Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric and Technical Communication (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Humanities


Diane L Shoos


From Bush’s September 20, 2001 “War on Terror” speech to Congress to President-Elect Barack Obama’s acceptance speech on November 4, 2008, the U.S. Army produced visual recruitment material that addressed the concerns of falling enlistment numbers—due to the prolonged and difficult war in Iraq—with quickly-evolving and compelling rhetorical appeals: from the introduction of an “Army of One” (2001) to “Army Strong” (2006); from messages focused on education and individual identity to high-energy adventure and simulated combat scenarios, distributed through everything from printed posters and music videos to first-person tactical-shooter video games. These highly polished, professional visual appeals introduced to the American public during a time of an unpopular war fought by volunteers provide rich subject matter for research and analysis. This dissertation takes a multidisciplinary approach to the visual media utilized as part of the Army’s recruitment efforts during the War on Terror, focusing on American myths—as defined by Barthes—and how these myths are both revealed and reinforced through design across media platforms. Placing each selection in its historical context, this dissertation analyzes how printed materials changed as the War on Terror continued. It examines the television ad that introduced “Army Strong” to the American public, considering how the combination of moving image, text, and music structure the message and the way we receive it. This dissertation also analyzes the video game America’s Army, focusing on how the interaction of the human player and the computer-generated player combine to enhance the persuasive qualities of the recruitment message. Each chapter discusses how the design of the particular medium facilitates engagement/interactivity of the viewer. The conclusion considers what recruitment material produced during this time period suggests about the persuasive strategies of different media and how they create distinct relationships with their spectators. It also addresses how theoretical frameworks and critical concepts used by a variety of disciplines can be combined to analyze recruitment media utilizing a Selber inspired three literacy framework (functional, critical, rhetorical) and how this framework can contribute to the multimodal classroom by allowing instructors and students to do a comparative analysis of multiple forms of visual media with similar content.