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Visual Rhetoric_Reflection

As the spring semester finally winds its way down, my professor asked each of us to to reflect on how the things we have learned can connect out to our own work in academia.

GIF hosted on Tumblr.

GIF hosted on Tumblr.

I’m not really sure that my understandings of visual rhetoric and document design have really changed since taking this class because of my experiences last year in the Networks course. The Networks course was so different from any kind of classroom environment and from any kind of work that I had been required to do in the past, that every week was me trying to overcome my reservations about how to submit my work, what I could include (strictly text vs. incorporating reactionary gifs), the kinds of content I would be studying (neurobiology still haunts me),  and how to present my understandings and connections between those kinds of content. I realized that as I was moving through that class, I attempted to use humor as a way to convey the material I was reviewing or synthesizing and as a way for me to understand it myself. With the blog, beyond my peers, I was never sure who was stumbling across my blog, so I always tried to keep in mind that I needed to try and present information in a way that anyone could understand, even the really science-y stuff that flustered me.

In terms of this class, though, I feel like I have been gaining a little more vocabulary about how to talk about the things I am doing when I produce content, but also in how I talk about games and the visual culture surrounding the gaming community and industry. I still have a little trouble talking about rhetoric (this is my first rhetoric-centered class) and rhetorical strategies/canons, so the project I am working on and the research I am doing for it are letting me explore how people talk about the use of visual rhetoric in advertisements. For me, seeing something in a practical application helps me understand concepts far better than just theory (which is probably why I suck so badly at math), so getting to read about how the advertising industry is doing certain things in order to lure in customers, to make certain brands appeal to different groups of people, and to see the kind of cultural rhetoric in play makes a lot more sense to me.

In regards to the invention process, I think that I have become a bit more visual because the projects I have been working on in the last two years have required me to map out connections and ideas and goals in a way that I am not used to. My internship has done a lot to pull me out of my comfort zone because video games are very visual things nowadays, with text often acting as a supplemental element. My internship director is a very visual person (he’s an artist), so my invention process was no longer strictly me working on my own things. He and I meet almost every week to discuss details and to work through issues with the content, and it helps to have visuals available to make sure that we are imagining things in (mostly) the same ways. When I am working, I am not very visually driven (I tried to avoid having to do anything but type words and find gifs) because I lack the skills to get what is in my head onto paper beyond rearranging words into sentences, so having to do mindmaps for class and my internship and learning how to blog have been really good in getting me to branch out in how I approached projects and how I maintained the visual components rather than scuttling back to my purely textual bubble.

A little Music to Help the Reflection Process

Annotated Bibliography #3

Dolan, J. (1987). The Dynamics of Desire: Sexuality and Gender in Pornography and Performance. Theatre Journal, 39(2), 156–174. http://doi.org/10.2307/3207686
Acknowledging that the role sexuality plays in performance and the visual representation of women as sexual subjects of objects is a hotly contested issue within feminist criticism, Dolan gives a comparison of two main views of the function of pornography within culture.
The first is “Cultural Feminists” whose tradition stems from Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon. These theorists posit that all male sexuality is aggressive and violent, and that power creates hierarchies, which lead to violence against women (p. 157). Cultural feminists attempt to emphasize biological differences between men and women, and to put forth the idea that women are superior as well as essentially the same — that there is a common female experience. They locate that “sameness” in the female body; female bodies are capable of procreation (and male bodies are not), and that a female body “stripped to its ‘essential femaleness’ communicates an essential meaning recognizable by all women” (P. 159). Dolan remarks that if one subscribes to this view of feminism, then one is anti-pornography, as the power hierarchies of the production of the media as well as the objectification of the female body within it make it problematic. However, this then removes sexuality and desire from female representation and relegates representation to a supposedly more pure level of spiritual, dispassionate space that is somehow naturalized or idealized. Dolan describes some female performance artists who attempt to reverse these power hierarchies that lead to female objectification by either adopting a masculinized role of sexuality or being deliberately perverse or disgusting in order to remove “her body off this representational commodities market by refusing to appear as a consumable object” (p. 163).
In the second part of her article, Dolan discusses lesbian theatrical performances as reimagining gender roles along an expanded continuum (p. 170) and bringing sexuality and desire to the foreforent as opposed to banishing as a problematic taboo. Lesbian performativity, done primarily for lesbian audiences, imagines a different type of desire and deliberately manipulates traditional gender-coded performances. Their attempt is to point out the “contradictions in and limits to the traditional construction of polarized gender choices” (p. 170). However, within these performances, Dolan does continue to describe a continuum of “butch” to “femme”, which seems to me to reinforce binaries of male/female.
This article will be helpful to me as I look to consider other ways of gender and sexual representation than the heteronormative male gaze, and to note the tension within the feminist criticism community.

Digital Design Experiences Timeline

For my Visual Rhetoric class, we were asked to create timelines of our digital design   disasters experiences. The picture below is a screencapture since I can’t get the embed code to work, and there is a link to my actual timeline below that.

Digital Design Experiences Timeline

 

When you don’t know where you’re going, the music is always fun.

Simple Infographic

Column Chart of Underworld Franchise box office information

I wanted to make a comparison of the four movies and their budgets and sales figures. I was only able to easily access total sales figures from the last two movies, so I kept it to box office only, rather than home video included.

Rise of the Lycans is the only movie without Selene, although she has a “stand-in” in the form of Sophia, the daughter of Vincent that Selene reminds him of. Sophia’s costume is similar, and sets a diegetic precedence for Selene’s Death Dealer costume that comes later in the timeline of the narrative but came first in the order of the movies.

I had wanted to do a stacked bar graph to show a total, but it did not work with a budget comparison next to it. I was forced to choose one type of graph, cluster or stacked. I could not combine them with the interface. I also was interested in showing number of attendees for each movie, but those figures were not readily available.

The data set is as follows, culled from the individual movie pages located at http://www.the-numbers.com/

Underworld (2003) Underworld: Evolution (2006) Rise of the Lycans (2009) Underworld: Awakening (2012)
Budget 22,000,000 45,000,000 35,000,000 70,000,000
Opening Weekend $21,753,759 $26,857,181 $20,828,511 $25,306,725
Total Domestic Gross $51,970,690 $62,318,876 $45,802,316 $62,321,040
Total Worldwide Gross $95,708,457 $113,417,763 $89,102,316 $160,379,931

