What our theorists say...

[W]hat we are dealing with is a modification in the principle of exclusion and the principle of possibility of choices; a modification that is due to an insertion in a new discursive constellation.

Foucault, Archaeology of Knowledge, p. 67

All the treasure of bygone days was crammed into the old citadel of this history; it was thought to be secure; it was sacralized; it was made the last resting-place of anthropological thought; it was even thought that its most inveterate enemies could be captured and turned into vigilant guardians. But the historians had long ago deserted the old fortress and gone to work elsewhere; it was realized that neither Marx nor Nietzsche were carrying out the guard duties that had been entrusted to them. They could not be depended on to preserve privilege; nor to affirm once and for all – and God knows it is needed in the distress of today – that history, at least, is living and continuous, that it is, for the subject in question, a place of rest, certainty, reconciliation, a place for tranquilized sleep.

Foucault, Archaeology of Knowledge (p. 14)

Presence of mind in an electronic age requires persistence. I would like to suggest that the role we might dare to take up as we become publishers of our own pageants is the persistent one of the sacred reader or the adult self. Whether Prospero or Eve, the sacred reader persists in what she reads of the play of self and space, encompassing childhood and adolescence in transcendent performance.

Joyce, Othermindedness, (p.77)

Heuristic: Evaluating Selene’s costume

selenefullbody

Iconic language:

What is it made of?
Solid black leather and PVC

What do you see in the artifact?
The suit is tight and covers from toe to neck. The only skin exposed is on the hands and the face. The corset is used over the catsuit, and is laced with long black laces that are visible and reminiscent of bondage. The solid black and corset on the outside is reminiscent of the Goth and Punk scenes, where the kink boots also made their more public appearance outside of the BDSM community. The boots are tall and heeled, but not spiked. The buckles are again reminiscent of bondage and kink, but also of warrior boots or motorcycle/biker culture.

Cultural language

What is its context?
Her choice of clothing hearkens to other female action heroes that have come before her. She is in conversation with these expectations.  See Emma Peel from The Avengers. Catwoman. Trinity from the Matrix (trench coat).

Corsets have a recent history of being used on the exterior of clothing or visible rather than covered to demonstrate armor (video games, Amazon women, Wonder Woman, Xena) and to demonstrate ownership of one’s body and sexuality (Madonna, Beyonce) putting it and the female erogenous zones on display but in a performed role that is for gazing but not touching.

Who is its audience?
Female fantasy played out of bodily strength and subjectivity, embodying the hero. Male heterosexuals who enjoy watching female body perform and derive pleasure from the sexualization and domination fetish.

Theoretical language

What does it mean?
This character is believable in the power given to her as a Death Dealer. She displays sexual potency while being fully covered. She displays physical power – athletic, strong, flexible, agile, all of which are visible on skin-tight suit.

The character is female. The corset and catsuit emphasize female body curves and keep Selene and other female action heroes from becoming too masculinized. Should the character appear too masculinized, she is not only threatening (which is a turn-off) but it also upends the heterosexual normativity on display. Were she to present as androgynous or too masculine, then heterosexual men would have their heteronormative gaze threatened with potential homoeroticism or confused identification.

How do we interpret it?
Argument is that women can be accepted as powerful heroes IF they retain heterosexual allure — men still want to watch and sleep with them. Men “allow” the power in the bedroom — being dominated or overpowered sexually is a turn-on. And it represents a power they are willing to give since it is both temporary, pleasurable and offers them something to gain. The traditional power structure is retained and unthreatened. Giving power to the female in the catsuit doesn’t threaten their dominating power of the business suit. Men remain in a position of controlling the female body as their fantasy is played out on screen.

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Heuristic for Visual Analysis of Advocacy Campaign

breastfeed27n-3-web

I’ve uploaded my heuristic and the application as PDFs here:

Heuristic for Visual Analysis

Mexico City Campaign – Applied Heuristic

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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.
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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

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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


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Annotation #2: Steingo’s Re-presenting mixed tapes and CDs.

Steingo, Gavin (2010) Re-presenting mixed tapes and CDs. Coverscaping: Discovering Album Aesthetics. Asborn Gronstad and Oyvind Vagnes, Eds. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press. Steingo addresses mix compilations (mix tapes), specifically mix tapes that are created and shared person-to-person, focusing on the design of the complication. Much of the scholarship on mix tapes has focused on what’s […]
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Visual Rhetorics: Second Annotated Bibliography

Prelli, L. J. (Ed.). (2006). Rhetorics of display. Univ of South Carolina Press.

