Revolution Lullabye

October 9, 2014

Drucker, Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production

Drucker, Johanna. Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2014. Print. 

Drucker’s project in this book is to show how visual forms of knowledge not only display knowledge but create and generate knowledge. Drucker argues for humanist graphical knowledge: visual forms of knowledge that account for complexity, not simplicity, and that understand information as constructed, not context-less, given, or value-less. Drucker crosses multiple disciplinary boundaries as she traces the history of visual and graphical forms, showing how different categories of visual forms of knowledge situate knowledge and make arguments about hierarchies, relationships, and individual agencies. Her book juxtaposes her text and her argument with visual forms of knowledge from ancient hieroglyphics and stone carvings to screenshots of digital texts and maps. One of her goals is to show how the informational graphics and the interfaces that have become such an intertwined part of our everyday experience are arguments themselves, designed for specific purposes. She works in this book to bring these more invisible visual elements to the forefront and analyze them in critical, humanistic terms.

Quotable Quotes

“Humanists work with fragmentary evidence when researching cultural materials. They produce interpretations, not repeatable results. We have to find graphical conventions to show uncertainty and ambiguity in digital models, not just because these are conditions of knowledge production in our disciplines, but because the very model of knowledge itself that gets embodied in the process has values whose cultural authority matters very much” (191).

Writing and composition in a networked and digital world: “In spite of the networked condition of textual production, the design of digital platforms for daily use has hardly begun to accommodate the imaginative possibilities of constellationary composition, graphic interpretation, and diagrammatic writing…Very few acts of composition are diagrammatic, constellationary, or associative. Fewer still are visual or spatial. The predominant modes of composition in digital displays have remained quite linear, even when they have combinatoric or modular underpinnings” (183).

the future of humanistic interface: “More attention to the acts of producing and less emphasis on the product, the creation of an interface that is meant to expose and support the activity of interpretation, rather than to display finished forms, would be a good starting place” (179).

The graphical interface (our screen) is an argument, not a thing: “We ignore its graphicality, its constructedness, the very features that support its operations and make it work. We look at the interface as a thing, a representation of computational processes that make it convenient for us to interact with what is ‘really’ happening. But the interface is a mediating structure that supports behaviors and tasks. It is a space between human users and procedures that happen according to complicated protocols. But it also disciplines, constrains, and determines what can be done in any digital environment” (138-139).

“Perhaps the most striking feature distinguishing humanistic, interpretative, and constructivist graphical expressions from realist statistical graphics is that the curves, bars, columns, percentage values would not always be represented as discrete bounded entities, but as conditional expressions of interpretative parameters – a kind of visual fuzzy logic or graphical complexity. Thus their edges might be permeable, lines dotted and broken, dots and points might vary in size and scale or degree of ambiguity in placement. These graphical strategies express interpreted knowledge, situated and partial, rather than complete.” (132)

“The rendering of statistical information into graphical form gives it a simplicity and legibility that hides every aspect of the original interpretative framework on which the statistical data were constructed. The graphical force conceals what the statistician knows very well – that no “data” pre-exist their parameterization. Data are capta, taken not given, constructed as an interpretation of the phenomenal world, not inherent in it” (128)

“Maps, like other graphic conventions, construct normative notions about time, space, and experience that become so familiar that we take them for accurate representations rather than constructions” (82).

“Visualization formats exist independent of particular media. Calendars don’t have to be scratched into stone and bar charts don’t need to be rendered by engravers with finely tooled burins – any more than scatter plots have to be generated computationally.” (67)

“The interpretative acts that become encoded in graphical formats may disappear from final view in the process, but they are the persistent ghosts in the visual scheme, rhetorical elements of generative artifacts. The challenge is to develop a terminology for the rhetorical iconography of graphical forms that is grounded in the features of spatialized relations such as hierarchy, juxtaposition, and proximity (66).