Annotated Bibliography #2

Fields, J. (1999). “Fighting the Corsetless Evil”: Shaping Corsets and Culture, 1900-1930. Journal of Social History, 33(2), 355–384.
Fields focuses on the rhetoric that the corset industry used to redefine corsets and position them as essential items for all American women to own at the beginning of the 20th century. She connects the corseted body to medical and scientific rhetoric, changing conceptions of female beauty, the rise of feminism, morality arguments stating the importance of containing female bodies and sexuality as necessary for social stability, and to capitalism and economic gain from the sale of corsets to women as they attempt to conform to these norms and negotiate these rhetorics.
Importantly, Fields notes that “the corset became the locus for a number of competing significations” (p. 356) as scholars such as Steele, Roberts, Kunzle, and Banner all demonstrate that the corset has long-lasting and iconic power as a conveyor of social meaning, but disagree about what that meaning is, even in the Victorian period. Arguably, the corset’s meaning has become even more contentious and varied in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Fields looks at the “altered shape” of the corsets as a parallel trajectory to women struggling to “alter the shape of femininity and gender relations” (p. 357). There is a discursive relationship between the way that corset manufacturers used rhetoric about female bodies and social norms and the way that “women viewed, imagined, and experienced their own bodies” (p. 357). In addition, the changes that women demanded regarding their social status and mobility affected the types of corsets made and the language used to describe them. This discourse shaped and reshaped gender structures and identities as it also demonstrated changing body shapes under various corsets or — gasp — without a corset at all. The latter was something that corset manufacturers were heavily invested in preventing.
Fields notes that fashion is a codified system of of constraints that both signifies and represents a set of regulatory practices. Fashion is something people work within and against to “fashion” identities in such categories as “gender, personality, sexual preference, class, social status” and one works to express one’s individuality within this set of constraints that determine these categories and what is considered acceptable within them.  She notes a significant change in the discourse about corsets due to industrialization: the arguments about moral turpitude and questionable respectability (which could be contained by a corseted body) were replaced by arguments about science and modernity. Uncorseted women went from being “loose” to being “imperfect, imperfect, unfashionable, and unscientific” as manufacturers preyed on fears of aging and connected the fears of unrestrained women to a fear of diminishing profits (p. 357). These discourses were bolstered by new science such as that of Havelock Ellis, which claimed that female humans required corseting because of evolutionary reasons that female bodies had more difficulty making the transition from horizontal to vertical. Corset manufacturers used such scientific studies to demonstrate both the safety and necessity of corseting.
Women had more access to sports and physical exercise in the 1920s and demanded less restrictive garments. This prompted manufacturers to develop and market “sports corsets made of lighter and more flexible materials” ( p. 358). Dancing, especially the tango, also affected corset use. As women began taking off stiff corsets at parties, manufacturers responded by making “dance corsets” (p. 359-360). This had the added bonus of requiring women to purchase not just one or two corsets, but many, for various occasions and needs. Fields notes that corsetlessness had been “long identified with radical feminist and utopian movements” and the idea that woman could decide to “support herself” by going without the support of a corset. Throwing aside the corset was seen by many as a sign of radicalism and manufacturers enlisted the help of scientific studies to demonstrate that corsetlessness was a threatening menace for such reasons as: “dissipation of muscular strength, injury to internal organs, corruption of standards of beauty, damage to moral fiber, contimination of race pride and purity, and destruction of American sovereignty” (p. 363). These themes emerged from discourse analysis of trade journal articles about corsets in US publications in the 1920s. She categorizes the tactics of corset panic articles as “denial, attack, and incorporation” and demonstrates that the proscriptive discourses were used to “infuse corset use with ideologies of domination” and “panic about losing control over their female market” being eased by reasserting control over the female body (p. 364). During this time between 1920 and 1950, corsets were renamed girdles, and the junior department was born to train up young women to wearing foundational garments despite their generally slim figures not needing them. One of the most insidious and ingenious discourses was the naturalization of the corset, making the corseted body more natural than an uncorseted one. Wearing a natural corset produced a natural female form; to be natural was to wear one of the new corsets that conformed the body to what was deemed natural by society.
Manufacturers also used racial rhetoric that appealed to fears of looking like a “squaw” or having a “wayback” ancestor that had passed on the “mattress-tied-in-the-middle’ proportions” (p. 366-367). They also attempted to show that uncorseted women would never marry well, since they would be perceived as too domineering  and of the “Amazon variation” (p. 367). Women who dared to go uncorseted would also then be subjugated by a new master: the exercise regimen necessary to maintain the female form once muscles began to inevitably sag. Thus to go corsetless was to be constrained by other norms, and to be seen as unfeminine  … “the woman with a tight-muscled tense abdominal wall, flat hips, mannish chest, is usually to be pitied … the number of biological mistakes among females are [sic] increasing” (Schoemaker, qtd. in Fields, p. 367).
This piece will be interesting to use as I look at the changing meaning of the corset, and how the corset is used as a way to enforce and control female bodies while at the same time women embrace and re-perform the corseted female body in subversive ways. It seems to me this dynamic is played out on the corseted female action hero’s body. She represents at once the dominant ideology of performed femininity, and a subversive ideology of female power. What is also interesting to me is that corseted female action heroes would fall into the category of women who do not “need” corsets because they are the smaller bodied, physically fit women who have the strength and agility to perform action-based scenes and acrobatics. Indeed I am wondering if the corset is used to promote and accentuate femininity so that they do not appear too “mannish.” I am also wondering if the constraint of the corset represents a dominant ideology continuing to control the female action hero. I’m considering comparing the corseted torso to a bullet-proof vest. Or Selene’s costume to Batman’s.

Visual Rhetoric_Annotated Bibliography #2

Bogost, I. (2010). Persuasive games: The expressive power of videogames. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Bogost’s research question is to “suggest that videogames have a unique persuasive power” that is made possible through procedural rhetoric as this type of rhetoric is “tied to the core affordances of the computer,” but that “videogames are computational artifacts that have cultural meaning as computational artifacts,” unlike “‘ordinary software like word processors and photo editing applications [which] are often used to create expressive artifacts” since “those completed artifacts do not rely on the computer in order to bear meaning” (ix). Unlike some other game scholars and the gaming community, Bogost (2010) games can “disrupt and change fundamental attitudes and beliefs about the world, leading to potentially significant long-term change,” but that “this power is not equivalent to the content of videogames…Rather, this power lies in the very way videogames mount claims through procedural rhetorics” (ix). Bogost (2010) frames the foundation of his discourse within the evolution of rhetoric, but he applies and expands rhetoric to fill in the gaps left by traditional and visual and digital rhetoric through the technological difference of video games. His belief is while visual and textual rhetoric are still relevant, video game rhetoricians need to understand how procedural rhetoric functions in games. He defines procedural rhetoric as “the practice of using processes persuasively, just as verbal rhetoric the practice of using oratory persuasively and visual rhetoric is the practice of using images persuasively. Procedural rhetoric is a general name for the practice of authoring arguments through processes…its arguments are made not through the construction of words or images, but through the authorship of rules of behavior, the construction of dynamic models,” with the rules of computational arguments written in code (p. 28-29).

Bogost (2010) concludes that “we must recognize the persuasive and expressive power of procedurality. Processes influence us. They seed changes in our attitudes, which in turn, and over time, change our culture…we should recognize procedural rhetoric as a new way to interrogate our world, to comment on it, to disrupt and challenge it. As creators and players of videogames, we must be conscious of the procedural claims we make, why we make them, and what kind of social fabric we hope to cultivate through the processes we unleash on the world” (p. 340). While his “social fabric we hope to cultivate” comment is a bit grand, his exploration of the ways in which processes underlying both society, business, education, and digital games, among other activities is a fascinating one but it takes into account that for every procedure that was included, another one had to be excluded, and the choices that were made reflect cultural and societal influences and norms. An example of this would be when Bogost (2010) talks about procedural rhetoric and political structures: “Procedural rhetorics articulate the way political structures organize their daily practice; they describe the way a system ‘thinks’ before it thinks about anything in particular. To be sure, this process of crafting opinion toward resignation has its own logic, and that logic can be operationalized in code” (p. 90).

Bogost’s (2010) text is useful when approaching my topic because he has a chapter devoted to “Advertising Logic,” applying visual and procedural logic when looking at how advertisers, like “marketing guru Seth Godin,” had to reevaluate the way they delivered advertisements to consumers with the rise of DVR and selling television shows on DVD allowing viewers to skip over commercials (p. 150 and 151). Bogost (2010) points out that, by targeting a demographic of males between the age of 18 to 34, “Marketing has shifted away from a focus on the procedural rhetoric of media technologies — integrating ads into rules of network programming formats. Instead, advertisers focus on the procedural rhetoric of the frames themselves — integrating ads into rules of consumers’ perceived cultural station” (p. 151-152), with even video games becoming a space in which advertisers can reach audiences through what has been coined “advergames” by J. Chen and M. Ringel (2001). While I do find it fascinating that digital games can be used to deliver advertising messages, the section of Bogost’s chapter that is going to be the most useful to me is when he describes three types of advertising — demonstrative, illustrative, and associative — and ties each of the strategies into how they are used within the video game industry. Before reading this section, I had no idea that there were different types of advertising and had no idea about how each of these types of advertising affects the ways in which consumers are approached and the types of rhetoric that are employed. For my particular project, it looks like I will be delving further into associative advertising as it is what Sony is using for their PlayStation 4 campaigns in the US and Japan by attempting to parallel players’ lives with the actions and achievements that are a part of in the games. By looking at his discourse on the associative advertising and then at the advertising rhetorics with “its own internal logic that informs and structures the attitudes” he describes with the three advertising types: “Advertising agencies develop strategic ‘campaigns’ based on a sophisticated understanding of a company’s products or services, their target audience, and their incremental goals for the near future” (p. 164).

As for the overall questions being asked in the class, Bogost (2010) has a conversation that looks at the move from visual to procedural rhetoric in advertising, and how “advertisers are applying existing rhetorics to the videogame medium, despite the latter’s fundamental focus on procedurality. Advertising has always focused on the visual. Advertisers synecdochically refer to consumers as ‘eyeballs,’ whose attention they strive to capture” (169). Bogost’s desire to alter/expand how and which rhetorics are applied to advertising within video games fills in the gaps for me that I have been feeling when looking at the theories we have read so far in class. Video games do not operate the way commercials or print ads, so there need to be different ways of looking at how the rhetorics for advergames operate in a way that is beyond just the visual.