The introduction to the text Rhetorics of Display by Lawrence J. Prelli theorizes display as rhetorical because they “the meanings they manifest before situated audiences result from selective processes and, thus, constitute partial perspectives with political, social, or cultural implications” (11). Prelli claims that we can analyze rhetorics of display by examining how they reveal partial perspectives by concealing other perspectives. Prelli claims that rhetorics of display may be the “dominant rhetoric of our day” (2). Our very reality (or realities), he claims, are mediated by a variety of displays “that surround us, compete for our attention, and make claims on us” (1).

In order to offer a theory of the rhetorics of display and to address the question, “How do displays function rhetorically?” Prelli makes several rhetorical moves. While the book contains seventeen texts that use a variety of theories and methodologies to explore the rhetorics of display, Prelli attempts to articulate what the hold in common: they view displays as situated, and while they view displays as revealing, they also conceal. To provide a background and contexts for the rhetorics of display, Prelli historicizes display. Beginning with Aristotle and ending with Burke, Prelli attempts to trace how theories of display have shifted over time. Display was theoretically divorced from the notion of proof by Aristotle. Roman rhetoricians viewed it as a type of proof, and sophists viewed all discourses that shape culture as display. Renaissance humanists viewed display as aesthetic and moralizing rhetorical performances. Enlightenment era rhetoricians viewed the visual as the primary form of proof. In the twentieth century, Perelman, McKeon, and Burke theorized display as the foundation of communication and the filters through which we view the world. Prelli then provides a literature review to examine recent studies of the rhetoricity of display. He then introduces each section of the text and how the particular articles in those sections theorizes display through the examination of a variety of displays.

While the introduction to Rhetorics of Display serves as an introduction to a larger body of work by a number of scholars, it is an important text on its own because theorize an under theorized area of rhetorical studies and it has been treated as a foundational text on the theory of display. A key idea in this work is that the audience plays a pivotal role in meaning making in the rhetorics of display. Through display, the rhetor reveals and conceals, but the members of the audience interpret the display according to their values and attitudes. Rhetorics of display are an important area of analysis, Prelli claims, because we live in a time of conflicting values, ideologies, and attitudes, and because display is everywhere, it has become the dominant rhetoric of our times.

Though I referenced this article in my previous annotation (the article used Prelli’s theory), I thought it would be relevant to write an annotation on Prelli’s introduction because it is the foundation of the argument that I am making in my analysis of pro-breastfeeding campaigns. Prelli claims that displays, which reveal some perspective and conceal others, are our dominant mode of communication. I intend to use this theory to explore how pro-breastfeeding campaign images have been constructed to reveal perspectives about the nature of the female body, the nature of breastfeeding and the mother-child relationship, and the place of breastfeeding in society. At the same time, those images have been constructed to conceal or pose a challenge to the dominant views on those issues.

The text is very relevant to discussions in the course about whether visuals make an argument because Prelli claims that “reality is constituted through multiple displays that surround us, compete for our attention, and make claims upon us” (1). Rhetorics of display may be “vocal enunciation, textual inscription, visual portrayal, material structure, enacted performance, or some combination,” and they are “ubiquitous in contemporary communication and culture, and thus, have become the dominant rhetoric of our time” (2). The implication is that the rhetorics of display exist within our ambient surroundings; therefore, I would argue that visuals rather than asking if visuals make an argument we should accept that they do and focus our attention on the ways that they do.

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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!

 

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Visual Argument Reflection

As it turns out, my argument was not successfully conveyed as I had hoped that it would be. I think that this is the result of an omission on my part and because I was attempting to make a complex argument more along the lines of feminist invitational rhetoric than purely persuasive rhetoric. The argument that I was trying to make is that infant feeding activism (as a form of visual rhetoric) is contextually dependent upon. The exigence for infant feeding activism is different in developing countries where the water supply is often contaminated and formula fed babies die of dysentery at a 25% higher rate than breastfed babies. For infant feeding activist in those countries, activism is directed against predatory marketing of formula because formula feeding increase the infant mortality rate. The most prevalent infant feeding activism in the western world recently has been focused on the right to breastfeed in public and the normalization of breastfeeding. I was trying to craft an argument that was descriptive and comparative rather than prescriptive-an invitation to consider how terministic screens shape rhetoric. Maury Brown invoked this idea when she said that “The argument is that this idea that formula is poison is widespread, but especially in poor, non-white countries, where the formula becomes seen as unnatural and aligned with corporate values.” Summer Glassie said that “The disparities between the pro-breastfeeding cultures is astonishing as it comes down to the “right” to breastfeed versus the “need” to breastfeed.” Charlie Stark recognized that there “is a large battle going on against formula and breastfeeding- though in 3rd world countries, mostly against /not/ breastfeeding.” The majority, though, interpreted the visual as an anti-formula or pro-breastfeeding argument, and it is that certainly because the activism shown is generally anti-formula or pro-breastfeeding.

