has led to the authorsof those journal articles improving various aspects of their papers.Shirky also proves that some of the activities in the previous formsof media were just time-wasting such as watching television. Hence,there is no need to insist how the internet wastes a huge amount oftime yet, it offers some of the materials that are critical innurturing the intellectual insights in most of the users. He alsoillustrates that the internet has provided a platform to people thatcould not get such help anywhere else. The fact that he also usesmultiple events in the past such as the “Gutenberg`s press spreadthrough Europe” and the “Protestant Reformation” alsostrengthens the arguments that he presents. For instance, one is ableto understand that the emergence of the print media also had itsproblems and not only has the internet had the same issues.

Heuses pathos to reveal that people even doubted the spread of theGutenberg`s press through Europe meaning that people will still claimthat the internet makes its users dumber. The Gutenberg`s pressspread example is a perfect way to appeal to the readers since theyget a chance to understand how people will doubt everything. He evenreveals that the Gutenberg Press was much worse, and the creation of“vulgar versions of the Bible” led to religious unrest as thefollowers felt insulted. In the process, “claims that the printingpress, if not controlled, would lead to chaos and the dismembermentof European intellectual life” were much common but, that did notmean that the printing press should cease its operations. The exampleproves that the emergence of any form of media will have its positiveand the negative sides. However, it is ineffective to spend more timeon the negative effects rather than the helpful effects of the samemedia. Hence, the Gutenberg`s press spread example appeals to theemotions of the readers and proves that even the society doubted thereliability and benefit of the print media. After that, he urges thereaders that the printing press “had the effect of increasing,rather than decreasing, the intellectual range and output of society”through the wide range of academic and informative books. In the sameway, the author is showing that the internet has a wide range ofsources that have important information and knowledge that thesociety can access. Instead, it depends on the intention of a personsince both entertaining and educating information can be found on theinternet. The approach is quite effective in convincing the readersinto agreeing with the claim that the internet helps in making itsusers smarter.

Shirkyalso uses ethos in countering the arguments that other authors haveprovided that paint internet as a tool that makes its users dumber.The “trust me approach” worked effectively since he critiqueseach of those arguments while supporting his arguments with clearexamples that help in appealing to the readers. In fact, heacknowledges that the internet has seen amateurs that “produceendless streams of mediocrity” and dump them on the internet.However, that is not the reason to claim that the internet is badsince the even the printing press also has some mediocre content. Healso shows that the movement “from paperback books to YouTube” isalso another argument that he addresses. In particular, he revealsthat the YouTube also provides other academic materials that might behelpful to the online users. By countering such arguments, he revealsthat the internet also has some educational websites and not only thepop-ups and distractions that other authors paint. Addressing thecritics is helpful since it shows how he looks at the issue frommultiple perspectives. The approach sounds more effective rather thanoutlining the reasons for the internet being the better option.Hence, looking at the various perspectives help in making the articlehave an authority it deserves. It also makes the reader have an openmind and assume that the author also considers the various sides ofthe argument. In the process, he lets the reader choose the side thathe or she will support as well. Some of the authors might fail toaddress the other side of the argument and present evidence that willsupport his or her perspective. However, the same approach does notapply on Shirky since he wants to maintain a professional outlookthat will appeal to the audience that wants to understand theargument that he is presenting.

Theauthor also compiles evidence to support each of the arguments thatcement the credibility of the article. More specifically, he outlinesthe websites that are educational and more likely to make peoplesmarter. The critics argue that the internet makes the users dumberbut, the author insists that the internet makes people smarter. Tosupport such arguments, Shirky reveals multiple websites that arequite educative in helping the online users. For instance, heillustrates that the website “PatientsLikeMe” even went ahead toassemble patients that were suffering from Lou Gehrig`s disease. Thatopportunity also provided a platform for the patients to find theeffective treatment and the health care in overall. The websitessupport the assumption that the internet makes people smarter ratherthan dumber. The evidence contradicts the assumption that theinternet makes people dumber as the critics have outlined in thepast. Shirky also insists that the peer review was another elementthat facilitated scientific advancement. He also pinpoints Wikipediaas one of the websites that has helped in providing some intellectualmaterials for the online users. He insists that Wikipedia “took theidea of peer review and applied it to volunteers on a global scale,becoming the most important English reference work in less than 10years.” The claims reveal how the internet is a place where theonline users can nurture their academic status by accessing somescholarly journals. The fact that the internet users might accessimportant academic information proves that the internet will help inmaking people smarter and not dumber as the critics insist. Bypinpointing some of the educative websites, Shirky also reveals thatdifferent websites have some dumb and smart stuff and the onlineusers are the ones that should choose what they want.

Shirkyalso provides a formal voice and tone as well as an evidence-basedorganization where he makes a claim and provides enough evidence tosupport the argument. The combination works quite perfect in ensuringthat the paper achieves the authority required. More importantly, theformal tone helps in maintaining the seriousness of the issue and thearticle in overall. For instance, he even goes ahead to quote EdgarAllan Poe in proving that everything will have its evils and internetwill not be an exception. He even reveals how the likes of MartinLuther complained of the huge number of erotic novels that underminedthe credibility of the Gutenberg Press. The formal voice is evidentin the kind of phrases and words he uses throughout the article. Infact, the formal voice also gives the paper a scholarly outlook andmakes the arguments seem more professional. The evidence-basedorganization is also quite convenient since it outlines the claimsand provides examples to support the argument as well. For instance,he supports the assumption that the internet makes people smarterthrough multiple examples that are quite clear and also strengthensthe arguments that he presents. More specifically, he uses the“Gutenberg`s press spread through Europe” and the social illsassociated with the event as examples of consequences evident in thedevelopment of print press. Apart from that, the comparison of theprint media when it was emerging and the development of the internetalso shed some light on the whole issue. For instance, Shirky insiststhat “it is tempting to want PatientsLikeMe without the dumbvideos, just as we might want scientific journals without the eroticnovels.” The statement just proves the amount of thought andintellectual arguments that the author has placed in the article andthe willingness to illustrate the truth about the whole matter.

Inconclusion, the article used ethos, pathos, and logos to appeal tothe audience and even apply the evidence-based organization as wellas a formal tone to present the arguments. More importantly, the useof the rhetorical appeal was ideal, and the ethos helped incountering the arguments that the critics presented. Logos helped inrevealing multiple events from the past such as the ProtestantReformation that supported the arguments that the article had. Thepathos also was quite convenient, and it helped in appealing to theemotions of the audience as well. All in all, the rhetorical appealtogether with the formal tone helped in illustrating the seriousnessof the article. For instance, the professional outlook proved thatthe internet was a way that will make the online users smarter. Moreimportantly, the presentation of an argument says a lot about itscredibility. Hence, in overall, it is evident that Shirky used theideal rhetorical appeal in ensuring that the audience understood thearticle and found every argument credible. The presence of multipleexamples to support the arguments also made the article have a formaloutlook since the author dealt with facts only.


Shirky,Clay. “Does the Internet Make You Smarter.” Oninewsj.com. TheWall Street Journal,4 June 2010. Web.