As the winter storms keep coming


Visual Rhetoric_Annotated Bibliography #2

Bogost, I. (2010). Persuasive games: The expressive power of videogames. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Bogost’s research question is to “suggest that videogames have a unique persuasive power” that is made possible through procedural rhetoric as this type of rhetoric is “tied to the core affordances of the computer,” but that “videogames are computational artifacts that have cultural meaning as computational artifacts,” unlike “‘ordinary software like word processors and photo editing applications [which] are often used to create expressive artifacts” since “those completed artifacts do not rely on the computer in order to bear meaning” (ix). Unlike some other game scholars and the gaming community, Bogost (2010) games can “disrupt and change fundamental attitudes and beliefs about the world, leading to potentially significant long-term change,” but that “this power is not equivalent to the content of videogames…Rather, this power lies in the very way videogames mount claims through procedural rhetorics” (ix). Bogost (2010) frames the foundation of his discourse within the evolution of rhetoric, but he applies and expands rhetoric to fill in the gaps left by traditional and visual and digital rhetoric through the technological difference of video games. His belief is while visual and textual rhetoric are still relevant, video game rhetoricians need to understand how procedural rhetoric functions in games. He defines procedural rhetoric as “the practice of using processes persuasively, just as verbal rhetoric the practice of using oratory persuasively and visual rhetoric is the practice of using images persuasively. Procedural rhetoric is a general name for the practice of authoring arguments through processes…its arguments are made not through the construction of words or images, but through the authorship of rules of behavior, the construction of dynamic models,” with the rules of computational arguments written in code (p. 28-29).

Bogost (2010) concludes that “we must recognize the persuasive and expressive power of procedurality. Processes influence us. They seed changes in our attitudes, which in turn, and over time, change our culture…we should recognize procedural rhetoric as a new way to interrogate our world, to comment on it, to disrupt and challenge it. As creators and players of videogames, we must be conscious of the procedural claims we make, why we make them, and what kind of social fabric we hope to cultivate through the processes we unleash on the world” (p. 340). While his “social fabric we hope to cultivate” comment is a bit grand, his exploration of the ways in which processes underlying both society, business, education, and digital games, among other activities is a fascinating one but it takes into account that for every procedure that was included, another one had to be excluded, and the choices that were made reflect cultural and societal influences and norms. An example of this would be when Bogost (2010) talks about procedural rhetoric and political structures: “Procedural rhetorics articulate the way political structures organize their daily practice; they describe the way a system ‘thinks’ before it thinks about anything in particular. To be sure, this process of crafting opinion toward resignation has its own logic, and that logic can be operationalized in code” (p. 90). The implications of Bogost’s argument is that it gives rhetoricians a way to to look at the rhetoric that underlies processes and codes that are usually invisible to society and individuals, except for people like computer programmers who work explicitly with code.

Bogost’s (2010) text is useful when approaching my topic because he has a chapter devoted to “Advertising Logic,” applying visual and procedural logic when looking at how advertisers, like “marketing guru Seth Godin,” had to reevaluate the way they delivered advertisements to consumers with the rise of DVR and selling television shows on DVD allowing viewers to skip over commercials (p. 150 and 151). Bogost (2010) points out that, by targeting a demographic of males between the age of 18 to 34, “Marketing has shifted away from a focus on the procedural rhetoric of media technologies — integrating ads into rules of network programming formats. Instead, advertisers focus on the procedural rhetoric of the frames themselves — integrating ads into rules of consumers’ perceived cultural station” (p. 151-152), with even video games becoming a space in which advertisers can reach audiences through what has been coined “advergames” by J. Chen and M. Ringel (2001). While I do find it fascinating that digital games can be used to deliver advertising messages, the section of Bogost’s chapter that is going to be the most useful to me is when he describes three types of advertising — demonstrative, illustrative, and associative — and ties each of the strategies into how they are used within the video game industry. Before reading this section, I had no idea that there were different types of advertising and had no idea about how each of these types of advertising affects the ways in which consumers are approached and the types of rhetoric that are employed. For my particular project, it looks like I will be delving further into associative advertising as it is what Sony is using for their PlayStation 4 campaigns in the US and Japan by attempting to parallel players’ lives with the actions and achievements that are a part of in the games. By looking at his discourse on the associative advertising and then at the advertising rhetorics with “its own internal logic that informs and structures the attitudes” he describes with the three advertising types: “Advertising agencies develop strategic ‘campaigns’ based on a sophisticated understanding of a company’s products or services, their target audience, and their incremental goals for the near future” (p. 164).

As for the overall questions being asked in the class, Bogost (2010) has a conversation that looks at the move from visual to procedural rhetoric in advertising, and how “advertisers are applying existing rhetorics to the videogame medium, despite the latter’s fundamental focus on procedurality. Advertising has always focused on the visual. Advertisers synecdochically refer to consumers as ‘eyeballs,’ whose attention they strive to capture” (169). Bogost’s desire to alter/expand how and which rhetorics are applied to advertising within video games fills in the gaps for me that I have been feeling when looking at the theories we have read so far in class. Video games do not operate the way commercials or print ads, so there need to be different ways of looking at how the rhetorics for advergames operate in a way that is beyond just the visual.

As the winter storms keep coming

Visual Argument Reflection

After looking at the comments I received from my peers (Maury, Megan, Laurie, and Jenny), I think they did a great job getting at the argument I was trying to construct with my visual, which was simply that we are humans regardless of any other identity factor placed upon us and that we suffer and cry and laugh and learn and work even when living in different conditions. The learning, the work, the hardships and the losses, and how we survive may take different forms, but humanness is our underlying factor. My peers pointed out that my visual was about “the richness of the human experience,” “the range of human emotions and actions,” about the “perseverance” of mankind, and the “human condition.” It was this range of humanity that I wanted my visual argument to show that gave me such a hard time. I spent quite a bit of time choosing images from around the world so as not to assume that humanity is restricted to the US and developed countries, but to show different cultures, social classes, races, ethnicities, and religions. Part of my problem was that I think I initially wanted too many pictures for one collage, thinking that I could show the beauty and ugliness of the human race if I made a virtual mural. But I then started to wonder how many pictures in one collage would lose the focus of my argument and be too much for people to take in? When I reduced the number of pictures, the next big question became, What would be my central point to link them all together? DaVinci’s diagram of the anatomy of a man has some cultural weight to it that I have seen used before to represent mankind (disregarding the fact that it only represents a male), so I placed it at the center, hoping that it drew attention to the humanness of each person represented in the pictures that framed DaVinci’s diagram (which two people commented on). The next obstacle was how to arrange the other images. Should it just be random placement, or should there be an order to them? I chose the latter because I wanted to show a cycle we go through as individuals and as societies, from conflict to resistance to joy to learning to work to death. I wanted my visual to represent different cultures moving through these moments in a way that it seems like we forget. So often there is the Us vs Them argument, setting barriers to protect us from the influence of the Other, when we forget the simple fact that the Them really mirror Us in a way that can be startling and uncomfortable to other people. When we think of the conflicts raging in other parts of the world, like the Middle East, we tend to forget that they bury their dead as we do; it seems like all we see is our “pain” and our grievances, unless noticing others’ hurting furthers our own righteous indignation. So yes, after my long-winded explanation, I think my peers were spot on in their interpretation of my visual argument, and it makes me happy that the pictures I chose in the end were able to capture humanness rather than the “versus” attitude that I see so often in news outlets and on social media.

As for where I stand on the debate on whether or not visual arguments are possible, I am a big believer in the fact that visual arguments can be possible. Not to say that every visual is an argument (ex. I will never understand those large canvases that hang up in museums with only a dot of paint in the center and would never consider one of those to be a visual argument), but I do think that people can use visuals to construct an argument, and an argument that speaks as sharply on a topic as the most impassioned speech. When I was first thinking about a topic for what I wanted my visual to convey, I thought a great deal about the Civil Rights Movement and how we use those pictures to reveal something about the nature of racism in America, with a story from this year’s Martin Luther King Day having inspired me to really think about how we use words and how we use pictures. The woman from the story was using MLK quotes to stand up against someone trolling the holiday, but her most poignant moment was when she used images from the movement to question the troll on what exactly he/she was mocking that day. For me, visuals can convey arguments and evidence in a way that not even words can truly underscore. A powerful image can highlight an event and an emotion that are not easily brushed off.

Taken from the article on DailyKos.

Taken from the article on DailyKos.

