While listening to this week’s video and going through the readings,I came up with 5 possibilities for a 6th dominant theme of visualrhetoric: (Creating) Community A Bat-Signal for the Masses Identity Education Inevitability
I didn’t end up going with the Bat-Signal theme (shame I know),but here’s an example of what I mean.Propaganda? Sure. But it’s also visual rhetoric targeted to fire up thepeople.
I felt that there were strings tied to each of these themes, but by farthe strongest and most personally relevant was the theme of“Identity.”Our readings touched on the intersection of visual rhetoric andidentity in several different ways; let’s take a look at some of them:
If, like Wysocki posits in “The Multiple Media of Texts<,” the“visual elements and arrangements of a text perform persuasivework” (p2) and the “visual aspects of text are (therefore) to beunderstood< in terms of social context” (p3), then the visualrhetoric of the texts we create present a persuasive argument to asocial context, and in the choices me make towards this end we arepresenting an argument of our identity—perhaps consciously butperhaps not.
Here we can see this kind of socially-embedded argumentation using visualrhetoric in action. This is almost nothing but an attempt to project a specificidentity.
All of the textual/visual elements she reviews—typeface, shapes,choice of media, etc—once chosen send a message about the authorto the audience, they carry a (accurate or not) sense of thepersonality, the identity, behind the text.When Wysocki suggests that we can use visual rhetoric to persuadereaders that “your composition is serious” (p30), I see part of thatjob as using visual rhetoric to persuade readers that you are serious.
On the website 4chan, stories in “greentext” evoke a particular methodand mindset of storytelling (typically a serious, personal story), andalthough it’s used to troll as we can see (just like everything else), it’s agreat example of creating identity in text through visual rhetoric.
On a completely different tact, Craig Stroupe’s “VisualizingEnglish” piece shows us how visual rhetoric has become abattlefield of identity for English Studies itself, a “battlefieldbetween the values associated with verbal and visual codes” (p2).Many of this week’s pieces touch on the historical subjugation of thevisual by English and Composition Studies, but Stroupe does anexcellent job of capturing the tension created and suggesting howEnglish can re-craft its identity as including the visual, and thatindeed the “long-standing ideology of elaboration,” if refocusedupon, can mend the artificial stratifications therein.
I haven’t really had any exposure to the English department here, butif it’s anything like at Elon, there is no greater a contentious divide thenbetween the identity of “English” and “Rhetoric & Writing.” Andlooking at the difference between the Google image searches of“michigan state rhetoric and writing” and “michigan state english,” Ithink it’s safe to say the two departments are visually different inseveral ways.
In fact, in saying that “to pursue such a course would thus leadEnglish to address its internal inequalities< and to recognize themystified status of the privileged genres, discourse, and culturalnarratives” (p3) it seems to me that he advocates for the inclusion ofvisual rhetoric as a way to repair, refine, and improve the identity ofEnglish Studies as a whole.
Another couple connections come our way by the virtue of Selfe²’s“The Poilitics of Interface.” In their concern over how “teachers ofEnglish that use computers” (p481) might be a part of systematicdomination and marginalization practices, they come to discusscomputer interfaces as “linguistic contact zones” (p842).Most certainly this and other pieces from this week prove theinherently and intensely visual-rhetorical nature of interfaces, andin doing so they show how interfaces assume an identity of theuser, and more importantly that this assumption can begin toinfluence the identity of the user.As Selfe² explains, even the term “desktop,” “*constructs+ virtualreality, by association, in terms of corporate culture and the valuesof professionalism” (p486).
How much has the way I’ve used and understood computers, how muchhas the work and play I’ve done with them since 1998 been influenced bythe corporate nature of the design that I never even thought about untilthis week?
Having joined forces with Jasken,Wysocki takes this conflux of visualrhetoric and identity a few steps furtherin “What Should be an UnforgettableFace<” They lay it out pretty explicitly,saying “Interfaces are about the relationswe construct with each other—how weperceive and try to shape each other<”(p33).
When Thomas Barker “asked teachers toconsider the broader contexts in whichtheir software would be functioning”(p33), he is asking them to take theidentity of users into account—he issaying that the visual rhetoric ofinterfaces is and must be linked toidentity.
