Revolution Lullabye

March 9, 2009

Wysocki, The Sticky Embrace of Beauty

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “The Sticky Embrace of Beauty: On Some Formal Problems in Teaching about the Visual Aspects of Texts.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 2004. 147-198.

Wyscoki argues for an alternative understanding of beauty, aesthetic, and form that is grounded in the local and the particular rather than universal generalities and maxims that visual designers use for composing images and texts, universal rules that were developed first through Kant’s philosophy. Kant believed that the judgment of beauty is inherent and universal, happening when a person sees and appreciates its structure in terms of its formal relations. This allows the object (or body) deemed beautiful to be made abstract and distanced, a dangerous ethical situation. Wysocki, seeing this tension, argues that composition teachers, instead of just teaching students about design by instructing them in general, accepted rules for visual arrangment, should question the social and cultural practices that deem something efficient, pleasing, or visual, analyzing and creating to make what we take for granted unfamiliar to us so that we might appreciate and understand its particularities. In this way, she shows how form is rhetorical, informed and mediated by choices grounded in history and cultural context.

Quotable Quotes

How can we teach visual communication in such a way “That form does not override content, so that form is, in fact, understood as itself part of content, so that, finally, I better understand how to support students (and myself) be generously and questioningly recipricoal in our designings” (144)

“Form is itself always a set of structuring principles, with different forms growing out of and reproducing different but specific values” (159).

“If we believe that to be human is to be tied to place and time and messiness and complexity, then, by so abstracting us, this desire dehumanizes us and our work and how we see each other. This is dangerous.” (169)

“The web of social and cultural practices in which we move give us the words and concepts, as well as the tastes, for understanding what we sense” (171).

Notable Notes

Kant Critique of Judgment

The New Yorker Peek advertisement – woman’s body

design elements aren’t neutral – design values can’t just be looked at analytically….ours are grounded in industrializaiton, standardization, linear, order, efficiency (Nazi memos)

assignments ask students to learn design principles deductively by gathering designs. Also, redesigning web sites and textbooks

reciprocal relationship – we need “approaches that see form as this kind of recognition, tying us to others and to our times and places” (170)

March 7, 2009

Wysocki, Opening New Media to Writing

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “Opening New Media to Writing: Openings and Justifications.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2004. 1-41.

Pointing out the divide in new media studies between the study of how to design and compose individual texts (through graphic design maxims) and the study of the broad effects of media structures, Wysocki argues that composition studies can fill the gap between the two by focusing on the material and social conditions of the production and consumption of all texts, both textual, visual, and digital. She forwards five major claims: 1. compositionists have the unique pedagogical expertise to teach students how to think critically about their design and composition choices when writing a text because we already highlight the situated nature of writing. 2. we need to think about the specific material circumstances and choices of the texts we produce, consume, and circulate because no technology is a neutral carrier; our texts contain, in their design and construction, our attitudes, beliefs, and values, both individually and as a society 3. new media texts are any texts, digital or not, whose composer thought deliberately about the range of material design choices they had and who, in their design, highlight the materiality of the text 4. we need, as teachers, to move beyond analysis of new media texts and ask our students to craft and produce them in our classrooms, thinking of new media texts not as objects but rather as material practices, and 5. we need to adopt a generous spirit in our reading, knowing that composing these new media texts requires experimentation, patience, and exploration, and in order to appreciate these efforts, we need to realize that texts need not look identical to what we’re accostomed to in order to be useful, that what we might deem mistakes should be thought of in terms of choices. Her chapter ends with numerous activities writing teachers might use in their classrooms, from undergrad to grad students, to have students think more critically of the materiality of producing and reading texts.

Quotable Quotes

Compositionists can help “composers of texts think usefully about effects of their particular decisions as they compose a new media text, to help composers see how agency and materiality are entwined as they compose” (6)

“this materiality – which takes part in the construction of readers – occurs in all texts we comsume, whether print or digital, research essay or technical instruction set. ANd this material functioning occurs when we produce any text as well” (7)

“any material we use for communication is not a blank carrier for our meaning” (10)

“We should call ‘new media texts’ those that have been made by composers who are aware of the range of materialities of texts and who then highlight the materiality: such composers design texts that help readers/consumers/viewers stay alert to how any text – like its composers and readers – doesn’t function independently of how it is made and in what contexts. Such composers design texts that mark as overtly visible as possible the values they embody” (15).

Technologies do matter because “They are in our worlds and they have weight – but we probably ought not give up our own agency by acting as though technologies come out of nowhere and are autonomous in causing effects” (19)

Notable Notes

classroom activities include writing with crayons, discussing what you need to know to read and produce a “normal” piece of academic text (an 8.5 x 11″ piece of paper, double spaced, academic essay – type.) They get at appreciating and being aware of the materiality of writing

use of the word “crafting” about producing academic texts (drawing on Andrew Feenberg)

it’s important in new media texts – defined “in terms of materiality instead of digitality” (19) – that we look to how and why we use digital media, not that we do it. A new media text isn’t new media because it’s online. It’s a greater understanding and attention to materiality.

Materiality draws on Horner’s Terms of Work for Composition (she quotes that long passage from his introduction)

Creating your identity as a writer – when you’re aware of hte materiality, the technology, you can see your own self and identity as situated in a larger world of choices, making your own choices in those structrues in your text (22)

the subtle, silent, quiet, but real effects of the choices that define our existence

the interplay between agency and materiality

interface design (folders, desktop) as a Western-business centric design, intuitive only to some

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