As for my own visual argument, it took a long time for me to think of how to craft a visual that could be used as an argument. But I don’t think that such long contemplation is necessary. I cannot imagine that during situations like the march in Selma in the 60s or riots happening in, say, Russia, that a photographer would sit there for thirty minutes agonizing over the perfect shot the way I agonized over choosing the perfect picture. For me, I was crafting an argument using images that already existed and piecing them together outside of their original context, whereas pictures like those on Civil Rights Movements websites or in Holocaust Museums, are crafting arguments with images where the power of the images in enhanced because they are placed within their context. I cannot imagine ever saying that visual arguments are not possible when I feel that emotional hit every time I look at pictures of war torn countries, of children starving in the streets, of people facing armored police/military figures in the streets while trying to protest peacefully or violently. I find that an argument is one that is attempting to persuade an audience towards believing something, whether through emotion, logic, through varying combination of the two. Many visuals are just as strong as what can be conveyed through words, written or spoken.

Let the reflection soundtrack commence!

 

Visual Argument

We composed this picture deliberately on Halloween 2014.

Maria_Maury_Frozen_Juxtapose

Pre-Class Exercise for February 12th

For my Visual Rhetoric class, we were tasked with making a visual argument. I decided to make a collage.

Human

Images taken from: 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/peshawar-school-attack-pakistan-mourns-as-the-funerals-of-victims-of-taliban-massacre-are-held-9929982.html

http://deliveringhappiness.com/reasons-for-living-spontaneity/

http://affordablecremations.tumblr.com/post/100565543033/how-to-get-excellent-funeral-services

http://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/vietnam-war-history

http://www.tutufoundationusa.org/2012/10/war-for-peace-the-moral-and-legal-case-for-intervention-in-syria-2/

http://www.ibtimes.com/field-dreams-7-reasons-why-you-dont-want-be-farmer-china-1394965

http://www.workandwellness.com/speakers/menshealth.htm

http://www.ibtimes.com/indian-women-get-back-work-faster-western-japanese-counterparts-report-1152053

https://hcih.wordpress.com/category/regions/middle-east/

http://contemporarycondition.blogspot.com/2012_09_01_archive.html

http://wanderdownunder.com/nz/maori.html

Because no collage should be without background music:

Visual Rhetoric_Annotated Bibliography #1

de Pedro Ricoy, R. (2007). Internationalization vs. localization: The translation of videogame advertising. Meta 52(2), pp. 260-275. Retrieved from http://www.erudit.org/revue/meta/2007/v52/n2/016069ar.pdf

            For her article, de Pedro Ricoy approaches the topic of localization versus internalization and the rhetoric employed in global video game advertising through the lens of translation theory, marketing, and semiology. The main research question seems to be centered on what type of analysis would be best suited to exploring and evaluating the marketing strategies of video game console developers as they reach out to global audiences, and whether it is localization or internationalization that is most prevalent in these strategies. With regards to the methodology, the author establishes the target audience for video game marketers by moving through the demographics of the players and the buyers as well as discussing the importance of global marketing strategies to the success of the top three video game console developers— Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo — as they spend millions of dollars in their quest to draw in new players while continuing to cater to existing fanbases. As she moves through her analysis of global advertisings by Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, de Pedro Ricoy looks at examples of textual, static visuals (promotional images), and televised advertisements  to explore how the companies’ marketing teams attempted to either localize their advertisements to a specific country/culture they were trying to reach, or internationalize their advertisements in order to reach the greatest number of potential buyers/players with the belief that globalization has eroded cultural boundaries.

             The author highlights how certain advertisements were received in the countries they were targeting and notes how/why some failed (sometimes miserably) in those countries. de Pedro Ricoy (2007) concludes that “it seems that internationalizing strategies (which imply a degree of foreignization) are more prevalent than localizing strategies in the global campaigns for these products. Whilst different regions may have preserved their overall cultural singularity, certain demographic segments (young, relatively affluent consumers, in this instance) share a common identity that transcends geographical borders” (p. 273). She also lists four “examples of linguistic translation” that she uncovered while doing her research: “1) Literal translation, 2) Free translation, 3) gist translation, and 4) Generation of new text (based in a set of common features) in the context of copy adaptation” (de Pedro Ricoy, 2007, p. 273).

             In regards to my own research, de Pedro Ricoy’s article is extremely useful as the author breaks down the global advertising strategies of the top three game console companies  based not only on gender, but also on nationality, language, and cultural expectations. It is fascinating to think of all of the elements that have to be taken into account as the public relations and marketing teams plan the release of games and consoles, and how a misstep in any of the plans can lead to decreased interest in an entire country for the products associated with that console. One of the author’s examples that gave me pause was the lack of interest by Japanese consumers in Microsoft’s Xbox because Microsoft had chosen a date they thought would be auspicious without doing enough research to find out that Japanese employees would not be paid until a few days after the release date, leading the Japanese to doubt Microsoft’s ability to successfully localize their campaigns. As I move forward with my analysis of Sony’s “Greatness Awaits” campaign commercials in North America, de Pedro Ricoy’s article will give me a foundation through which to understand the rhetorical strategies that formed the basis of Sony’s approach to localizing their campaign to draw in an American audience.

A little music for the scholarship 

Visual Rhetoric_Annotated Bibliography #1

de Pedro Ricoy, R. (2007). Internationalization vs. localization: The translation of videogame advertising. Meta 52(2), pp. 260-275. Retrieved from http://www.erudit.org/revue/meta/2007/v52/n2/016069ar.pdf

             [insert nifty annotation here] In regards to my own research, de Pedro Ricoy’s article is extremely useful as the author breaks down the global advertising strategies of the top three game companies — Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo — based not only on gender, but also on nationality, language, and cultural expectations. It is fascinating to think of all of the elements that have to be taken into account as the public relations and marketing teams plan the release of games and consoles, and how a misstep in any of the plans can lead to decreased interest in an entire country for the products associated with that console. One of the author’s examples that gave me pause was the lack of interest by Japanese consumers in Microsoft’s Xbox because Microsoft had chosen a date they thought would be auspicious without doing enough research to find out that Japanese employees would not be paid until a few days after the release date, leading the Japanese to doubt Microsoft’s ability to successfully localize their campaigns. As I move forward with my analysis of Sony’s “Greatness Awaits” campaign commercials in North America, de Pedro Ricoy’s article will give me a foundation through which to understand the rhetorical strategies that formed the basis of Sony’s approach to localizing their campaign to draw in an American audience.