I do think that the responses show that it is possible to present a verbal argument, because everyone did identify an argument, and the majority agreed on the nature of that argument. On the other hand, it seems that argument is understood as being primarily persuasive (perhaps because rhetoric is generally thought of as an attempt to persuade others to a point of view. It seems less likely that complex arguments that invite consideration can be easily conveyed. I think that it would have been possible if I had done a better job of constructing the visual.

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Rhetoric of Email and Text Messages in Cases of Rape

Trigger warning: This post addresses acquaintance rape and victim blaming.

I read this February 17 Chronicle of Higher Education article with interest about the use of texts and emails in rape cases, especially the bit about facing the “court of public opinion”: In Rape Cases, Students’ Texts and Emails Face the Court of Public Opinion. The title caught my attention because I was curious about the rhetorical use and purpose of those texts and emails — and especially who the sender of the messages was, the victim or the defendant.

Here’s how the article framed the issue:

Because of the nature of the crime, campus rape cases can be complicated for colleges to adjudicate. In the absence of witnesses or physical evidence, determining whether an accused student is responsible is often a matter of weighing one party’s word against another’s.

But what happens when the words they exchanged privately — emails or texts or Facebook messages, for example — are posted online for anyone to see?

In recent weeks, national news outlets have published two accounts of campus rape cases that drew on the individuals’ electronic correspondence, before and after the alleged rape, in an effort to characterize their relationships.

The article title suggests that the “texts and emails” faced the court of public opinion, but of course what the article is really reporting — what the article writers are really reporting — is that electronic conversations between the defendant and the victim, both before and after the rape, were released or uncovered in public spaces by national news outlets in reports about these two cases.

I’m focusing on the human agents and the words, rather than the medium and the location, as I engage with this text because I think the article too quickly objectifies both the messages and the humans in the story. And to be clear, the victim is the only one really “fac[ing] the court of public opinion” in this article.

The defendant is not facing that same court of public opinion. At least, the defendant’s words are not really the issue. Maybe, if the relationship had been verbally abusive in public, there might be reason to use those words against the defendant. But if we take this article at face value, the defendant’s words are not really the ones being weighed. The victim’s words are. The only quoted words in the article from any of those texts or emails are those sent by a victim “more than a month after the incident” that read, “I love you Paul. Where are you?!?!?!?!”

The article writers explain the presence of a victim’s words with this paragraph:

As the two cases illustrate, private statements can be used to support vastly different interpretations of an incident—or a relationship. Further complicating matters is that dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic episode can cause a victim’s behavior to seem erratic.

As readers, we are limited to two options for understanding these words:

  • They represent a relationship that is healthy and could not possibly be related to an abusive relationship of rape, OR
  • They are evidence of the erratic behavior of the victim.

As I read and reread this piece, I am amazed that the authors actually wrote “dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic episode can cause a victim’s behavior to seem erratic.” Because the consequence is that we must either consider the victim a liar or as a person behaving erratically.

Not as a victim of rape.

Not as someone who has suffered.

Not as a person.

Not as a human.

This is the consequence of binary thinking, of framing our understanding of an issue within dichotomous, or even semi-dichotomous, options. We limit ourselves to thinking in programmatic dichotomies, like if/then statements, rather than in complex, nuanced human terms. We objectify those who are in desperate need of being recognized as human and hurting.

The article concluded with the following quotes, which so anger me that I can hardly think straight.

It would be “remarkably irresponsible” not to consider digital communication between a victim and a perpetrator in a hearing, says Allyson Kurker, a lawyer who helps colleges investigate sexual-assault complaints. But not all digital communication can be given the same weight, she says.

“I’ve seen text messages exchanged very, very soon after an alleged assault, and I put less weight onto those,” she says. If a woman is saying things like “It’s OK” or “I’m fine,” says Ms. Kurker, “they don’t mean anything except the person just doesn’t want to deal with the situation right now.”

