Sunday, February 10, 2008

Seeing is Living

In Kress’s article, 'English' at the Crossroads: Rethinking Curricula of Communication in the Context of the Turn to the Visual, he discusses the changing landscape of education literacy from a tightly organized discursive space being read to liberated non-discursive space being used by students. Kress notes this change in congruence with the changing visual society that emerged in the 20th and 21st century. With this article, I began to think about how image studies truly can be used in a composition class. These are my initial thoughts:

First of all, Berger was right: seeing comes before reading. And writing instructors have long embraced text and labeled image studies as low brow because of a desire to label seeing image as laziness while reading text is real ‘work’. But, as George and many others have pointed out, the visual world and visual literacies are inextricably tied to composition studies because images are essential to understanding and creating meaning alongside discursive text.

What I am interested in—being a computer lab administrator and all—is how software today is capable of allowing students to easily compose visual arguments. When Harris Leonard disallowed the creation of comics in his classroom, he stopped them from exercising the student’s inclusion of their voice within the classics (George 27-28). If his students had Comic Life, there would have been some brilliant expressions of visual literacy that would have showed competency in design and the conglomeration of the oral, discursive and non-discursive in composition and meaning making. I would love to expand on George’s article to express how software and computer knowledge gives students the ability to create visual pieces in a composition classroom.

I suppose I can start by looking at how Yancey proposes that the composition classroom pay attention to Circulation of composition, Canons of rhetoric, and the Deicity of technology. Particularly, the creation of visual composition through the computer screen is the beginnings of the circulations in the way that Yancey evokes David Russel: “Writing is alive when it is being written, read, remembered, contemplated,
followed—when it is part of human activity” (Yancey 312). Melding textual and non-discursive composition (thus, the crafting and reforming meaning) in a software program like comic life allows students opportunity to break beyond purely discursive modes and begin writing in a human way—a visual way—by seeing meaning as both discursive (words) and non-discursive (image).

As well, Wysocki develops several strategies for helping students analyse and compose visual texts. What I appreciate most about the Wysocki article is that she gives the potential instructor using visual rhetoric a ton of questions to ask their students about the visual world that surrounds us. These activities and questions eventually move from observation of visual rhetoric to creation of visual rhetoric. All the while, the processing of visual rhetoric is recursive: thinking about about visual rhetoric and creating it are a circulation process! So, after spending class time thinking about visual rhetoric, a student could essentially design a comic book in Comic Life that not only follows certain conventions in comic book making, but the student is also free to explore his or her understanding of visual rhetoric in an learning environment where the main goal in encountering, negotiating, analyzing and manipulating visuals.

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