Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

James S. Measell


Eight Mile Road is a twenty-seven mile stretch of road in southeast Michigan that joins 4.6 million people. To metropolitan Detroiters, however, Eight Mile Road is more than just a roadway or street: it is a racially symbolic marker. Eight Mile Road symbolizes more than two decades of hostility between Detroit and the northern suburbs. Some would even argue that Eight Mile Road separates two worlds: the white from the black, the safe from the unsafe, and the desirable from the undesirable. How did a roadway come to define so much? This study poses the following research questions: (1) How effective is the use of ideographs in a community relations campaign in redefining a symbolic marker such as Eight Mile Road? (2) Can a rhetorical evaluation be a sensitive indicator of the success of a community relations campaign? This study examines community relations at two levels. First, a vocabulary of concepts derived from Michael McGee's discussion of the "ideograph" and the link between rhetoric and ideology is explored. This discussion also draws from concepts developed by Celeste Condit in her examination of the rhetorical constructions of public morality and from C. Jack Orr's framework of the social construction of reality through communication. Carefully chosen ideographs are used throughout the community relations campaign to convey certain meaning and to predict a particular range of responses. Kenneth Burke's cluster analysis allows the author to rhetorically evaluate the use of ideographs. This study also applies traditional public relations analysis and evaluation techniques to the community relations campaign to measure its effectiveness. The author concludes that rhetorical criticism adds a new and valuable dimension to the evaluation of a public relations campaign. A rhetorical perspective takes evaluation beyond the traditional objective measures that professionals have used. A rhetorical perspective allows one to see why a campaign's communication was effective and how it might be improved. Since the strategic use of rhetorical devices serves as the backbone of many traditional public relations programs, the author argues that a rhetorical perspective adds a new and valuable dimension to the evaluation of a public relations campaign.