But if, weeks on, the alleged victim is sending friendly texts to the alleged perpetrator, that could mean something different. “It doesn’t make sense,” she says, “that they would be exchanging flirty text messages after that time if something had gone wrong.”

As I read Kurker’s words, there are only two conclusions the court of public opinion can draw when attempting to reconstruct the impossibly complicated rhetorical exigence that produced conversations between defendant and victim: Victims are either lying or flirting.

  • If victims say “It’s OK” or “I’m fine” immediately after the rape, either they weren’t raped (so they lied about being raped) or they were raped and they aren’t really okay (so they are lying).
  • If victims are “exchanging flirty messages” with a defendant weeks after the rape, either they are actually flirting and weren’t raped (so they lied about being raped) or they were raped and they are acting erratic (meaning they are living a lie).

Kurker’s closing words are deeply disturbing. In essence, by flirting, maybe acting as if everything is normal weeks after a rape, the victim is demonstrating that the rape could not have taken place.

If you have ever met someone who has been raped by an acquaintance or someone known to the victim, I challenge you to find evidence that the relationship is not being presented as anything but normal — and yes, maybe even flirty. When a victim knows the rapist, when the rapist and the victim have an existing relationship, how can we possibly expect anything but attempts to maintain some sense of normalcy?

That’s not erratic behavior. That’s survival. And a victim should not be indicted for surviving.

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Rhetoric of Email and Text Messages in Cases of Rape

Trigger warning: This post addresses acquaintance rape and victim blaming.

I read this February 17 Chronicle of Higher Education article with interest about the use of texts and emails in rape cases, especially the bit about facing the “court of public opinion”: In Rape Cases, Students’ Texts and Emails Face the Court of Public Opinion. The title caught my attention because I was curious about the rhetorical use and purpose of those texts and emails — and especially who the sender of the messages was, the victim or the defendant.

Here’s how the article framed the issue:

Because of the nature of the crime, campus rape cases can be complicated for colleges to adjudicate. In the absence of witnesses or physical evidence, determining whether an accused student is responsible is often a matter of weighing one party’s word against another’s.

But what happens when the words they exchanged privately — emails or texts or Facebook messages, for example — are posted online for anyone to see?

In recent weeks, national news outlets have published two accounts of campus rape cases that drew on the individuals’ electronic correspondence, before and after the alleged rape, in an effort to characterize their relationships.

The article title suggests that the “texts and emails” faced the court of public opinion, but of course what the article is really reporting — what the article writers are really reporting — is that electronic conversations between the defendant and the victim, both before and after the rape, were released or uncovered in public spaces by national news outlets in reports about these two cases.

I’m focusing on the human agents and the words, rather than the medium and the location, as I engage with this text because I think the article too quickly objectifies both the messages and the humans in the story. And to be clear, the victim is the only one really “fac[ing] the court of public opinion” in this article.

The defendant is not facing that same court of public opinion. At least, the defendant’s words are not really the issue. Maybe, if the relationship had been verbally abusive in public, there might be reason to use those words against the defendant. But if we take this article at face value, the defendant’s words are not really the ones being weighed. The victim’s words are. The only quoted words in the article from any of those texts or emails are those sent by a victim “more than a month after the incident” that read, “I love you Paul. Where are you?!?!?!?!”

The article writers explain the presence of a victim’s words with this paragraph:

As the two cases illustrate, private statements can be used to support vastly different interpretations of an incident—or a relationship. Further complicating matters is that dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic episode can cause a victim’s behavior to seem erratic.

As readers, we are limited to two options for understanding these words:

  • They represent a relationship that is healthy and could not possibly be related to an abusive relationship of rape, OR
  • They are evidence of the erratic behavior of the victim.

As I read and reread this piece, I am amazed that the authors actually wrote “dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic episode can cause a victim’s behavior to seem erratic.” Because the consequence is that we must either consider the victim a liar or as a person behaving erratically.

Not as a victim of rape.

Not as someone who has suffered.

Not as a person.

Not as a human.

This is the consequence of binary thinking, of framing our understanding of an issue within dichotomous, or even semi-dichotomous, options. We limit ourselves to thinking in programmatic dichotomies, like if/then statements, rather than in complex, nuanced human terms. We objectify those who are in desperate need of being recognized as human and hurting.

The article concluded with the following quotes, which so anger me that I can hardly think straight.

It would be “remarkably irresponsible” not to consider digital communication between a victim and a perpetrator in a hearing, says Allyson Kurker, a lawyer who helps colleges investigate sexual-assault complaints. But not all digital communication can be given the same weight, she says.