A little music for the scholarship 


Rhetoric of Female Badassery — Annotated Bibliography #1

In this entry I evaluate three fairly short articles: one conference proceeding, one first-person ethnography, and one newspaper article.
Proctor, G. (2008). Structure, constraint and sexual provocation. In E. Rouse (Ed.), Extreme Fashion: Pushing the Boundaries of Design, Technology and Business: Conference Proceedings 2007 (pp. 70–84). Centre for Learning and Teaching in Art and Design (CLTAD).
Proctor traces the development of “foundation wear,” specifically corsets, as ways to remold the body to a preferred silhouette. She gives some historical background about the rise of corsetry as linked to the industrial revolution, moving from hand sewn items to the introduction of the Singer sewing machine and steam power allowing for mass production. Differentiation by the Symington’s corset company, the largest producer of corsets founded in 1830 and mass producing them beginning in 1880, allowed for women of every class to afford a corset. The company also marketed its corsets worldwide and acknowledges that the corset design was changed to conform to the culture’s ideals of beauty and the common physical size/shape of the native women (71). She also traces the “shifting errogenous zone and resulting silhouette” as one that morphed from ample stomachs to narrow waists, a focus on the breasts and the bottoms, calling for the development of bustles and other padding with horsehair and the “stays” of whalebone and then steel (73). She makes a quick reference to Elizabethan fetishization of the codpiece as a “sexual power source” and then discusses the concept of the “Phallic Woman,” or a woman sporting a fake phallus, which has Freudian and psychoanalytical theory implications. One interesting development she highlights is the “busk” or a “rigid strip of carved bone or ivory worn between the breasts” under the funnel-shaped bodice in the Elizabethan era, something she notes was “a useful place to carry a dagger” (p. 75). She discusses how the shape of the corset changed over time with the S-Bend corsets popular at the turn of the century with Gibson Girls and the tubular corset called “The Spat” that came to the knees and worked well with the “hobble skirt”; the combination of the two items several restricted a woman’s ability to walk naturally, only “tottering” with small steps (79).
Proctor reiterates Corsetiere Pearl’s three types of corset wearers as remaining relevant even to modern corset design as done by fashion designers Gaultier, LaCroix, Mugler for celebrities such as Posh Spice, Kylie Minogue, Lady GaGa, Beyonce and Madonna. These three types are: ‘corset nonconformists’ who want to change the shape of the body for an ‘aesthetic ideal’; second, ‘corset identificationists’ who associate corsets with femininity; third ‘corset masochists’ who find erotic discomfort in the tight lacing. Significantly, Proctor points out that there is not only pleasure in gazing upon a woman in a corset, but that the corset wearer derives pleasure in seeing herself transformed: “seduced by teh contouring potential of the corset” and obtaining “that immediate rush of pleasure at seeing their waists reduced, their breasts lifted and their hips emphasized, all without breaking a sweat on a treadmill” (p. 83). In this way, the corset is a kind of empowering shortcut to the pleasure of portraying an idealized form of the female body, of mastering the culturally normalized silhouette of the time using a piece of technology. It is a body enhancer or modification that is not permanent like surgery, but an available accoutrement that can be used by choice.
Chabon, M. (2008). Secret Skin. New Yorker, 84(4), 64.
 Chabon’s main premise is that the superhero costume, like the superhero him or her self, is fictitious. The costume is not like a fashion designer’s sketch, a prototype found in the comic book and awaiting being brought to life by the wearing, by the physical embodiment on an actual human form. Chabon believes that the costumes for superheroes are impossible and are a sign without a real world referent. They do not exist in reality and indeed cannot exist in reality; it is “a replica with no original, a model built on a scale of x: 1” (p. 4). He states that when a person attempts to create and embody a superhero costume, one is instead reminded of all the ways that one is not a superhero: the “superhero costume betrays its nonexistence” (p. 4).  This is because the superhero costume is not constructed of “fabric, foam rubber, or adamantium but of halftone dots, Pantone color values, inked containment lines and all the cartoonist’s sleight of hand” (p. 4). It is a drawing and to attempt to take it out of the context and into a new media, the realm of embodiment is  like “one of those deep-sea creatures which evolved to thrive in the crushing darkness of the seabed” and “when you haul them up to the dazzling surface they burst” (p. 4).
Edwards, D. (2012). Widow Weaves a Wicked Web: Profile Squeezing into a Tight Catsuit, Scarlett Johansson Joins the Superheroes in Avengers Assemble. The Mirror (London, England). Retrieved from http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-287777985.html
In this short newspaper article, the author interviews actor Scarlett Johansson, who plays the female superhero Natasha Romanoff, or Black Widow, in the Iron Man and Avengers movies. As is often the case with female action heroes (see Anne Hathaway or Michelle Pfieffer as Catwoman, Kate Beckinsale as Selene, etc.) the focus in the headline and as part of the interview is the skin-tight leather or PVC suit: how to fit into it, what it was like to wear it, or how good the actress looks in it. In this interview, Johansson makes some interesting observations about sex appeal and the embodiment of portraying a female action hero. She acknowledges that she did not want to part of being one of the “superheroine characters [who] are relying on their sexuality and being posy and sexy as opposed to being badass” (p. 5). She also states that when she met with Marvel, she understood the intention to be to “get away from that overly sexy superheroine thing” (p. 5). She also speaks about the physicality of the role, both in terms of its empowerment and its limitations: the physical part was “one of the most challenging things” and she discovered she needed “an ice pack too for all of [her] injuries” (p. 5) However after months training to get in shape both for the action nature of the role and “to ensure she could squeeze into her character’s trademark catsuit” Johansson admits that she discovered the fun and power of what she was capable of physically, something she had not known previously as she “wasn’t an athlete growing up” (p. 5). After fielding yet another question about her “striking good looks” and figure, Johansson dismisses it with “I think that’s just a by-product of being curvy. I never think about it, except when I get constant questions in interviews about sexuality. I really have nothing to say about any of that stuff because it’s so boring” (p. 5)
Yet, Black Widow’s superhero uniform is a skin-tight leather suit and high-heeled boots, one that demonstrates her curves and has ties to the fetish community. Although Johansson claims that her and Marvel’s intentions are not to portray the overly sexy superheroine, clearly the costume is designed to be sexy. So the idea of what is “overly sexy” or how the sexuality is used is called into question. Black Widow never exploits her sexuality as a superpower or a ploy, something that Charlie’s Angels or Foxy Brown did. It is also clear that the appeal of the actor in the catsuit is part of what markets the movie, but that is something that the actor herself finds tiresome.
I intend to bring in some of these mainstream media examples of fetishizing the female action hero costume in my analysis of the corset and catsuit as a commodity.

Visual Rhetoric_Theoretical Mindmap

Image of my Popplet mindmap

Image of my Popplet mindmap

 Link to Popplet mindmaphttp://popplet.com/app/#/2277361

First soundtrack for Spring:

We’re Going To Lingua Fracta All Over This Post_Reading Notes September 22nd

Okay! Time for a new set of reading notes for a new book, Lingua Fracta: Towards a Rhetoric of New Media. (I have to admit that the title made me giggle a bit).

Image hosted on Giphy.

Image hosted on Giphy.

So, this week’s post is actually in regards to the whole book rather than divided into the two halves of the book since I missed posting last week’s reading notes. >.< I’m going to combine what I had previously in a draft, along with my new understandings. Anyways, let’s begin.

Collin Gifford Brooke, Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Writing at Syracuse University.  Image hosted on his website.

Collin Gifford Brooke, Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Writing at Syracuse University. Image hosted on his website.

One of the first things I want to sort out for myself in terms of this book is Brooke’s re-envisioning of the rhetorical canons (the classical ones are invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery) through ecologies – “ecology of code,” “ecology of practice,” and “ecologies of culture.” These three ecologies definitely threw me a bit when I first read them, and continued to do so until we worked through a few examples in class. **There has been another attempt through CHAT to remap the rhetorical canons, which were a part of my reading notes for the spring semester’s Networks course.

“Ecology of code” – “is [Brooke's] designation for the varied communicative and expressive resources we draw on when we produce discourse, regardless of the medium. In other words, both the rules and objects of grammar are located within this ecology, but language is one among many media whose elements participate in it” (48). In a sense, these are the underlying tools upon which ecology of practice is grounded, not just as binary codes, but can also be language components for speech or the digital tools used to create video games. Brooke elaborates on this when he clarifies that, “I suggest that an ecology of code is comprised not only of grammar, but also of all of those resources for the production of interfaces more broadly construed, including visual, aural, spatial, and textual elements, as well as programming codes” (48).

It can be thought of as this:

Binary code as an example of "Ecology of code." Image hosted on the website Inspiration Feed.

Binary code as an example of “Ecology of code.” Image hosted on the website Inspiration Feed.

But, it can also be this:

The tools of video game design.

The tools of video game design. Image hosted on the blog, Game On Podcast.

“Ecology of practice” – “Practice implies conscious, directed activity, the explicit combination of elements from the ecology of code to produce a particular discursive effect” (49).  *this ecology gave me the most trouble, especially when we were asked to choose images of what each of the ecologies would look like (I may have blanched a bit in-class).

 As an early example in chapter 2, Brooke uses the ideas of a “Revitalized understanding of canons” as an insight into his idea of “ecology of practice” since the “canons supply a framework for approaching new media that focuses on the strategies and practices that occur at the level of interface” (28).

“Ecologies of culture” – “it is this category that operates at the broadest range of scales, from interpersonal relationships and local discourse communities to regional, national, and even global cultures. Any act of discourse is going to be constrained in various ways by cultural assumptions; similarly, such acts intervene simultaneously at several levels” (49).

So why attempt to revamp rhetoric into ecologies? What is wrong with the traditional canon? Brooke says that he is presenting these ecologies as a way to help “evolve” rhetoric and the aims of rhetorical scholars because “The elaborate dance of competition, cooperation, juxtaposition, and remediation that characterizes our contemporary information and communication technologies has rendered obsolete some of our most venerable models for understanding today’s rhetorical practices” (28). By drawing upon the canons, Brooke seeks to build a new vision of how they work within the digital world and within new media, rather than simply recasting the same terms. The metaphor of the ecology is also very interesting because an ecology is not static; it is organic and adaptive, something rhetorical canons need if they are to stay relevant to the needs of present day rhetoricians and their audiences.