I still don’t fully understand it, but as solid as I felt the pedagogy of thistool was, as much potential as I felt it had, there was an obvious disconnectbetween the interface of Eli Review and the identity of my students. Itcould have been inherent in the tool, in how I construct the interface of myreviews, but either way it’s an example of visual rhetoric and interfacesclashing with expectations and identity
They also speak again to the notion ofvisual-rhetoric/interfaces impacting users’identities in discussing how expectationsof synchronous discussion software inone online classroom pushed Mexican-American students to hide theiridentity—to even believe that such self-representation might be harmful—interface impacting identity.
Arola’s discussion in “The Rise of Web 2.0” showsevidence of users wrestling with the intersection ofvisual rhetoric and identity when she reviews thevisual rhetoric agency of social networkingplatforms. Since the underlying visual rhetoric ofeach platform’s design is so static, users select theirplatform (instead of designing it) as a way topresent a specific identity.
How strong are the rebellions every time Facebook changes it’s basicdesign? I think it’s especially obvious in how facebook allowed users tonot switch to Timeline that identity is at play here in the design, whyelse would there be such a strong backlash, such a strong commitmentto the previous interface?
Especially during the years when MySpace, Facebook, and otherplatforms were in more direct competition, which platform(s) youchose most certainly sent a message about what kind of person youwere, and each platform came along with a hefty load of rhetoricalbaggage. MySpace is actually a wonderful example of how beinginvolved with design work—with visual rhetoric work—is in-and-of-itself an identity marker.
The fact that there were and still are companies like this, selling custommyspace and other social network designs, shows just how much weight isplaced upon the projection of identity that can be created even within therelatively small changes you can make to the basic template of these sites.
I can clearly remember my best friend’s sister gaining an identity asthe cool, independent, alternative, artsy, etc. girl in school becauseshe could construct and implement MySpace designs—herknowledge of visual rhetoric tools alone was enough to project thiscomplex identity to her peers.
She keeps up the same image with her profile pictures on Facebook.Could you get any more “artsy” than this shot? I think not. But here’s thekicker, there is so many people attempting to project this identity, thateven though she’s the real deal, many people assume it’s put-on, an falsemask of identity for the internet.
Patricia Sullivan’s self-explanatory focus in “Practicing safevisual rhetoric on the World Wide Web” touches on issues ofidentity particularly strongly when taking about advice givento PhD students on the job market, and all of the visualrhetoric choices they have to make that are so very impactfulon the identity they project to perspective employers.
The process of creating this space, most definitely the most visually-rhetorical product I’ve ever worked on, was a grueling experience thatsaw me bouncing hard back and forth between “safe” design choicesand my desire to display a truer sense of my identity. I’m still not happywith it, and part of the reason I took this class was because I hoped togain skills and understandings that can help me break through thebarrier of “safety.”
Visual rhetoric skill comes into play here as a major marker ofidentity in the academic world, as evidenced by Sullivan’s concernthat “increased involvement” in design could lead to a sameness ofidentity among job-seekers, or worse an assumed identity ofvisual/digital rhetoric savvy that could get them into trouble.Certainly at MSU I have seen the huge impact that the presence, orlack, of visual/digital rhetoric skills/focus makes on the identity ofprofessors and students here, and how conscious they are about it.
One last example comes from Williams “Part 2” where he concludesthat visual/digital rhetoric knowledge and ability can be highlyempowering, by helping to change students’ sense of identityfurther down the spectrum towards “expert” (133).I see this as an incredibly important aspect of visual rhetoric for myown work—in helping my students to understand visual rhetoricunderstandings and tools, they can gain a confidence and ability toshape and project the identity they desire, giving them the agencythat is at the heart of my pedagogy.
The very medium of this assignment is an example of the intersection betweenvisual rhetoric and identity. I had every intention of composing this presentation inPrezi because I want to evolve my identity as a tech-savvy scholar, because my timeat MSU has shown me how important visual rhetoric skills utilizing technology canbe towards constructing a professional identity that is valued amongst the academiccommunity, and how useful it might be towards my future success.I’ve often been worried about how much visual/digital rhetoric skills can make animpact in how work my work is seen, in that the amount of work I put into a projectcan be marred by the quality of how I present it. I’ve started to realize that if I wishto project the identity of a hard working, deep thinking scholar, I need to spread mywork more evenly between the content and the presentationUnfortunately, I’ve been really sick and in and out of the ER and doctor’s offices thepast week, and so such a change will have to wait for another day.
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