Title page for ETD etd-09142012-161727

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Botha, Anneli
Email annelibotha@gmail.com
URN etd-09142012-161727
Document Title An exploration of the conceptual relationship between design aesthetics and Aristotelian rhetoric in information visualisation
Degree Master of Arts
Department Visual Arts
Advisor Name Title
Mr P Swanepoel Co-Supervisor
Mr D Reyburn Supervisor
  • visual rhetoric
  • visual communication
  • information aesthetics
  • information visualisation
  • information design
  • experience design
  • Aesthetic visualisation
  • Aristotelian rhetoric
  • communication design
  • data visualisation
  • design aesthetics
Date 2012-04-17
Availability unrestricted
This study explores the conceptual relationship between design aesthetics and Aristotelian rhetoric in the context of information visualisation. Aesthetics and rhetorical theory are traditionally studied as separate discourses, but conceptual links between these fields are identified, specifically in terms of communicative goals and strategies. This study therefore compares selected theories on design aesthetics and Aristotelian rhetoric in information visualisation in order to ascertain whether a combined framework may be feasible.

Although information visualisation is traditionally practiced from software engineering disciplines, this study frames the practice within the broader field of information design. The democratisation of the field of information visualisation and the emerging practices that emphasise the aesthetic value of visualisations is explored. In order to understand what is meant by the term ‘aesthetic’, a variety of both classical and contemporary views on aesthetics theory is investigated. Even though the term ‘aesthetic’ is not defined, a broad understanding is created by identifying the main conceptual themes in discourse. A specific focus is placed on understanding aesthetics in a design context, since there are many misconceptions about ‘aesthetics’ in this context. The idea that aesthetics relates to the communication of artifacts is explored, which provides a point of departure in linking aesthetics and rhetorical theory. The communicative nature of information visualisations is thus explored in relation to visual rhetorical theory. Aristotle’s three rhetorical appeals, namely logos, pathos and ethos, form the backbone of the visual rhetorical analysis of visualisation artifacts.

The aesthetic and rhetorical theories explored throughout the study are compared by applying them to Charles Joseph Minard’s seminal information visualisation of Napoleon’s march to Moscow. This comparative analysis considers the traditional divide between aesthetics and rhetorical theory but identifies sufficient conceptual links between the discourses to suggest that a combined aesthetic-rhetorical framework for information visualisation may indeed be practical. Lastly, the wider implications and potential value of such a combined framework is considered within a broader design context.

Copyright © 2011, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Botha, A 2011, An exploration of the conceptual relationship between design aesthetics and Aristotelian rhetoric in information visualisation, MA dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-009142012-161727 / >


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