One really interesting point made in the section regarding rhetorical canons was when Brooke alludes to Sven Birkerts and his prediction of the “flattening of historical perspectives” in the sense that “we will cease to exercise history because we will rely on that which is stored in databases” (31). In his response to this death-of-memory prediction, I think Brooke does a nice job of pointing out that digital databases enhance our cultural memory rather than merely threatening to wipe out our interest in historical perspectives.

Death of memory in favor of database archives? Image hosted on the website Baen.

Death of memory in favor of database archives? Image hosted on the website Baen.

So how does Brooke remap the rhetorical canons?

To grant the classical rhetorical canons (invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery) more relevance in a digital world, Brooke’s modified canons look like this:

Invention —> Proairesis

Arrangement —> Pattern

Style —> Perspective

Memory —> Persistence

Delivery —> Performance

 Okay, so one at a time:

Invention as Proairesis

Brooke’s re-conceptualization of invention as proairesis makes a space for digital technology as part of the reading/writing/creation/distribution process, giving readers of digital content as it does to those who write the content. Much of his analysis deals the “difference between seeing media such as those listed [in the chapter] as spaces that enable peer-to-peer interaction and conversation and seeing them as media that transform the nature of conversation or even participate in it” (82), but more on that after some vocabulary words.

hermeneutic model of invention – “relies on the relative sturdiness of a final object and the negotiation of meanings within it….When the final products of our invention are judged, in part, by their solidity or sturdiness, it makes perfect sense that we theorize invention to arrive at such goals” (68). It “operates through the establishment of an enigma, void, or mystery– an absence — that will be filled eventually, but is held in suspense… [and] marks the goal(s) towards which the reader (and the plot and characters) are headed” (75). Hermeneutics can be seen as “resolution or actualization,” and, when placed on the level of theory, “simply assumes systematic enigmas, such as the establishment of genre or the demonstration of a theoretical insight” (76).

proairetic model of invention – this term is used by Barthes “to indicate actions or events,” “empirics” (75). Seems to deal with possibilities, rather than resolutions. This term makes the most sense when Brooke brings up the example of a Google search: “One way we might treat Google proairetically is simply to resist the closure implied in search ‘results’ and to treat that page as a point of departure, even and especially when the results are mixed. The results of a given search provide users with pages and pages of links, of departure points, that bring potentially distant topics and ideas into proximity both with each other and the user” (83). He broadens this out to discuss social bookmarking websites that allow users to create bookmarks, but then also follow the threads upon threads of bookmarks created by ALL users on the site: “The addition of each bookmark changes the site, reinforcing certain connections, adding new ones, and expanding the network in small but important ways. It enables a process of associational research and exploration that resists closure” (85).

Brooke’s final definition of this term: “a focus on the generation of possibilities, rather than their elimination until all but one are gone and closure is achieved. Closure is no less important than it has ever been, but with the advent of new media and interfaces that resist closure, proairesis provides an important corrective to the hermeneutically oriented inventional theory that has prevailed in our theory to date” (86). It’s fascinating that the emphasis is on the inclusion of possibilities rather than slowly weeding them out.

No longer require the Highlander slogan. Image hosted on We Know Memes website.

No longer requires the Highlander slogan. Image hosted on We Know Memes website.

**As a side note, I would not Google this word. I made that mistake since Brooke does not offer a concrete definition for this word (he focuses more on hermeneutic), and found that proairesis is not considered a Scrabble word, though it is worth 12 points in Scrabble and 13 points in Words with Friends.

kaironomia – “an inventional practice that locates itself not within repetition (the demonstration of topoi) or difference (the myth of the ordinary genius), but in the dynamic of the two,” which represents a “contradictory injunction” (77)

virtualization – Levy’s term for “the opposite of reading in the sense that produces, from an initial text, a textual reserve and instruments of composition with which a navigator can project a multitude of other texts” (qtd. in Brooke 80) <— Brooke notes that, “It is the human-machine interaction that makes for virtualization” (81)

Brooke works to decouple the vision of invention that scholars like Sven Birkert put forth an illusion that acts “of reading or writing can be fully divorced from [their] context” (73). Birkerts’ concept of the relationship between reader and writer with the text in the middle– “We might reach a more inclusive understanding of reading (and writing) if we think in terms of a continuum. At one end, the writer — the flesh-and-blood individual; at the other end, the flesh-and-blood reader. In the center, the words, the turning pages, the decoding intelligence” (qtd. in Brooke 72)– might look like this:

The start(?) of the invention continuum: the writer. Image hosted on Teen Life Blog.

The start(?) of the invention continuum: the writer. Image hosted on Teen Life Blog.

At the end(?) of the continuum: the reader. Image hosted on the blog Writing and Rambling.

At the end(?) of the continuum: the reader. Image hosted on the blog Writing and Rambling.

Such a model doesn’t quite hold up, even when viewed with print as the medium. In the age of hyperlinks and greater collaboration that comes with digital communications, Birkert’s model feels heavily lopsided, something that Brooke addresses by drawing, again, upon LeFevre: “invention is not simply the process by which a writer creates a text whose meaning is received by a reader. The ecology of invention includes the practices of writing and reading, but the relationships among those practices are not closed, idealized, and privatized transactions” (74). There is no bubble in which writers and readers exist, especially as the internet connecNetowts us all outwards to information and other people.

This graphic seems more appropriate. Image was created by Collin Gifford Brooke and hosted on his website.

This graphic seems more appropriate. Image was created by Collin Gifford Brooke and hosted on his website.

This site did a nice job with their video discussing Karen Burke LeFevre’s “invention as a social act”: http://ccdigitalpress.org/nwc/chapters/garrett-et-al/a1s3.html

Arrangement as Pattern 

Brooke starts off the chapter devoted to Pattern by focusing on the claims by earlier scholars that the rhetorical canon of arrangement fell to the wayside during the advent of hypertext culture as hyperlinks did not privilege one path over another and the viewer’s decisions rendered any intentions by the author as useless. Brooke, though, counters this statement: “The links that allegedly demonstrate the irrelevance of rhetoric are rhetorical practices of arrangement, attempts to communicate affinities, connections, and relationships” (91). One of his aims is to move away from the “traditional understanding of arrangement as sequence” towards a conceptualization of “arrangement as pattern”  and to reveal that “the issue is not whether arrangement predates our textual encounters, but rather what practices we might develop with new media to make sense of them” (92).

For arrangement to be understood in regards to New Media, the division between spatial and temporal must be understood “that every technology gives us not only a different space, but a different time as well” (93). So let’s break this down a bit further.

An expectation, according to Darsie Bowden, that we have for print texts is “containerism, a set of metaphors that posit the discursive space of writing as a container into which we pour content (from the containers that are our minds),” which houses “an in/out distinction that corresponds to our notions of subjectivity and identity and, as such, appears quite natural to us,” though the text is considered “generic until it is filled with content and achieves some sort of meaning” (93-94). However, containerism fixes the concept of arrangement, seeing spatial elements in a print text to be linear and sequentially instead of seeing the space for possibilities of other arrangements (though we are not bound to read everything sequentially since we can skip around in a book: read the conclusion first, a middle chapter before a beginning chapter, and so on).

Containerism - asking us to let ourselves be contained by the text lest the text fails and we become disoriented (Brooke 94). Image hosted on the blog De la Course des Nuages.

Containerism – conditioning us to be contained by the text lest the text fails and we become disoriented (Brooke 94). Image hosted on the blog De la Course des Nuages.

In order to explore how New Media and digital spaces help us to re -conceptualize the spatial, Brooke draws upon David Weinberger and the idea that the meat-space is a container from which web-space is then filled, though I think this relationship goes two ways now with the meat-space being transformed, in a sense, by the digital space.

In terms of arrangement, though, Weinberger describes the digital space with a “sense of place that creates its own space,” with it being active rather than passive (qtd. in Brooke 95). This reminds me of an example mentioned earlier regarding social bookmarking. For every bookmark created, the threads of the site expand outward as there is more content within the site. The same for this blog. For every post I write and publish, the “space” of my blog gets bigger as the posts create an extending line of content. The posts do not have to be read sequentially, especially since many of the posts are about different texts and only truly operate under an overarching theme (usually networks). And this is where the move from arrangements to patterns comes in. Brooke brings in David Kolb and his suggestion about “a number of intermediate forms (cycles, counterpoints, mirror words, tangles, sieves, montages, neighborhoods, split/joins, missing links, and feints), patterns that demonstrate a wide variety of rhetorical effects that are possible if we think beyond the container model” (96). For Brooke, to understand how the rhetorical canon of arrangement can blossom in New Media and the digital era, we have to not limit our perceptions within boundaries, even if it seems the most convenient; instead, he turns towards Manovich’s database as an “infinite flat surface” (97).

