Visual Rhetoric Digital Writing

steampunk_archive_icon_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d5jsav0Hocks, Mary E. “Understanding Visual Rhetoric in Digital Writing Environments.” College Composition and Communication 54.4 (June 2003): 629-56. Online. 1 May 2012.

Discusses how to articulate appropriate use of visual rhetoric. What are the principles involved?

The importance of visual rhetoric “has been amplified by the visual and interactive nature of native hypertext and multimedia writing” (Hocks 629).

“RichardLanhamemphasized the rhetoricalnatureof digital writ-
ing, defining a “digitalrhetoric”that recapturesthe rhetoricalpaideia by mak- ingexplicitoralandvisualrhetoricalconcernsthatwereburiedinthelasttwo
centuries of print culture and conventions (30)” (Hocks 630).

New media requires hybrid of visual/verbal (Hocks 630).

To explain visual rhetoric online to our students, we can begin by carefully articulating the rhetorical features we see in various interactive digital media. In our classrooms, we can also begin to break down the processes for creating successful digital documents, firstly simply looking at the computers aroundus and analyzing them as intensely visual artifacts. (Hocks 631)

computer and glasses closer

“[D]igital rhetoric describes a system of ongoing dialogue and negotiations among writers,audiences,and institutional contexts, but it focuses on the multiple modalities availablefor making meaning using new communication and information technologies” (Hocks 632).

Defines terms:
audience stance–how audience is invited into online docs, ethos of author
transparency–how online docs relate to print media conventions
hybridity–visual/verbal (Hocks 632)

“visual and interactive strategies in ways that are appropriateto the rhetorical situation and the hypertextual medium” (Hocks 633)

Wysocki’s 1998 “Monitoring Order” in Kairos illustrates design issues.

“Wysocki’s essay works visually by enacting in the interface the concepts about design and desire that it discusses while constructing the screen as page. The ethos created by Wysocki addresses the expected academic conventions for linear argument and also challenges those expectations” (Hocks 635).

“Wysocki demonstrates how screen design of any new media document might use strategies borrowed from historically specific approaches to page design, graphic design,and the changing conventions(such as frames) for Web pages” (Hocks 636).

Wysocki’ssite takes advantage of this hybridity to combine pictures and text in thoughtful and unconventional ways. The sections of text incorporate quotes and pictures and reproductions of texts as evidence for the arguments about visual design and its historical specificity.This strategyuses the juxtaposition of pictures, words, and unconventional margins to transform our understanding of the visual through the reading experience. (Hocks 637)

Wysocki’s article, Hocks says, causes readers to see what was “previously invisible” (Hocks 638).

Hocks’ second example:
ChristineBoese’s “The Ballad of the Internet Nutball” — “first hyper textual dissertation accepted by Rensselear Polytechnic University. Boese’sprojectis aparticipant/observer ethnography and analysis of the fans and online culture surrounding the popular fantasy television show, Xena: Warrior Princess” (Hocks 639).

Audience stance:
“Each author thus uses the interactive and performative potential of the hypertextual medium, encouraging the audience to explore the space created by the digital document and to reflectively participate in their own exploration and construction of the text” (Hocks 642).

“[E]ach piece uses formal structures that mix old and new forms of reading and viewing conventions to create the audience’s perception of transparency” (Hocks 642).

“Both essays use hypertextual form to underscore reflexively the arguments they make about conventions and about cultures. Both authors use the visual interactive medium to persuade their audiences to participate in and be changed by the reading experience” (Hocks 643).

Teaching Digital Rhetoric
multimodal approach to literacy

“[W]riters have to use practices that are not just verbal but visual,spatial,aural,and gestural to make meaning” (Hocks 644).

“[S]tudents can work from within their diverse cultures and multiple identities using their own languages as well as their everyday lived experiences to design new kinds of knowledge” (Hocks 644).

“Design becomes essential in times of intense social change” (Hocks 644).

“students need to learn the “distanced” process of how to critique the saturated visual and technological landscape that surrounds them as something structured and written in a set of deliberate rhetorical moves. They then need to enact those visual moves on their own” (Hocks 645)

Yes! This is what I have been thinking/feeling. It’s why I like the idea of the commercial analysis and the creation of a digital presentation as a rhetorical analysis of the commercial for first-year composition.

Hocks describes a digital assignment a Shakespeare course from pages 644 to 650.

“Teachers must first develop assignments and projects that complement the goals of their courses” (Hocks 650).

[B]egin by analyzing media and encouraging students to think broadly about visual elements and interactivity. I show them published new media titles and ask them to look for the rhetorical features like audience stance, ethos,transparency of the interface, and hybridity. They come to understand these features by analyzing the visual details: the use of elements like color, space, linearity; the use of conventions from film, print, advertisements, and typical Web sites; and the use of forms of agency for audiences. Students then draw conclusions about visual arguments and the purposes of interactivity. I have them sketch out or illustrate “borrowed” features they’d like to include in their projects. I do this so they will not limit their designs to their own production skills or to the technologies available at any one time in our classrooms. (Hocks 650)

The next step is to teach students to map out or storyboard their projects. Storyboarding is a visual technique borrowed from documentary video production where every shot is planned out to correspond to a narrative script. In multimedia productions,storyboarding refers to planning and sketching out each screen of the digital production. To teach students the storyboarding process, I give them sheets of paper and ask them to draw every media element, each navigational link,and all text that appears on the screen.Theyalso note the colors and any other graphics that will be used on each screen. This process makes them pay careful attention to visual arguments, to spatial placement on the screen, and to the consistency of the interface.It also forces them to narrow the scope of their projects in collaboration with one another and their audience. (Hocks 651)

Design projects require writers to look at successful models, to think deeply about audience,to design visual and verbal arguments together, and to actively construct new knowledge. Because the process of design is fundamentally visual and multimodal, it can be challenging, but it leads students to a new understanding of how designed spaces and artifacts impact audiences. (Hocks 651)


Related readings:
Cope and Kalantzis Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures 2000
Kress’ chapter “Multimodality” (pages 182-202) in the above book.

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