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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!

 

New Text Report Peer Comments

Just like the post before this one, I am using this space to list the peers whose reports I have commented on and my reactions to each report. It’s not as fun as shifting through reading notes, so excuse the virtual paper trail.

Look at all these responses. Image hosted on

Look at all these responses. Image hosted on tumblr by user gracefuldreamer.

Steady on, friend

1) I commented on was Sherie’s report on Ben McCorkle’s Rhetorical Delivery as Technological Discourse: A Cross Historical Study.

I found Sherie’s report to be really interesting as she discussed McCorkle’s “redefinition of remediation” and a re-conceptualization of the rhetorical canon of delivery as performance. I was really interested in seeing the connection Sherie makes between Brooke’s text, Ligua Fracta, though I am curious to know if McCorkle’s ideas about delivery also focus on ethos as Brooke’s does or if it focuses on a different aspect of delivery as performance. One of the most interesting things about McCorkle’s text is his understanding of how there is a circle of influence between culture and technology, as they are both shaping and reshaping one another. This idea of circular influence is something that video games studies deals with as we have to acknowledge the influence of the military on the evolution of computers, but then we have to also understand how computer designers took the military’s funding and technology and repurposed computers for entertainment, which then lead to the military repurposing video games for recruitment and training. There is always this circle of influence rather than a linear progression of one section of society.

2) Next, was Shantal and Sarah Carter’s report on Vilem Flusser’s Does Writing Have a Future? (had trouble submitting my response to their blog as I received a “DNS server error” message, whatever that means).

I think Shantal and Sarah Carter do a nice job presenting the materials of their report, but I find Flusser’s text to be frustrating. Flusser’s theories seem hard to take seriously when he privileges print culture above all else, as Shantal and Sarah point out that he believed that “without writing on physical paper, there is no history, no democracy, and no freedom.” How does Flusser take into account that epic poems like The Illiad and The Odyssey were, in essence, narratives that encompassed histories, legends, and customs that were told and retold for who knows how long as a way to preserve cultural memory? Does cultural memory not count as history? Are cultures that use print as a means of communication the only ones who can have “history”? And how does Flusser define freedom if it is only through writing where freedom can be obtained? How does writing pave the way and maintain “freedom”? Ah, I have some many questions starting out that I was already resistant to any ideas that Flusser would have regarding the takeover of digital upon traditional print media. It seems that Flusser’s definition of writing is too narrow to be of use in a globalized world where we can not only write with our alphanumeric characters, but we can also create and integrate other kinds of media to get across our meanings and document our daily lives, our work, and what will become our “histories.”

3) The final report was Camille’s report on Quentin D. Vieregge, Kyle D. Stedman, Taylor Joy Mitchell, and Joseph M. Moxley’s Agency in the Age of Peer Production.

Vieregge et al.’s text is highly refreshing after reading about Flusser’s fussiness over anything that isn’t traditional print, especially as Camille points out that their text “address[es] their goal to understand the ways in which technology has changed writing education, especially within the framework of peer production.” The phrase “peer production” seems highly useful as students, professors, and schools in general (some more willingly than others, and with varying degrees of successful and failure) start to turn more and more towards integrating computers and other technological devices into the learning process. We can no longer afford to be completely technologically ignorant and we cannot be constant alarmists over what computers and the digital era are erasing from our lives. Yes, we are losing something and we need to acknowledge that, but we also need to be open to what new media forms are doing to change how we work, how we communicate, and our relationships to information both as creators and consumers. I am really excited to see that Vieregge et al. seem to be exploring ways in which peer production grants a level of agency to those in a college/university setting, something that instructors and students need when being dropped into a world that increasingly relies on the interwebs, Cloud storage, and portable devices (tablets, cell phones, laptops) alongside desktop computers to get work done and expand communications.

sleepy hollow_farewell Yolanda

Last set of report responses. Image hosted on TV.com

With every tale we tell

Comments on Three Peers’ Canonical Texts

As part of our Canonical Text project, My classmates are required to comment on three projects. This isn’t a regular blog entry for reading notes; it’s just to make it easier for my professor to find that I’ve actually done the requirement.

I swear I'm keeping up in the marathon dash to the end of this semester. Image hosted on the site Smosh.

I swear I’m keeping up in the marathon dash to the end of this semester. Image hosted on the site Smosh.