The forms of our visual communication are arguments themselves: the forms were culturally-constructed and still contain that history: “We are still Babylonians, in our use of the calendar, our measure of days, hours, and minutes, just as we remain classical in our logic, medieval in our classification systems, and modern in our use of measurements expressed in rational form. Each of the many schematic conventions in daily use and the frequently unquestioned appearance in our documents and websites replicate ideologies in graphics” (65).

“Though we often use visual means to make images of invisible things, much of contemporary life simply can’t be shown. The workings of power, the force of ideology, the transmission of values, and other abstract ideas have no specific visual form, even if they work through a material social world.

“Speed, scale, complexity, and the infrastructure in place and at work in systems of communications, production, distribution, much scientific discovery, and humanistic thought simply cannot be made apparent in visual images. But an endless stream of visualizations continues to turn complex phenomena into images, reifying abstractions, turning them into objects to be seen” (22-23).

Goal: “the urgency of finding critical languages for the graphics that predominate in the networked environment” (17)

Methodology: “draw on the rich history of graphical forms of knowledge production that are the legacy of manuscript and print artifacts as well as digital media works in the arts and applied realms” (17)

“Even though our relation to experience is often (and increasingly) mediated by visual formats and images, the bias against visual forms of knowledge production is longstanding in our culture. Logocentric and numero-centric attitudes prevail” (16).

Notable Notes


Key terms in the introduction

information graphics = “visualizations based on abstractions of statistical data…Visualizations are always interpretations – data does not have an inherent visual that merely gives rise to a graphic expression” (7)

graphical user interface – “dominant feature of screens in all shapes and sizes…In a very real, practical sense we carry on most of our personal and professional business through interfaces. Knowing how interface structures our relation to knowledge and behavior is essential.” (8)

Visual epistemology – “ways of knowing that are presented and processed visually” (8)

Language of form – “a systematic approach to graphic expression as a means as well as an object of study” (9)

Image, Interpretation, and Interface

Looks at different theoretical and methodological ways of understanding visual forms as knowledge, cross disciplinary and across history

There have been efforts in the late 19th, 20th, and 21st century to create a language for graphics – formal rules and descriptions (18)

We use visualization a lot, but it is still treated as less than, suspect (23) Maybe in part because there is no universal grammar of visualization – visuals by their nature are not consistent, don’t hold meaning with “stable, fixed, and finite rules” like words/language/mathematics does. (24)

In science, visuals were used to represent and record knowledge, not produce knowledge (26-27)

Change in the late nineteenth century (Eugene Guillamume, industrial revolution) from a graphic language based on the human body (fine arts) to one based on geometry (industrial design, design to be produced and reproduced through mechanical means) (31).

Growth of formal education/principles/methods in graphic and visual design in the 20th century, modernism (35)

20th century – rise of the use of visual/graphical/statistical displays of knowledge

Interpreting Visualization/Visualizing Interpretation

The histories of visual forms of knowledge

Forms that Drucker investigates: 1. Timekeeping (star charts, calendars, timelines; 2. Space-making (maps); 3. Administration and record-keeping (tables, charts, grids, flow charts); 4. Trees of knowledge (family trees, network diagrams, evolutionary diagrams, division and hierarchy and relationships); 5. Knowledge generators (diagrams, volvelles, Venn diagrams; 6. Dynamic systems (model processes and events, weather maps and meteorology, fluid dynamics, chaos theory and systems mapping

Distinction between “static” representations (those visual representations that are merely representations of information) and “dynamic” representations (those visual representations that can create or generate knowledge) (65).

Interface and Interpretation

Looks at digital and book interface as encoding and producing knowledge, explores what a humanistic interface design might be and entail.


Call for new rhetorics, grammars of the digital media age


May 23, 2011

Stenberg, Liberation Theology and Liberatory Pedagogies

Stenberg, Shari J. “Liberation Theology and Liberatory Pedagogies: Renewing the Dialogue.” College English 68.3 (January 2006): 271-290.