So how do databases play into arrangement as patterns?

Brooke looks at how Manovich compares narrative and databases, with the example being Amazon. The online shopping site’s way of showing consumers items that had been purchased by others who had also bought the same initial item, the browsing/purchasing history of the consumer, and similar items that are available for purchase are part of a database for the site, but can also be threaded together to make simple narratives. What is interesting is the description of databases that follows soon after: “Although databases may contain no predetermined order, they are useful to us the degree that they provide some sort of order when they are acted on by users” (101). With this in mind, Brooke expands on the Amazon example: “It would be hard to extend a user’s encounters with Amazon into something resembling a full-fledged narrative, but at the same time, the site is designed to respond accurately and meaningfully to such encounters — a response that is not accounted for in descriptions of database that stress its utter randomness” (101). Because the website services thousands and thousands of people, creating patterns out of their purchasing and browsing histories, much like an underlying web of code that sorts through the data.

My brain hurts just thinking about this. Image hosted on Tumblr.

My brain hurts just thinking about this. Image hosted on Tumblr.

How does arrangement fit as patterns? It is through associations: “The patterns that emerge are sets of associations among texts that the site reinforces through visibility, potentiality becoming less contingent or temporary as future visitors act on the recommendations generated at site” (103). As each person uses the Amazon site, more connections are made through the data being collected, building associations that return back to the site through algorithms to increase its effectiveness. These associations, though, also create relevancy, allowing a hierarchy of those patterns being chosen over ones that are being excluded  through users’ choices. Exclusion is just as important as inclusion. To bridge the gap between narrative and database, Brooke uses the word collection as it is the “individual assembly of a large group of whatever items we might choose to collect” (109). These collections gain meaning for individuals but start to lose their context outside of that individual’s relationship to the collection, rendering that particular narrative insubstantial or altered to another individual: “The more intimately we are involved in the assembly of a collection, the more likely we are to perceive it incrementally and narratively, while different patterns may emerge in a casual encounter of someone else’s collection” (110). For instance, my anime collection has a history of which I know, with certain titles being picked up at different points in my life. To those who know me best, my anime collection means something beyond VHS and DVDs on shelves, but for those who know little to nothing about me, all they would see are a random collection of Japanese “cartoons.” The same can go for my research or my Amazon purchasing history. The patterns that appear, whether directly or subtly, are Brooke’s new form of the rhetorical canon of arrangement, but this remapping allows code and algorithms into the process, making it not just a human endeavor but a human-machine endeavor.

Style as Perspective

Whew, on to the third remapped rhetorical canon: style as perspective. This seems to be one of the more popular canons for New Media as Brooke declares that, “to speak of media is to speak of forms of expression, the traditional province of the canon of style,” emphasizing the relationship of the visual and verbal, especially in regards to how this relationship changes when “consider[ing] what style might look like when we consider it in terms of interfaces rather than static texts” (113). To be honest, the first thing that pops into my head when reading the start of this chapter look like this:

A very scholarly way to imagine initially the relationship between the visual and the verbal, no? Image hosted on Giphy.

A very scholarly way to imagine initially the relationship between the visual and the verbal, no? Image hosted on Giphy.

Yes, yes I did just include that in my reading notes. And yes, it is time to move further into style as perspective. Now Brooke seems to have chosen the word “perspective” because it offers two means, which he quotes from Keither Moxey as being “either one point of view among many, or the point which organizes and arranges all others” (qtd. in Brooke 114). This is interesting because when we think of the style of a book, something that can be seen as a static text, and we see the style, whether linear in a traditional sense or multi-layered (like the book First Person) or  even in a more random-seeming style (House of Leaves), there is a sense of permanency to the style of the text. Within a digital space, there is the feel of possibilities, though the more I work within digital spaces, the more I feel the constraints of the spaces within which I am working (a nod to WordPress and the limitations of the text box). Brooke calls for the readers to change the concept of “visual rhetoric” to “visual grammar,” and he “draw[s] on Friedrich Nietzsche to suggest that we restore style to its place in our ecology of practice, rescuing it from its classical banishment to the ecology of code” (114).

Mary Hocks, in her work “Understanding Visual Rhetoric in Digital Writing Environments,” lists three features for visual rhetoric in the digital media:

-Audience stance

-Transparency

-Hybridity

Brooke takes a step back to understand how we talk about style now, especially in terms of teaching students to write: “Our contemporary understanding of style treats it as sentence-level syntax, catalogs of tropes and figures, and commonplace injunctions (e.g., avoid the passive voice; use specific, concrete language), reducing it to a series of localized, conscious choices” (116). After much meandering through Aristotle and his influence on the reduction of style, Brooke returns to perspective, stating that it is “a method for displaying three-dimensional objects and/or scenes on a two-dimensional space. Much like the technology of writing exteriorizes the reader, perspective presumes a viewer whose physical position mirrors the vanishing point” (120). This gears style, in the digital era, towards transparency. To develop this further, Brooke links to Don Idhe’s “description of the physical, perceptual process of reading…distinguish[ing] between microperceptions, which are and/or sensual, and macroperceptions, which are hermeneutic and/or cultural. The structuring (or disciplining) of perception marks a transition from microperception to macroperception; in other words, the transparency of the printed word renders our physical perceptions of the text, as we are reading at least, minimal to the point of nonexistence” (121).

This is what comes to mind every time I read the word transparency in relation to reading. Creepy, though. Image hosted on the website

This is what comes to mind every time I read the word transparency in relation to reading. Creepy, though. Image hosted on the website Frank Minnaert.

Moving from the transparency of writing, Brooke explains that, drawing upon Lanham, “Language on the computer screen, in contrast, is subject to many different kinds of transformation by the user (size, font, color, layout, etc.) that Lanham argues we are often encouraged to consider the textual form as expressive. With electronic text, he explains, we often toggle between looking through text and looking at it” (132). Transparency is no longer an issue, with the language being part of the experience instead of the backdrop. It was interesting (and quite within the scope of my research) that Brooke brings in an example of World of Warcraft and the interface the players’ interact with during gameplay, especially when players can customize the interface themselves, allowing them greater immersion into the experience if they so choose (there are options to render the game to basic elements, stripping the visuals down to necessities).

Memory as Persistence

And so memory moves to persistence. In this chapter, Brooke moves beyond seeing memory in the digital era as merely storage on our computers, as well as physical texts as extensions of our memories. Instead, he turns to Jacques Derrida (a.k.a. philosophical rock star) to help discuss archives: “[he] writes of the effects that changes in archival technology have on both what is being (and can be) archived, as well as on the people doing the archiving” (144).

Mixing of archives and human minds, plus a dash of Sherlock Holmes for the ride. Image hosted on Tumblr.

Mixing of archives and human minds, plus a dash of Sherlock Holmes for the ride. Image hosted on Tumblr.

To start his remapping, Brooke discusses Plato’s resistance to writing, believing that reliance on written texts would break down the strength of people’s memories because they could then use writing as a kind of crutch (as compared to orality when they would remember longer speeches and poems), while also raising the question “of whether knowledge is located inside or outside of the knower” (145). Within this framework, a presence/absence dichotomy arose. Plato’s belief still lingers, but we have moved far beyond oral culture, with our collective memory finding its place across various forms of media (written, visual, audio, film, and now into the digital spaces like the Cloud). One of the most fascinating points in this chapter is in regards to what we archive: “The binary of presence/absence reduces memory to a question of storage, with little thought given to the effects that various media might have on what is being remembered” (147).

Digital archive. Image hosted on the website Electronic Portfolios.

Digital archive. Image hosted on the website Electronic Portfolios.