“I’ve seen text messages exchanged very, very soon after an alleged assault, and I put less weight onto those,” she says. If a woman is saying things like “It’s OK” or “I’m fine,” says Ms. Kurker, “they don’t mean anything except the person just doesn’t want to deal with the situation right now.”

But if, weeks on, the alleged victim is sending friendly texts to the alleged perpetrator, that could mean something different. “It doesn’t make sense,” she says, “that they would be exchanging flirty text messages after that time if something had gone wrong.”

As I read Kurker’s words, there are only two conclusions the court of public opinion can draw when attempting to reconstruct the impossibly complicated rhetorical exigence that produced conversations between defendant and victim: Victims are either lying or flirting.

  • If victims say “It’s OK” or “I’m fine” immediately after the rape, either they weren’t raped (so they lied about being raped) or they were raped and they aren’t really okay (so they are lying).
  • If victims are “exchanging flirty messages” with a defendant weeks after the rape, either they are actually flirting and weren’t raped (so they lied about being raped) or they were raped and they are acting erratic (meaning they are living a lie).

Kurker’s closing words are deeply disturbing. In essence, by flirting, maybe acting as if everything is normal weeks after a rape, the victim is demonstrating that the rape could not have taken place.

If you have ever met someone who has been raped by an acquaintance or someone known to the victim, I challenge you to find evidence that the relationship is not being presented as anything but normal — and yes, maybe even flirty. When a victim knows the rapist, when the rapist and the victim have an existing relationship, how can we possibly expect anything but attempts to maintain some sense of normalcy?

That’s not erratic behavior. That’s survival. And a victim should not be indicted for surviving.

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Possibility of Visual Argument

I looked at visual arguments from Megan, Summer, Maury, and Dan, and Charlie. I felt Megan’s visual was making a statement about visually presenting and performing as a certain type of scholar. I loved the comic book style layout of the visuals. Summer’s visual made me a bit sad. I got the idea that her […]
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Integrating Visual Argumentation

Visual arguments are indeed arguments, but they don’t work in the same ways that verbal/textual arguments work (in fact, I would argue that not all verbal arguments work the same way, either). Arguments do put forth premises, and they do have a grammar of how they are constructed, with major, minor premises, a hierarchy of evidence and support, a misuse of these elements to create fallacies, etc. More than words, I think, visual arguments have the viscerality that Gibson discusses, the kind of gut reactions that are then justified with logic afterwards.

I looked at Laurie’s, Jenny’s, Dan Cox’s, Megan’s, and Chvonne’s arguments. Megan and Donovan commented on mine. While my intention in the argument I thought I was conveying in the composed photo was closer to what Megan wrote, Donovan’s interpretation is not incorrect. I would say that it is more like Megan’s is my major premise and Donovan’s is my minor premise. My argument was one of girl power, and also one of familial love. The princess tropes are more “typical” femininity, while my daughter and I are dressed as female superheroes and “mutants.” We stood together in solidarity, back to back, united, deliberately in the same pose as Elsa and Anna to create the juxtaposition. Of course we are “real” and they are cardboard cutouts, but we are also not fully ourselves as we are cosplaying Storm and Black Widow.

I believe visual argumentation exists, and that the logic of design and placement and argumentation can be decoded and conveyed. Just like with text, however, there will be some who don’t “get it” and there will always be the variance of reader response. That variance exists whether with words or images, as arguments are layered and nuanced and audience members are diverse. Just because an argument is decoded that the designer did not intend does not negate the concept of presenting an argument. But just as an author must consider all the meanings of a word or phrase, as well as of the sentence, paragraph, and the whole, a designer must consider all the meanings and implications of design choices. As Stuart Hall notes, there will always be difference in the encoding/decoding as a result of individual and ideological particularities as a result of lived experience.

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Visual Argument

For my visual argument, I made a collage of screen shots from a recent episode of the Jeopardy! College Champions episode. I utilized a YouTube video to capture the screen shots. The video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Sony Pictures Entertainment. Click to enlarge
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Southwest Popular/American Culture Association Conference Roundup

I’m returning from the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association (SWPACA) conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It’s my first time to this conference, the first time to New Mexico, and the first time to present a paper since my master’s degree days. I’m pleased to report that my paper presentation went well, although I think I excelled more as a panel chair than as a paper presenter. Never mind. I’m fortunate to have skill sets for both.