In order to pursue the goals of liberatory pedagogy, academics and teachers need to more fully understand its connection to liberation theology and the religious values, traditions, and ideas that underscore the pedagogy. Critical pedagogy, Stenberg contends, has split the connection between faith and politics that forms the foundation of liberatory pedagogy, part of a larger historical trend in US higher education. Students’ religious literacies may serve as points of departure, inquiry, and as resources for their thinking and writing.

Notes and Quotes

 “If we are to truly start where students are, it makes sense to discover ways to value and build upon students’ faith-based knowledge, rather than asking them to overcome these backgrounds.” (272)

Idea (based in Exodus) that God is on the side of the oppressed – taken up by Latin American Catholics who were being colonized by Europeans

“Liberation theologians that humans abide by free will and are responsible to work with God to create a just and equitable world” (273)

“What is the cost of a pedagogy of dismissal?” (283)

Compassion as a root in the prophetic tradition (where liberatory theology comes out of)

Community and solidarity – working together for justice – are themes in liberatory theology, commitment to other people in a God-like love

Liberatory pedagogy requires praxis: action and reflection, no distinction between theory and practice, ongoing, continual work

Need to treat faith as knowledge – not as an impediment for students to “get over” – need to make room for the possibility of religious discourse

How to treat religious belief as inquiry – not as dogma…linking intellectualism and faith

“Too often, missing in the discourse of critical pedagogy is reflection on the effects of our hands. How do we use them not only to challenge, but also to support? Not only to critique, but also to validate? Not only to deconstruct, but also to reconstruct?

The prophetic tradition of liberation theology offers us visions that may not only enrich our understanding of critical pedagogy, but may also help us enact it more fully. To place these traditions back in dialogue is not to espouse theology in the critical classroom, it is to return to roots that might better allow us to realize the goals of liberatory education: valuing student knowledge, enacting a reciprocal teacher-student relationship, enriching critique with both compassion and action, and participating in ongoing reflection and revision. And these goals, to my mind, represent a pedagogy that is truly critical.” (288-289).

June 23, 2009

Knoblauch and Brannon, Critical Teaching and the Idea of Literacy

Knoblauch, C.H. and Lil Brannon. Critical Teaching and the Idea of Literacy. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1993.

Knoblauch and Brannon use stories of critical literacy debates and teaching to illustrate what critical teaching of literacy at the high school and college level entails. The aim of critical teaching is transformation, of teaching students to be self-reflexive about the relationship between language and power, and of foregrounding the politics of representation: how things are named; who names them; the ignored alternatives; and the consequences of the naming act. Critical literacy draws on the theories of postmodernism, feminism, and Marxism and is interested in conscious rasing, in seeing education as part of the larger sociopolitcal world. They argue for critical teachers to unite together and to expand knowledge about the teaching of critical literarcy through a validation of teacher knowledge, inquiry, and research.

Quotable Quotes

“Critical teaching is about the willingness of people to inquire and change and make changes, to accomodate themselves to difference, to read the social world, in its complexity” (49)

Critical teaching “recongizes the political nature of education” (49).

Notable Notes

four different ways literacy is valued over time:

  1. functional literacy
  2. cultural literacy
  3. literacy for personal growth (expressivism)
  4. critical literacy (empowerment and social change)

critical education legitimizes differences in a community, is tolerant of cultural pluralism, rejects the melting pot, characterized by dialogue and negotiation, puts students as critics, not passive consumers

June 9, 2009

Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Trans. Myra Bergman Ramus. New York: Herder and Herder, 1970.

Freire believes that only through liberatory education can the poor and oppressed begin to understand and reflect upon their social position and then take action towards permanent liberation and the restructuring of society. He distinguishes between the antidialogic banking model of education, whose passive, narrative education with content alien to students’ context mirrors oppressive society, and dialogic liberatory pedagogy, an active, praxis-oriented pedagogy that treats students and teachers as joint partners in critically investigating generative themes and problems in society. Dialogic liberatory pedagogy is subjective and humanist, founded in commitment to others through love, humility, faith, and hope.

