PCA: Understanding Visual Rhetoric

Understanding Visual Argumentation
Shuwen Li, presently at University of Arkansas-Little Rock,
but she will be in the PhD rhetoric/technical/scientific program at University of Minnesota beginning in the fall.

This is a live blogging of the session.

I was a bit intrigued/concerned. Li is going to be presenting on this topic at SCMLA, in a panel for which I am chair/organizer. I realize that people give the same presentation at multiple genres, but the overlap of audience at PCA and SCMLA, especially as PCA is in Texas this year, will be significant.

Having talked to her about her presentation though, I am happy to report that she is going to be presenting the theoretical ideas (at PCA) behind the practical techniques of employing visual argumentation within technical communications/writing courses (at SCMLA).

Interesting visual to start. Fve guys hanging from a clothesline, eating watermelon, with the number 5 after them. Browns and oranges primarily. imayday

Then the computer disconnected again. This will be a problem. She is relying on the tech significantly because of her topic (as she should, I think).

Picture of little girl and a pony yelling at each other.

born in a culture of images, not sounds

as a child I started learning words with individual pictures
“learning words” taking pictures with a single word

comic strips (no words)

child’s drawing (very elaborate, but no words)

In tech writing, started thinking about the tension between words and pictures.

1996 criticized
same year someone else

10 years later other two people proposed modes for visual meaning and themes for visual argumentation

era of computer tech, people communicate with visuals

What are differences between visual and verbal argumentation?
verbal can use visuals, but not main argument
visual =

are indeterminate
are unable to construct argument
cannot negate.

visual argument: claim-support pattern
-quotes, but they were too intricate for me to copy and even to understand. Clear speaking, but quiet. There’s a mic, but—as happened often—people don’t know how to use them effectively.

vodka ad, “Add vodka.”
Vodka bottle pouring onto a sleepy city.
Idea that vodka will “wake up” your life.

Visuals are able to refute.
Blackfeet triangular pattern
Christian flower pattern
Blackfeet used flower, but to keep their cultural heritage, also included the triangular pattern.
Not sure how this refutes. Instead it seems that it is contestation, not negation.

Cultural symbols?
1. emotional appeal
2. psychological appeal
3. quick revelation of the thought pattern of the author of the image

Visuals’ application of rhetorical figure:
irony image= guy in white taking picture of women in burkas, covered totally
personification = two chairs, “People in Love”
XXX=white raven in a group of black ravens “Hamlet”

For me, visuals last longer than words.

Visual arg: persuasion or psych manipulation or what?
How much control do audiences have of visual argumentation?

Interesting question and I would really like to think about this. Some say that the audience is significantly involved in the ads. I am not sure about that either. Visuals can make the audience think. Of course, that assumes that the audience thinks at all. I’m sure that many people do not. I taught my sons’ visual rhetoric as a representation, claim-support argument, all their lives. Which means that I have a philosophical and deep basis in the discussion on visual rhetoric. Which I did not realize. Interesting.

privacy, orange background, thinker, speaking bubble, mousetrap caught on the bubble

Appeals can be used in visual rhetoric:
pathos, An Inconvenient Truth with polar bear

ethos, An Inconvenient Truth with Gore on front

logos, An Inconvenient Truth with an industrial plant spewing pollution

Focuses on symbols that add argument and dissonance.
Can construct arguments.
Rely on their understanding, individual judgment.

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