Brooke explains a shift away from only using the presence/absence binary by N. Katherine Hayles in her book How We Became Posthuman: “Hayles suggests a ‘semiotics of virtuality’ that maps phenomena along two different axes: absence/presence and pattern/randomness” since presence/absence cannot capture the essence of online activity for both the user and his or her avatar(148). To develop this further, Brooke brings two Greek words, Chronos and Kairos, to understand why his drawing upon Hayles’ patterning and randomness:

Chronos “is the artificial patterning of time, its divisions into equal, measurable segments — the time by which we set our clocks and watches, conduct our classes, and organize our history…[and] represents our triumph over time as a cultural achievement” (149)

Kairos “is the time sense at the other end of the spectrum [from chronos], the opportunities that emerge to be seized in a particular situation, unrepeatable and unsystematizable…It is the unwillingness of the kairotic moment to submit itself to our control that has led to its ‘neglected’ status in rhetorical theory” (149)

 With pattern and randomness, there can be randomness (kairos) until a pattern begins to emerge (chronos). However, the reverse is also possible, with moments of chaos occurring in the midst of a pattern. These two happenings alter the perceptions of the the events, the data, the images, and so on. When a pattern emerges out of chaos, it is hard to return to see the chaos again, but the same can be true for when a pattern is disrupted.

When I think of patterns emerging, I think of these pictures where the viewer has to locate the hidden faces. Image hosted on Psychlinks Self-Help & Mental Health Support Forum.

When I think of patterns emerging, I think of these pictures where the viewer has to locate the hidden faces. Image hosted on Psychlinks Self-Help & Mental Health Support Forum.

Brooke looks at the canon of memory as pattern to build the conclusion that pattern is an ecology of practice, granting it a new space in the digital era beyond merely being relegated to storage. It here where Brooke justifies his reason for transforming memory into persistence with the “construction (and dissolution) of patterns over time” (151). This persistence becomes increasingly important when users are faced with the overload of data that is presented by others and constructed by them on the internet, especially with the Cloud becoming an integral part of how people handle and store data. In the final section of the chapter, Brooke discusses how websites deal with this issue through feed readers or aggregators, which “check weblogs and keep track of whether a particular user has accessed the most recent content. They check our blogs so that we do not have to, in the same way that most mail programs can be set to inform a user when there is a new mail in the inbox” (158).

So how do aggregators feature into memory as persistence? Brooke identifies two types of aggregators that he personally uses: Google Reader (GR) and the memory practice of persistence of cognition.  For him, Google Reader provides a “centralized portal” that “distributes [his] memory, freeing [him] from the need to remember each site individually” as well as tracking basic information trends in his viewing/reading (160). Persistence of cognition is his phrase for a reading and memory practice that springs out of the connection between smaller pieces (such as keywords): “Skimming requires a reader to be able to piece together information in ways that are good enough to gauge a text, perhaps without arriving at a full representation of it” but also “names the presence of particular pieces — certain themes persist across a set of texts” (156; 157). My favorite quote from this chapter, though, comes at the end when he describes our relationship to memory and information: “We take in information, sometimes without being aware of it, and only notice when the information connects with other data to form a pattern worth investigating…Our minds are not simply sites of storage; they perceive connections and patterns that may only become present to us in the later stages of their construction” (166).

Delivery as Performance 

Woot! Woot! Last rhetorical canon to be remapped: delivery as performance. Brooke lists two ways in which delivery is defined that are relevant to rhetoric: 1) as a transitive process, and 2) as a performance (170). With this remapping, Brooke brings up terms like DeVoss and Porter’s “economies of writing” and Trimbur’s “circulation of commodities” with regards to delivery of content and how aggressively some companies/organizations will try to restrict the distribution of their content (172-173): “It is difficult to imagine that corporate producers are particularly worried about audience production of content, for example, when we consider the heavily embedded technological, cultural, economic, and medial advantages that the various culture industries possess. If reflect on how heavily these corporations are invested in distributive control, both directly and through the management of consumer attention, it is difficult to see their aggression in prosecuting ‘bad users’ as anything other than an overreaction” (172). This makes me think of people who create fan-made anime music videos (AMVs) on YouTube (much like the one I have linked at the bottom of this post) and how their videos are sometimes (not always in a majority of the cases) removed despite the creators attributing ownership of both the songs and the clips/artwork to the rightful owners. The creators of the AMVs are not receiving compensation for their work, nor are they claiming ownership of the original content. Their videos are purely for entertainment and are a large part of fan culture’s tributes to a series, a character, a couple, and so on, yet some companies see them as violations of copyright.

Now that I am done with my tangent, rewind back to the discussion about circulation and distribution as part of delivery. Brooke links this discussion to Timbur again with Timbur’s comment on “how the act of translation necessarily participates in and shapes the circulation of biomedical discourse in ways that go beyond simple information transfer” (qtd. in Brooke 174). It is here where Brooke pulls in “delivery as medium” to stop the perception of circulation to be aligned with the perception of simple transmission (rhetoric should not, in this view, remain static between media) (174).

Information being circulated among media should go beyond the simple transmission of information. Image hosted on the site for Newcastle Libraries Online.

Information being circulated among media should go beyond the simple transmission of information. Image hosted on the site for Newcastle Libraries Online.

But that is delivery in the terms of a transitive process, so let us take a look at delivery as performance. What does this mean in a digital era? Brooke turns towards the concept of ethos (character, or credibility) in regards to a person’s work (for example, a student like me who is trying to create content online in a public space not just for my teacher and peers, but also for anyone who visits the blog and lingers long enough to read this far). There is the understanding that information from the interwebs must be evaluated deeply to be sure that the information is accurate, the source is credible, and the author is not some hack (and there are plenty of sites where such concerns seem to the lowest priority). However, Brooke pushes forward a little further with his comment about technology’s role in the process: “The underlying assumption of these evaluation checklists, however, is something that we should find more problematic. Put simply, much of the advice for evaluating Web-based information posits credibility or ethos as a quality that is decontextualized from the technology, an attitude toward delivery that sees it simply as transmission” (184). Brooke notes that the credibility of websites is based on their connections to the “real world” (or meat space), which is what I am doing here by citing from a physical book being held in my arms as I type this sentence; anyone could pick up a copy of Brooke’s book and check the passages that I am citing.

To push back against this notion of credibility as tied to how we have evaluated books, Brooke uses Wikipedia as example as it is open to users to edit and add content, even if those users are not certified experts in their fields. The content being added is evaluated for its content and actions taken against users who prove to add false information or prove less than credible as sources, but the openness of the adding/editing process is changing how we perceive and understand encyclopedias, even though Wikipedia is not free of criticism (188).

Encyclopædia Britannica. Image hosted on Wikipedia.

Encyclopædia Britannica. Image hosted on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia as an encyclopedia. Image hosted on the blog Southern Lifestyle.

Wikipedia as an encyclopedia. Image hosted on the blog Southern Lifestyle.

While Wikipedia is not to be seen as a site for pure credibility, Brooke looks to it as a site of discourse for issues of authorship and credibility. The site offers what a place where credibility becomes a performance, a practice, messy as that can be at times “represent[ing] the kind of opportunity that traditional encyclopedias can never dream of providing — an ethos that is interactive, democratic, public, and, at times, contentious” (191). It is interesting to think of credibility as a performance, but his example about the credibility of Wikipedia as burgeoning with its members really strengthens my understanding of the concept.

And so ends this round of reading notes. Fare thee well, Brooke and your remapped rhetorical canons for the digital era.

Fist bump for making it through this mad tangle of notes. Image hosted on Rebloggy.

Fist bump for making it through this mad tangle of notes. Image hosted on Rebloggy.

Nothing to see here, folks. Image hosted on Giphy.

Nothing to see here, folks. Image hosted on Giphy.

Citation

Brooke, Collin Gifford. Lingua Fracta: Toward a Rhetoric of New Media (New Dimensions in Computers and Composition). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press,  2009. Print. 

Skipping Along through New Media

 

Update: As part of our reading notes assignment, my classmates and I are to make comments on two peers’ posts every week. So, here are mine:

Chvonne’s post

Chvonne’s post did a really nice job of dealing with the second half of Brooke’s text, especially the way she brings him to task for not fully delving into the messiness that comes with the ecologies of culture. I think Chvonne raises a good question (one that made me stop and think for awhile) about whether or not there are practical ways to apply Brooke’s remapping of the rhetorical canons. The conclusion that I finally came to was that for the generation of students who are now entering college, it may benefit them to use their foundational knowledge of computers (since this is a technology they have grown up with) as a way to understand rhetoric, rather than to approach them first with rhetoric to understand how the digital era is changing our perspectives. These students are growing up with connections through Facebook, seeing first hand how social spaces like Twitter are sites of social activism as well as sites of public shaming, and approaching archives not as physical spaces but as data that can be accessed anywhere at any time with the advent of Cloud computing. For them, rhetoric of Socrates and Plato is an archaic past compared with how rhetoric is now being reshaped to fit the needs of a digital era (just as it had changed for television and film).