Quotable Quotes

methodology of liberatory pedagogy: conscientizacao – “learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality” (19).

pedagogy of the oppressed – “makes oppression and its causes objects of reflection by the oppressed, and from that reflection will come their necessary engagement in the struggle for their liberation” (33).

“To exist, humanly, is to name the world, to change it” (76).

“Education as the practice of freedom – as opposed to education as the practice of domination – denies that man is abstract, isolated, independent, and unattached to the world; it also denies that the world exists as a reality apart from men” (69).

Notable Notes

don’t forget the context – 1960s, poor Catholic peasants in Brazil

even with the dialogical model, leadership is necessary and important – connection to administration (167).

May 28, 2009

Pflugfelder, Review

Pflugfelder, Ehren Helmut. Review. Composition Forum 19 (Spring 2009).

Review of three recent books on plagiarism: Eisner/Vicinus Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism; Howard/Robillard Pluralizing Plagiarism; March Plagiarism: Alchemy and Remedy.

Pflugfelder announces a subfield of “plagiarism studies” and looks to how three recently published texts in rhetoric and composition are moving beyond blaming and criminalizing the student and looking for “plagiarism-proof assignments” to considering plagiarism’s relationship to writing practices and its economic, cultural, institutional, and ideological frames. There has been a critical shift in how the field sees and defines plagiarism, one that refuses to see incidents as local crimes or mistakes, but instead tries to understand the entire global situation. 

Quotable Quotes

no longer “treating incidents of plagiarism like a crime or a symptom. They discuss it like it is – a constructed authorship practice lamented as a crisis and perpetuated by political, economic, and cultural paradigms.”

“change what defines and produces the problem”

Notable Notes

is it a shift the public will adopt?

postmodern, remix culture

April 27, 2009

Huot and O’Neill, Assessing Writing

Huot, Brian and Peggy O’Neill, eds. Assessing Writing: A Critical Sourcebook. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009.

This edited collection, divided into three sections – Foundations, Models, and Issues – focus on writing assessment that takes place outside of an individual classroom, namely placement and exit exams and programmatic evalutions. It draws on scholarship within the field of composition and rhetoric as well as that from educational evaluation, K-12 education, and measurement and testing. Huot and O’Neill see much of the scholarship written in writing assessment, starting in the 1940s, as negotiating the tension between reliable evaluation and valid evaluation, and argue that writing assessment needs to be taken up critically and reflectively by comp/rhet scholars as a positive and productive force (not punitive).

I’ve surveyed this volume (it contains 24 essays along with a selected bibliography) and have read the selections that I’ve seen cited in other scholarship about assessment as well as those that seem particularly helpful for WPAs.

Quotable Quotes

“Writing assessment is an activity – a practice – as well as a theoretically rich scholarly field” (6).

March 16, 2009

Wysocki, Seriously Visible

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “Seriously Visible.” In Eloquent Images: Word and Image in the Age of New Media. Eds. Mary E. Hocks and Michelle R. Kendrick. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003. 37-60.

Wysocki weaves together explorations of two popular circulating claims about new media and visual literacy: first, that hypertexts necessarily, by their structure, invite participation from the reader that results in a more active and engaged reading experience and second, that visuals are easily and automatically interpreted, thus not a medium for expressing a critical or complex argument. She demonstrates two visual hypertexts, Scrutiny in the Great Round and Throwing Apples at the Sun, and argues that these visual hypertexts are challenging and invite a diversity of pathways and interpretations. She also explores the political arguments (making students active citizens) made by proponents of hypertexts, showing that through her two examples, the composers of the piece were not interested in making active, independently-minded political readers, but instead, offering readers the chance to experience personal aesthetic pleasure. This opens up possibilities of new ways in which students and people might compose and design with words and images.