My paper, Boundary Crossings: (T)here Lies the Trickster, proposed the mythological trickster construct as a contemporary boundary object, synthesizing the boundary object definitions of Star and Griesemer (1989), Popham (2005), and Wilson & Herndl (2007). I used a class I proposed and taught called “Tracking Contemporary Trickster” as a case study demonstrating the benefit that using a trickster lens as boundary object has on the way students see the world.

In a sense this was a remarkably interdisciplinary paper. Although I presented it in one of the Myth and Fairy Tales panels, my topic connected to mythology only in that it used the trickster, a character that appears in many mythologies, as my object of study. My critical approach was application of professional and technical composition theory (the boundary object), while my case study involved pedagogy.

My experience suggests that this interdisciplinarity is the conference’s strength. The conference ethos is deeply accepting and encouraging, and represents, with few exceptions, an invitational rather than persuasive rhetoric. Presentations were not about presenting claims and theories as fact, but were instead aimed at capturing ideas and sharing them with others for consideration and feedback. Post-presentation comments were not about tearing down or critiquing arguments, but about praising areas of strength and offering suggestions for continued, further, or parallel research work. Interdisciplinarity appeared to be encouraged and appreciated, with a range of critical approaches and methods accepted and valued. More importantly, individual presenters were valued, an ethos handed down in large part, as I observed, by the panel chairs.

That said, I didn’t actually find my research niche during the conference. I guess I wasn’t really looking for a niche, but I found several of my ODU colleagues gravitating toward areas of study and consecutive panels in the same areas. Game studies was a very popular strand throughout the conference, and the networking and collegiality of the group was obvious and warm, even inviting to non-games people who were willing to listen and observe. As I seek to further refine my research agenda, particularly in the realm of the intersection of technology and rhetoric, I found the games studies researchers and scholars the most akin to my imagined future work. Digital games are spaces where technology and rhetoric intersect deeply and successfully, as are, perhaps to a lesser extent, classrooms. The parallels between classroom and game are striking and intriguing; there’s a strong case to be made (by Maury Brown or Megan McKittrick and other ODU games scholars, I think) that the classroom itself is game space, or can be conceived of as game space.

A brief chat with Marc Ouellette about indexical signs and algorithmic rhetoric was intriguing. Ouellette shared that he is interested in questions surrounding the practice, current and future, of indexical signs subsuming the human sign — of identity becoming indexed as data points rather than human or lived. We talked very briefly about the use of so-called small data in medical practices for diagnostic and health maintenance purposes, along with the use of health product purchasing data by pharmaceutical companies to target advertising toward those who are depressed or under stress, based on their buying habits. He was quite open to the idea of algorithmic rhetoric. And he offered two pieces of advice: talk to the librarians and follow the content. Librarians use algorithms regularly and are well aware of the impact that algorithms have in providing search results. The content I think is about what people are seeking for, although I’m not entirely sure what that means or how it relates. It likely has to do with the materials that pass through our bandwidth, characterizing and beginning to develop algorithmic modeling that can start predicting search results. Maybe. I’ll need to think and read around this topic.

I also met briefly Stephanie Vie and Dawn Armfield, both rhetoric or composition/rhetoric or digital rhetoric and communications scholars that I follow on either Facebook or Twitter. It’s delightful to connect faces to Twitter handles.

I’m already asking myself if I intend to return next year, and I can’t yet answer that. I find the ethos useful and supportive, inviting, even — but I’m not sure that’s going to be enough. I think it will depend on what I believe I can propose in terms of algorithmic rhetoric or technical literacy at the conference, and whether I can find the right group of people with whom to network. Right now games studies, somewhat to my surprise, feels relatively comfortable, even though I myself neither play the games nor think about or theorize their development. But given the way game studies theory addresses agency and rhetorical choices, along with the digital component and the advanced use of technology to code and play games, the intersection of rhetoric and technology appears, at the moment, to include games studies. Perhaps games studies is a boundary object that will enable me to pull together disparate disciplines in a pedagogically sound way that focuses on the technical writing, rhetorical agency, and user-designed interface.

A final note, about being a panel chair. The Myth and Fairy Tales area chair was originally the panel chair for each of the three Myth and Fairy Tale sessions. However, she fell ill and asked each panel if one member would take on the role of chair for the session. I agreed to do so, which explains how I found myself both chairing and presenting in the same panel. I appreciated the opportunity to chair; as a result, I intend to volunteer to chair additional panels in the future, as appropriate and capable, both as valuable experience and as an opportunity to include the experience on my CV.

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