Rhetorical Analysis – Logos

The last function of reason is to recognize that there are an infinity of things which surpass it.
   –Blaise Pascal

Introduction

This article deals with logical appeal (logos) (Aristotle) of the MacWorld 2007 keynote (iPhone introduction). The discussion includes selected statements and their correspondence to reality, the structure, and slogans.

The Overall Factors

The keynote is clearly structured in several large parts. These parts are split into sub-units, each with a short introduction and a summary, repeating the key features. The beginning and ends of such units are communicated with structural information, e.g., “…the first thing I’d like to do…”, “So that’s an update on how we’re doing…”. The structure generally supports the delivery of the content.
The aim of the keynote was the introduction of the iPhone and its key features. This focus was clearly communicated, besides that there was a general information about Apple Inc. and its other products (in the intro) and also some market strategy information in the end.

Content

This part contains a discussion about the content of the keynote. Several important parts and examples are selected and examined in detail.

Claims and Statements

Steve Jobs makes certain statements. Two selected statements are discussed here to provide insights on how they correspond to reality.

  • “Software that’s at least five years ahead of what’s on any other phone.” ([0:34:55]; also written on the screen) At first this appears to be bold and unsubstantiated. On closer examination the problem is to determine what exactly is meant by “software.” The core operating systems principles and designs evolve rather slowly. There are various articles that claim that the statement is wrong, yet they mainly argue on a consumer level, thus lacking a deep understanding of software engineering and design. There is another article explaining that it could be true: “OS X and iPhone don’t have these limitations. It’s one of the reasons I believe Steve Jobs is more or less right in iPhone being 5 years ahead of the competition”. The article addresses important software design issues that are more important than end-user features. Nevertheless, it should be noted that Steve Jobs already proclaimed that his NeXT Computer in 1988/1989 was “5 years ahead of its time”. Therefore, the exact number is arguable. To conclude, the iPhone software seems to be several years ahead of the known systems.
  • There are concerns about the internet-browsing capabilities of the iPhone. Since the iPhone lacks the ability to use Macromedia Flash, which is common on webpages. In one of the first statements about the internet communicator abilities Steve Jobs stated: “It is the first fully usable html browser on a phone.” ([01:02:34]) Note the emphasis on “html.” This does not include Macromedia Flash. Yet, later he claims “this is a revolution of the first order, to really bring the real Internet to your phone” ([01:10:57]). According to the numbers of Adobe – manufacturer of the Adobe Flash Player – the “real Internet” would include Flash, since they state on their homepage: “Adobe Flash Player is the world’s most pervasive software platform, used by over 2 million professionals and reaching over 98.8 % of Internet-enabled desktops in mature markets as well as a wide range of devices.” If this is true, then the claim of the “real Internet” does not hold.

Errors and Glitches

A few errors happened during the keynote.

  • In the first ten minutes, Steve Jobs mentions: “And we hope to be adding even more movies as other studios throw in with us as 2006 rolls on.” ([0:09:05]) The keynote was held in January 2007.
  • Jobs mentioned that he would call AppleTV iTV accidently a few times, since the name has changed. He did this six times without correcting himself, which is pretty close to his prediction: “I’ll probably stumble and call this iTV five times today by mistake.” ([00:12:32])
  • During the internal preview of the iPhone features, he said: “So, I wanna show you four things. I wanna show you the phone app, photos, got a calendar, and SMS messaging.” ([00:50:00]) Additionally, the slide viewable at [00:51:07] has four icons on it, including the calendar icon. But the calendar was not shown or explained during the main presentation of the phone device. Only in the summary it was shortly mentioned and a screenshot shown.

Quotes

Steve uses three quotes of famous persons throughout the whole keynote. Jim Allchin and Alan Kay are authorities in the IT industry and Wayne Gretzky is a famous hockey player.

  • Jim Allchin: “I would buy a Mac today if I was not working at Microsoft.” (Written on the main screen at [00:03:15], indirectly quoted by Steve Jobs.)
  • Alan Kay: “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.” (Written on the main screen [00:36:21], directly quoted by Steve Jobs.)
  • Wayne Gretzky: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” (Written on the main screen [01:45:04], directly quoted by Steve Jobs.)

The quote from Allchin was used to underline the fact that more people are switching to Mac computers, to mock Microsoft, and to add an funny emotional spike to the keynote. The quotes from Kay and Gretzky were used to underline the philosophy of Apple towards its products and strategy, respectively.

Rhetorical Argumentation

As mentioned in the content section, the verbal part of the keynote is mostly constituted by descriptive information. There are only a limited number of explicit arguments. Most of the arguments are implicit, thus appearing to be simple statements, yet the surrounding content indicates that they are hidden arguments. The analysis is based on the general schemes as outlined by Lothar Kolmer and Carmen Rob-Santer.
In the description and discussion of the argumentation schemes, the terms premise and conclusion are defined as follows:

  • Premise – “A proposition upon which an argument is based or from which a conclusion is drawn.”
  • Conclusion – A “conclusion is a statement that is the logical consequence of preceding statements.”

Contrary to the use in logic, typical arguments in verbal form begin with the conclusion and end with the premises.

Causal Scheme

This scheme relies on premises that are causes for certain effects. When the premise [cause] holds, the conclusion [effect] is fulfilled.


So, we wanna let you use contacts like never before. You can sync your iPhone with your PC or Mac and bring down all your contacts right into your phone. So you’ve got everybody’s numbers with you at all times.


The first sentence is the conclusion which derives from the premise that the iPhone can sync all the contacts with a computer. The premise is also composed of another cause and effect scheme.