Quotable Quotes

The two examples “whose makers are attentive to the visual possbilities of the technologies they use but who argue against the possibilities and efficacy of liberal political engagement tied to interpretation” (44)

Sometimes “visual texts can be as pleasurably challenging as some word-full texts” (56)

“If we want our texts to be complex and to ask for interpretation, there is nothing inherent in ‘the visual’ or ‘the hypertextual’ demanding this or standing in our way – expect beliefs in some inherent simplicity of ‘the visual’ or complexity of ‘the hypertextual.’ If we want our students to value active engagment with texts and each other, we cannot expect that our texts will do that in and of themselves.” (57)

Notable Notes

need for pedagogy to teach students about complexity and interpreation, not just relying on the modes in which they compose. (57)

she argues against “the arguments that imply that visuals and hypertexts and multimedia must always accomplish the exact same things everywhere” (57)

a rich literature review of major hypertext and visual literacy theorists

February 8, 2009

Moran, Technology and the Teaching of Writing

Moran, Charles. “Technology and the Teaching of Writing.” 203-223.

Computer-based technology is knit into the very nature of modern composition pedagogy. Four of the most prominent ones (and the ones most theorized and written about in the field) are word processing (which allow for easier revising and drafting but can mislead the student with auto-correct functions that do not take into account the writer’s context); e-mail (increases informal communication between student and instructor, for the good and the bad); online discussion forums (increased the amount of writing our students did and allowed for quiet students to voice their opinions, but can easily get out of hand, so it’s best to focus the discussion around a collaborative task), and the Internet (discussion and production of hypertexts, online research.) Those teaching with technologies must be aware that technologies don’t erase differences between students (English-centered Internet does not accurately reflect the diversity of society or the classroom) and must keep in mind issues of access (what students have access to use for assignments, both at home, in the workplace, and on campus.) Finally, it is essential that teachers using technology continually train themselves to keep updated about the latest applications to inform their teaching and help their students.

Quotable Quotes

Want students to become “reflective and critical users of emerging technologies” (220)

Notable Notes

Sources: Hawshier et al Computers and the Teaching of Writing in Higher Education; Palmquist Transitions: Teaching Writing in Computer-Supported and Traditional Classrooms; Computers and Composition journal

Language of email – discourse conventions: Hawshier, “The Rhetorics and Languages of Electronic Mail”; ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Exchange); English-only standards

women and men in online chat rooms

computer use among basic writers, women, race issues, ESL classrooms

February 7, 2009

George, Critical Pedagogy

George, Ann. “Critical Pedagogy: Dreaming of Democracy.” 92-112.

Critical pedagogy acknowledges that teaching is a political act, that education is one of the primary ways that thought and knowledge are socially constructed into the ideologies that strucure society. Based in the writings of Freire, critical pedagogy centers around the struggle against dominant, oppressive institutional forces, seeking to liberate students by encouraging a critical stance towards society and encouraging them to develop a class consciousness. The ultimate goal is to transform society. Critical pedagogy in composition drew out of the work of Jonathan Kozol and as a reaction to 1980s conservatism (A Nation at Risk), often coupling with cultural studies to form a decidedly political and social agenda in the writing classroom. Critics of critical pedagogy argue that the often white middle-class students who are taught in this method are hardly the oppressed that Freire was writing about, and that critical pedagogy takes the focus off of writing, positions the teacher as “hero,” and is not answering to student needs (the outcome of the course is pre-determined and students aren’t given instructions on how to write and succeed in the hegemonic, dominant society.)

Quotable Quotes

Critical pedagogy “enables students to envision alternatives” (97) – schools need to be critical, dialogic democracies, public spheres of knowledge.

Simon Roger: “To propose a pedagogy is to propose a political vision,” a “dream for ourselves, our children, and our communities” (371).

