Reading Ethos Ecologically: A Technological Perspective

Digital seminar

The Nordic Rhetoric Association (Nordisk retorikförening) invites you to join this digital seminar, featuring Jens E. Kjeldsen & Aaron Hess

17:00 CET, Thursday April 4.


Meeting-ID: 640 4713 4854 
Password: 981447

Reading ethos ecologically: A technological perspective 

Traditional accounts of ethos have recognized that ethos is a relational and dynamic phenomenon. To this, we expand the understanding of ethos with an ecological approach that looks to the ways that ethos can be read through individual, situational, social, cultural, and technological perspectives. Each of these provides a thorough, dynamic, and relational understanding of ethos as it is claimed, evaluated, and constituted. 

In this presentation, we provide a brief overview of this approach before we take a deeper dive into the technological perspective through a case study that examines the relationship between AI and ethos. We contend that, in the absence of pure, sentient AI, cultural conversations about the technology have lamented the “humanness” of the machine. 

On the one hand, society may fear the advent of such pure and self-aware technology, as seen in science fiction films such as The Matrix or the Terminator series. On the other hand, we find ourselves resisting the human characteristics of the machine. Looking to recent controversies regarding the formation of personas within OpenAI’s ChatGPTs, Google’s poor roll out of Gemini, and the creation of Gab’s AI varied chatbots, we look to how ethos becomes the central point of controversy. 

We draw from our heuristics of automation, circulation, and sociotechnical logics to outline how these ethotic characterizations infect—much like a virus—our public discourses about technology and AI.  

Jens E. Kjeldsen is professor of rhetoric and visual communication at the University of Bergen (Norway) and professor II of practical rhetoric at University of Oslo (Norway). His main research areas include visual and multimodal rhetoric and argumentation, rhetorical reception studies, speechmaking and speechwriting, royal rhetoric, political debates and rhetoric and expertise in the pandemic. He is the co-founder and longtime president of Rhetoric Society of Europe, the co-founder and longtime chief editor of the research journal Rhetorica Scandinavica. He is also the founder and leader of the national Norwegian speech competition “Seize the word,” which teaches high school students to take the word and exercise rhetorical citizenship. Kjeldsen is the winner of several teaching and communication awards and has received the Grand Award of the international Cicero Speechwriting Award, offered by the Professional Speechwriter Association. Presently, Kjeldsen is working on rhetoric of the AMR-crisis and issues of ethos, trust and credibility.

Aaron Hess is associate professor of rhetoric and communication in the School of Applied Sciences and Arts within the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at Arizona State University. His research includes developing participatory approaches to rhetoric and public advocacy, examinations of rhetoric and digital technologies, and theorizing about issues of credibility, ethos and trust. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Norway for the 2022-2023 academic year, during which he studied issues of trust and ethos as they pertain to culture, technology and other social issues. He has authored, coauthored, or edited four volumes and his many essays are featured in the International Journal of Communication, New Media & Society, and Communication Monographs, among others. In 2016, his co-authored book, Participatory Critical Rhetoric, won the Outstanding Book of the Year award in the Critical and Cultural Studies Division at the National Communication Association.