Example Scheme

In this scheme the premises are examples. This scheme is not a sufficient argumentation.
This is a common scheme during the keynote, yet usually Steve Jobs provides visual examples instead of verbal ones: 


I can just push here, and I see Jony Ive’s context, with all his information: his three phone numbers, his e-mail, whatever else, his address, whatever else I’ve got. It’s all in one place.


The conclusion here is that all the information is in one place. Thus, in this special case it is arguable, if an example scheme may be valid.


You can see the m.. uh button has changed to merge calls right there in the middle, so I just push that right here, and now, I’ve created a conference call.


This is an example for an indirect conclusion. Steve Jobs does not state explicitly that the creation of a conference call is simple and automatic. He only indicates it with “I just push…”

Generally, Steve Jobs uses a high amount of visual examples, which are introduced, concluded and/or illustrated with statements about simplicity. Thus, omitting complex conclusions like “this shows that feature xy makes the phone experience much easier.” He lets the audience draw their “own” conclusion, based on his clearly indicated outline.

Comparing Scheme

Comparing schemes rely on comparisons for the argumentation. The comparisons are based on various categories, such as equality, similarity, difference, or quantity.
An example for the keynote of comparing scheme that builds upon difference is this argumentation about at around [00:09:21]: 


But we have data for November, which was their [Microsoft] launch month, should have been real big. And they garnered two percent market share. […] uh iPod had 62 percent market share, and the rest had 36. Now again, we don’t have data for December. We know we went up uh uh quite a bit in December in terms of market share. […] But two percent in their launch month. So, no matter how you try to spin this, UHM what can you say?

Again, Steve Jobs only indicates his conclusion. He mentions the differences [premises] in market shares and finishes with a rhetorical effect that leaves the conclusion to the audience.

Opposition Scheme

The premises are chosen in a way that they exclude each other to a certain degree. There are direct, relative, and alternative oppositions.
Here is an example from the keynote for an alternative opposition scheme: 


Now, how are we gonna communicate this? We don’t wanna carry around a mouse, right? [premise 1] So what are we gonna do? Oh, a stylus, right? We’re gonna use a stylus. [premise 2] No. No. Who wants a stylus? You have to get em and put em away, and you lose em. Yuck. Nobody wants a stylus. So let’s not use a stylus. We’re gonna use the best pointing device in the world. We’re gonna use a pointing device that we’re all born with – we’re born with ten of them. We’re gonna use our fingers. [premise 3]

In this example the third premise is also the explicitly stated conclusion.

Structure and Structure Elements

This section deals with the overall structure of the keynote and its structure elements. A structure element is a word sequence that provides the listener with information about the current position of the speech.

Structure Elements

Structure elements are parts of a speech that provide information on the structure of the speech and/or the current position in it to the audience.
Jobs introduces most sections with the following phrases:

  • “I’d like to … show/talk/tell/do …”
  • “[Now/So,] I wanna … show/talk/do/take …”
  • “Let me … show/go/tell …”
  • “Let’s take a look/go/ …”

In some sections he provides an internal preview, where he outlines the upcoming points, this is done with following phrases:

  • “So, three things: …” (only once [0:28:44])

Steve Jobs sometimes closes the sections explicitly:

  • “Now, to conclude with the Internet device section here…” ([01:11:53], only used once)
  • “So that’s/that is … [an update … on/for]”

He ends certain sections with summaries to emphasize the keypoints. These summaries are usually accompanied by a set of screenshots.
Generally, the keynote follows a clear structure and the audience is provided with plenty structural information, as shown in the previous subsection the structure information. It takes a bit less than 7 % of the examined part. Yet, the complete structure of the keynote is never revealed; there is no internal preview about the whole keynote. The only aspect that closely resembles an internal preview of a larger part of the keynote is the introduction of the iPhone. Here Steve Jobs outlines that there are three devices and that he introduces all of them. This approach has the following results:

  1. The audience knows where the keynote is right now or where it will be in the next several minutes.
  2. Yet, the audience does not know, where the keynote will be in the more “distant” future, thus leaving enough room for curiosity and surprises.
  3. The summaries assure that (a) retention of the content is enforced, (b) the key points are repeated.

Overall Structure

Due to the clear usage of structural elements the overall structure is quite clear.

  1. Prelude
    1. Welcome
    2. We Did the Switch to Intel – Thank You
    3. Switchers and Mocking Microsoft
    4. Music Business
    5. Apple TV
  2. Main Part
    1. Change and We Did it Before (Intro)
    2. Status Quo and Vision
    3. User Interfaces
    4. Software
    5. Design
    6. iPod
    7. Phone
    8. Internet Communications Device
    9. Internet Companies – Google and Yahoo (Outro)
    10. Real Life Demo (Demo Summary)
    11. Accessories, Battery, Technology, Pricing, Release, and Cingular
  3. Outro
    1. Market
    2. Name Change, History, and “Philosophy” (End of Keynote)
  4. Fade-Out
    1. Thanks to Workers and Families
    2. John Mayer Performance

Summary

If one looks at the keynote from a strong logos bias, it is a well structured description with high usage of multimedia aspects that support or replace argumentations. About one half the selected section is content information in form of descriptions. The amount of facts is about one tenth. The high degree of structuring is achieved due the usage of a lot of structural information, which constitutes about 7 %. The high degree of description and low intensity information is also reflected by the schemes of argumentation. The number of arguments is rather low and there are only very few explicit argumentations. Throughout the keynote there were only a few errors.

Bibliography & Links

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