Onwards

1) Responded to Sarah Camp’s report on Donna Haraway’s text Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature

I really enjoyed her sections on the summary and broader influences of Haraway’s text. I’m not sure if her actual presentation covered the definitions of her key concepts or how Haraway connects out to our class since the link didn’t work for me, but I did wish those sections had been fleshed out within her blog space as I am curious to see what each of the terms meant in the scope of Haraway’s argument (though some of the terms were familiar and I could probably guess what Haraway meant when she mentioned them). Sarah did a good job with the brief summary, linking it to her previous assumptions about cyborgs and how that affected her readings of Haraway’s really dense text, especially as she tied it within Star Trek’s exploration of the Borg. The broader influences section provided an interesting read as well because Sarah did brief annotations of how other scholars were viewing Haraway’s work, giving a perspective on how the text can be used and what the limitations are.

**One thing that made me especially curious during Sarah’s summary was of the tension and negativity that seems to accompany the word “cyborg” in Western culture. As someone who grew up watching anime, I had a very different image come to mind than the Borg from Star Trek. Cyborgs are a very popular character type in anime, and their roles range anywhere from assassins to crime fighters to maids, and are the subject of terror, awe, and dirty jokes. From what I’ve seen, many cyborg characters in anime are female with very human appearances, which differs from the Western idea where the synthetic enhancements tend to be more visually pronounced. What is the root of the differences in tone between the US and Japan’s imaginings of the cyborg?

Chise from Saikano as a cyborg. Image hosted on Zerochan.

Chise from Saikano as a cyborg. Image hosted on Zerochan.

2) Responded to Camille Mustachio and Ramona Myers’ report on  Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin’s text Remediation:Understanding New Media.

I really enjoyed how clear and concise Ramona and Camille were with their report, especially with the key concepts. I feel like I understand the concepts of remediation, transparency, and immediacy better, though I am resistant to the example of video games and immediacy since a gamer never truly forgets he/she is playing a game (gaming software still requires a physicality that reminds us that we are playing on a platform or on a computer, so there is no seamless immersion). Beyond that resistance, I found it very helpful that they included a link to a Google Scholar page that looks at the quantitative influence of Bolter and Grusin’s work in the works of others. I would have been interested to see more in the “Importance to the Field” section and the claim that “we make assumptions of our audiences and we risk failing to effectively communicate” if we fail to take remediation into account, but what happens when there is too much emphasis on remediation at the cost of looking at how unique/innovative a new medium is? The two articles they draw upon that use the work of Bolter and Grusin were interesting, especially the summary of the article that looked at remediation through the sense of touch. I really appreciated Camille’s section on Terminator, Star Wars, Marvel, shopping, and selfies/professional photography as it gave further insight on the progression of hypermediacy and remediation in our culture, especially in our entertainment.

3) Responded to Chvonne’s report on Lev Manovich’s text Language of New Media.

Chvonne’s report was very thorough, with her chapter-by-chapter summary giving readers a sense of the scope Manovich was attempting in his work to theoretically ground new media. I really liked that within her section on Manovich’s idea of new media versus popular perception that she discusses aspects of the computer as new media that are often ignored or glossed over at the time he was writing his book: “The computer is ignored for its media production and media storage abilities. Manovich points out that unlike other media revolutions, the computer media revolution impacts all parts of communication and all types of media…Printing press, television, radio, photography, and film are examples of old media that put information out to the public. During this time, computers were used for tabulation and to keep records, such as census data. The convergence of these two functions formed new media.” Yes, computers can do pretty stuff, but they have also helped reshape how we think of communication, production, and distribution.

One thing I really appreciated with Chvonne’s report was her moving through the key concepts, especially with the concept of “interactivity.” By talking about the ways in which Manovich explores interactivity as myth — “Manovich argues that the idea of interactivity is too board and meaningless. He states: ‘Once an object is represented in a computer, it automatically becomes interactive. Therefore to call computer media “interactive” is meaningless—it simply means stating the most basic fact about computers’ (55). Because modern interfaces allow users to have real-time control, computers and the information within are interactive. Manovich makes a distinction between physical interaction and psychological interaction” — Chvonne made me wonder about how we apply the term interactive far too often. We hail objects like talking Barbie dolls and video games as interactive without taking into account that we can physically interact with a great many objects (from toys to tools). A Barbie doesn’t need to have recorded sound to be interactive, physically or psychologically, and a story can be interactive without being embedded in a video game.

Another Step Towards Winter Break