Revolution Lullabye

June 12, 2009

Perl, Understanding Composing

Perl, Sondra. “Understanding Composing.” CCC 31:4 (Dec 1980) 363-369.

Perl develops a model of composing based on her findings from research with think-aloud protocols of teachers of writing. She points out three ways writers go back and revise their thinking and writing (rereading, going back to a topic or key word, and going back to the felt sense that the topic creates.) Perl argues that this┬áthird way – tapping into emotions, feelings, and ideas that are not yet put in words – has not been adequately studied for its effect on a writer’s writing process. She calls this use of the felt sense, which she believes experienced writers rely on, as “a process of retrospective structuring,” of figuring out how writing feels right or wrong, how it makes a writer think. This retrospective structuring is in contrast to another important process of writing, “projective structuring,” in which the writer puts herself in the position of the reader and structures writing with that perspective. Both struturing processes are necessary for creating meaning in writing.

Quotable Quotes

“In writing, meaning is crafted and constructed.” (367) – not something tangible to be found

Notable Notes

her retrospective/projective structuring is like the reader-centered/writer-centered model

March 29, 2009

Mitchell, What Do Pictures Want

Mitchell, W.J.T. What Do Pictures Want? The Lives and Loves of Images. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2005.

In this book, Mitchell draws from many modern cultural, artistic, and scientific phenomenons to show how pictures, images, objects, and media create life instead of merely reflecting an outside world. The picture makes, not mirrors, the world. By treating images as living entities, Mitchell asks what they are doing, what they are articulating, and how they might want us to respond. Mitchell argues that people need to have a sense of visual literacy, a way to understand that images introduce new values and ideas in the world instead of responding to the values and ideas of individual human beings. In the third section of the book (sections focus on the image, the object, and media), Mitchell articulates his medium theory, which sees media as material social practices, entire ecosystems.

Quotable Quotes

Pictues are living organisms: “They change the way we think and see and dream. They refunction our memories and imaginations, bringing new criteria and new desires into the world. When God created Adam as the first ‘living image,’ he knows that he is producing a creature who will be capable of the further creation of new images” (92).

“Images are active players in the game of establishing and changing values. They are capable of introducing new values into the world and thus of threatening old ones. For better and for worse, human beings establish their collective, historical identity by creating around them a second nature composed of images which do not merely reflect the values consciously intended by their makers, but radiate new forms of value formed in the collective, political unconscious of their beholders. As objects of surplus value, of simultaneous over-and underestimation, these stand at the interface of the most fundamental social conflicts” (105).

“A medium is more than the materials of which it is composed…[Instead it is] a material social practice, a set of skills, habits, techniques, tools, codes, and conventions” (203).

A medium is an “ever-elastic middle” that does not have boundaries. “The medium does not lie between sender and receiver; it includes and constitutes them” (204).

Notable Notes

Images form “a social collective that has a parallel existence to the social life of their human hosts, and to a world of objects that they represent” (93) – creating worlds through design

idol, fetishes, totems – controversy and “bad” objects: “They are the objects of ambivalence and anxiety that can be associated with fascination as easily as with aversion” (158).

people love, hate, want to destroy images because of their power.

problem with the pictoral turn because the image is simulaneously everything and nothing

digital new media is nothing new – the reason to study visual literacies is because human communication is multimodal, not just because of the internet

contraversial images as “condensed world pictures” and “sites of struggle over stories and territories” (195)

10 theses on media (theory) on page 211

Elkins, Visual Studies

Elkins, James. Visual Studies: A Skeptical Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2003.

After surveying the history of programs of departments of visual studies, as well as the current principle theorists and objects of study in the field, Elkins lays out his ten suggestions for making the field of visual studies “more difficult,”: more critical and more interdisciplinary. His argument is that many visual studies scholarship is not recognized as rigourous in the academy, an opinion that he agrees with because much of the work done is not saying anything interesting or important. He advocates in many of his suggestions that scholars look outside and beyond the normal range of study, including non-Western and historical theorists and subjects, non-art and advertising objects, and scientific studies in the vision sciences. He concludes the book with a list of eight compentencies undergraduate students should have in visual literacy, arguing for a university-wide course in visual literacy like the universally-required composition course.

Quotable Quotes

“I would like to see a visual studies that is denser with theories and strategies, more reflective about its own history, warier of existing visual theories, more attentive to neighboring and distant disciplines, more vigilant about its own sense of visuality, less predictable in its politics, and less routine in its choice of subjects” (65).

“In order for visual studies to become the field I think it can be – the field toward which it is tending – it has to become more ambitous about its purview, more demanding in its analyses, and above all more difficult” (vii)

“We are living in a deeply, increasingly, and perhaps principally visual culture” (131).

Notable Notes

EDHirsch-like astericked knowledge

principle theorists include Walter Benjamin, Foucault, Lacan, and Barthes

visual studies rose in the 1990s out of cultural studies (British) and visual culture (more American) – good programs at U of R and Irvine

use historical theorists and non-Western to look at non-Western and historical objects, get rid of always using “the Gaze”

key!! important part of visual literacy is the production of visual images. This is where actual practice meets with theory. Make this combination of analyzing and producing the norm, not an anamoly, for courses in visual literacy. It is a practice and both experiences are key to understanding (158) – there needs to be “a community of makers” (179). Connection to Wysocki and George

our culture is often trained to look at the surface, not to be challenged by visual images, not to interrogate them, spend time with them, and see them in a deep way. “Good” images today are those that can be scanned and consumed quickly.

March 18, 2009

Kirschenbaum, The Word as Image in an Age of Digital Reproduction

Kirschenbaum, Matthew G. “The Word as Image in an Age of Digital Reproduction.” In Eloquent Images. Eds. Hocks and Kendrick. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003. 137-156.

Kirschenbaum, writing from the perspective of applied humanities computing, contests the argument that digital media has allowed texts and images to be easily integrated with each other. He looks at the history of printing and how images are being made searchable through computer algorithms to show that texts and images are still treated differently in digital media because they have different material constraints and limitations. Some include the long upload time for images versus text and how images are still invisible (in many ways) and dense for search engines to navigate, explore, and use effectively. Mark-up language (SGML, XML) has helped some, but these tags force the designer to transform the image into formal elements and named categories. He shows that even applications like Flash (vector applications) do not truly integrate word and image into a usable form because they are designed from scratch, are time-consuming, and again, invisible to searching engines.

Quotable Quotes

“The notion that digital texts and images are infinitely fluid and malleable is an aesthetic conceit divorced from technical practice” (154).

“There are significant ontological continuities with analog media that are not adequately accounted for by casual assertions about the blurred boundaries between word and image” (153).

“The lesson in all this is that the material truths of digital reproduction exist in constant tension wiht the Web’s siren song of the visual” (140)

Notable Notes

images are costly problems in printed texts; they are often separated from the text (see Tufte for an exception) and this historic separation of text and image began in the days of the movable type press – images were etched, engraved, or photos that were designed separate from the text.

material limitations of printing led to design choices that last after the limitations end (Macintosh fonts as an example, pixelated)

applied humanities computing – digitizing archives, William Blake’s poetry and designs, art work

data becomes textual, not graphical (with mark-up language) (150)

uses his Flash/vector example of Lucid Mapping

If the text isn’t searchable, how interactive is it?

the material constraints of computing

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

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