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The visual construction of personal ethos in election posters

Journal article
Authors Orla Vigsø
Published in The Poster
Volume 4
Issue 1-2
Pages 31-56
ISSN 2040-3704
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMG)
Pages 31-56
Language en
Keywords election posters candidate posters political communication advertising visual communication body language semiotics
Subject categories Media and Communications, Other Humanities


When the candidate poster gets to play a more central role in election campaigns, the question of how the candidate is portrayed becomes even more relevant than before. Posters with an image of the candidate must be seen as an attempt at boosting his or her ethos. The picture provides the (potential) voter with an argument for voting for the candidate in question, and this argument clearly has to do with the candidate more than with policies or ideological positions. The size of the portrait, its saliency, shows that the interpretation of personal qualities is the main persuasive feature. But what does ethos actually mean when speaking of portraits of politicians? What are the categories through which ethos can be formulated, and what possible variants exist within each of these categories? One way of categorizing the potentiality of visual representations of ethos is by going back to the Aristotelian definition of the word. In Aristotle, ethos is defined as consisting of three different aspects, or the Aristotelian Trio: phronèsis (competence), arétè (virtue) and eunoia (goodwill), with the addition of two modern features: modesty and youth. This article presents a first attempt at answering the question: how can these aspects be realized visually through the poster?

Page Manager: Webmaster|Last update: 9/11/2012

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