Notable Notes

Important Sources: Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Pedagogy of Hope; Giroux, Theory and Resistance in Education, Education Under Siege, Schooling and the Struggle for Public Life; Jonathan Kozol; Ira Shor, Empowering Education, When Students Have Power; Aronowitz; Macedo; McLaren; A Nation at Risk; Action for Excellence; Dewey, Democracy and Education; George Counts, John Childs, William Kirkpatrick

Critical Pedagogy and Composition: Alex McLeod, Critical Literacy; Hurlbert/Blitz, Composition and Resistance; Jay/Graff, A Critique of Critical Pedagogy; Hairston, Diversity, Ideology, and Teaching Writing; Jeff Smith, Students’ Goals; Knoblauch/Brannon, Critical Teaching and the Idea of Literacy; Finlay/Faith; Stephen North, Rhetoric, Responsibility, and the ‘Language of the Left’; Villanueva, Considerations of American Freireistas

hidden curriculum, false consciousness, cultural production, education, schooling, literacy

tension between freedom and authority must be negotiated in the classroom

February 6, 2009

Burnham, Expressive Pedagogy

Burnham, Christopher. “Expressive Pedagogy: Practice/Theory, Theory/Practice.” 19-35.

Often coupled with process pedagogy, expressive pedagogy concerns itself with the individual writer and his development of a writerly voice or ethos. Stemming in the 1960s and 1970s from the same practicioners as process pedagogy (Elbow, Murray, Macrorie), expressivism opposes the reductive current-traditional model of writing education that devalues the writer, thus creating an arhetorical view of reality because the writer – the individual maker of meaning – is stripped of all authority. The first proponents of expressivism argued through narratives, but later scholars and teachers relied on theories from linguistics, cognitive and developmental psychology, phenomenology, and existential philosophy to show that writing is a way of making meaning, creating and developing knowledge that moves from the individual private sphere to be shared with the world. In this sense, the social conclusion that all writing comes to, answers the critiques of expressivism (Berlin and Faigley), which state that it is not critical, is romantic, rejects social and political problems, and is over-concerned with the voice of the individual. The most recent scholarship on expressivism have attempted to make it more critical, placing theorists such as Bakhtin, Ong, Gibson, and Dewey at the center of the pedagogy, arguing that expressivism explores relations between language, meaning-making, and self-development, forming individual and social identities.

Quotable Quotes

“Expressivism’s strength is its insistence that all concerns, whether individual, social, or political, must originate in personal experience and be documented in the student’s own language” (31)

Expressive pedagogy is “engaged pedagogy, holistic teaching” (31)

Notable Notes

Theory for expressivism draws heavily on Britton (Language and Learning, Development of Writing Abilities 11-18) and Kinneavy (A Theory of Discourse.) Britton talks about expressive function in language and creates a developmental taxonomy of writing, arguing that writing is a process of discovering meaning and learning (puts his theory at center of National Writing Projects and whole language movements.) In Langauge and Learning, he explains the participant and spectator roles in writing, says that expressive writing involves both. Kinneavy talks about expressive discourse and uses Sarte to talk about how writing is used to explain individual meaning-making to a larger audience, analyzes the Declaration of Independence and shows how it is not a persuasive text but rather an expressive text that is forming a new nationanl identity.

Crowley, The Methodical Message; Macrorie, Telling Writing; Elbow, Writing without Teachers and Writing with Power; Murray, A Writer Teaches Writing; Britton, Language and Learning; Kinneavy, A Theory of Discourse; Sherrie Graden, Romancing Rhetorics; Vygotsky; Bruner; Chomsky; Sarte; Thomas Merton, Learning to Live; bell hooks Sisters of the Yam

expressivism is concerned with developing individual responsibility and ethics (Socrates)

critiques include: ahistorical, atheoretical, arhetorical, anti-intellectual, standard-less, relativistic

uses freewriting, journals, reflective writing, small response groups

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