Archive for the ‘Visual Argument’ Category

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Multimodal Mondays: PechaKucha Proposals

posted: 2.23.15 by Andrea Lunsford

In many classrooms, multimodal presentations are becoming par for the (composition) course, and other Bits authors and Multimodal Mondays bloggers have shared ways to take presentations beyond PowerPoint (see “Composing Identities with Literacies Experience Timelines” and “When to Prezi” for examples). Instructors are thinking not only about different types of presentations but about different ways—and contexts—to use presentations. Traditionally, presentations have been cumulative, a capstone on a well-developed research project. But presentations can also be useful tools for invention and for establishing a writing community in your classroom. Added benefits are building visual literacy and giving a platform for visual learners to brainstorm and share their ideas. [read more]

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Categories: Activity Idea, Andrea Lunsford, Audience, Multimodal Mondays, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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Communicating to Non-Literate Audiences with Comics

posted: 2.2.15 by Elizabeth Losh and Jonathan Alexander

In the United States comics generally appeal to those who already know how to read and write, but in other contexts sequences of images with relatable characters and stories convey important information to the illiterate about how to avoid danger or pursue opportunities.

For example, Mudita Tiwari and Deepti KC of India’s Institute for Financial Management and Research are distributing comic books about financial literacy in the slum of Dharavi in Mumbai to discourage women from relying on vulnerable hiding places in their homes to squirrel away cash. [read more]

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Audience, Elizabeth Losh, Genre, Purpose, Rhetorical Situation, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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Multimodal Mondays: Composing Visually-Making Meaning through Text and Image

posted: 12.1.14 by Andrea Lunsford

Today’s guest blogger is Professor Kim Haimes-Korn.

We are all well aware that visual rhetoric has the power to communicate meaning on its own or in concert with text.  We interact with so many images every day that influence us, shape our perspectives and move our emotions. As teachers, we are usually comfortable engaging students in visual analysis where they participate in acts of interpretation. Multimodal composition offers students ways to extend those efforts and compose through visuals as well.

Generally, when students start composing visually they think primarily about the aesthetic appeal.  Although this is an important layer of visual impact, I encourage them to go beyond aesthetics and think about the ways composing with images is another rhetorical act in which we make choices about our purposes, audiences, subjects and contexts.  Our lessons about issues such as style. persuasion, voice, are still front and center in our writing instruction. [read more]

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Categories: Andrea Lunsford, Guest Bloggers, Multimodal Mondays, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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The Uses of Visual Argument

posted: 4.27.12 by Donna Winchell

A look at composition textbooks these days shows how much the business of teaching writing has moved toward a teaching of the visual. Certainly in this day of sound bites and multimedia, the educated consumer has to be able to read a visual argument as well as a written one. The Trayvon Martin case brought this home in a powerful way when almost overnight the hoodie became a visual symbol of solidarity with the Martin family and others who saw Martin’s death as a hate crime. I’ve been trying to remember the last time I saw a symbol take hold so quickly and so widely.

I don’t know if it was a conscious decision to use the first pictures released of Martin and his shooter Zimmerman to slant the public’s perception of the two, but it certainly played out that way. The earliest pictures of Martin that the public saw showed him several years before his death—a little boy, really, in a football uniform. The one of Zimmerman that was reprinted in those first few days looked like a mug shot rather than like the much neater man who turned himself in to the police. It will be hard for prospective jurors to get those images out of their minds. [read more]

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Categories: Argument, Visual Argument
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Free Documentary Films for the Classroom

posted: 2.10.10 by Traci Gardner

Last year, I shared a site that was full of ready-to-use movie clips that you can use with students. (found via Lifehacker) is a similar site, but it’s full of nonfiction trailers and movies. That’s right. The site has full-length documentary films. All you have to do is download them.

The Technical Details

The site highlights documentaries like Super Size Me and SiCKO on the home page, but it also includes shorter (and likely, less well-known) documentaries. Menus on the right side of the page allow visitors to browse the documentaries by topic or region as well as to look for French or Spanish documentaries, short documentaries, and documentaries with closed captions.

The length of the videos varies. Many are less than an hour long, so they could be played during a class session. Others are longer feature-length films. Since the site and the movies are free, however, you can manage any time management challenges by having students watch movies outside of class as homework.

The site is still being developed, so there are some features missing. There’s an area on the right for tags, but it hasn’t been developed (or at least isn’t working at this point). The movies launch in a new window, so you may need to turn off any pop-up blockers you are running.

The site also requires visitors to figure out some details about the films on their own. The length of the documentaries wasn’t listed anywhere obvious and to find the dates that the films were released, I had to go to the Site Map. Still, with a free collection of documentaries readily available, the disadvantages are things I can live with.

The Pedagogical Details has an explicitly educational goal, as explained on the site’s About Us page:

Our goal is to have everyone that watches a film at learn something; whether it be a new perspective on a topic, simply understanding a conflict, or being more accepting of a certain belief system.

If your goal is to increase students’ awareness on any of a range of specific topics, there are award-winning documentaries on the site to choose from, such as the Academy Award-winning films Born into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids and The Fog of War. You’ll also find documentaries that take up opposing perspectives, which you can use in the classroom to foster debate on a topic. Use the “Films by Topic” menu on the right side of the page to find collections that focus on related issues.

If you’re teaching a piece of literature or an essay, you may find a documentary that provides additional background information on the same topic. Talking about Holocaust literature? Add an episode from the Auschwitz series. Teaching The Things They Carried? Hearts and Minds, Vietnam: The Quiet Mutiny, or The Fog of War could be effective complementary texts. The collection of videos leans toward contemporary issues, so you’re not as likely to find a pairing for a Shakespearean play or the Emily Dickinson poetry. If you’re teaching a text from approximately the 1940s on, however, you may find a suitable documentary to supplement class readings.

If you’re teaching nonfiction composition, there are additional ways to use the materials on the site. The documentaries can serve as models for multimodal compositions and as examples of visual rhetoric for class analysis. Most of the documentaries are obviously persuasive (if not propagandistic), so there are opportunities to talk about persuasive techniques, argumentative fallacies, and the rhetoric of argument. As you discuss advertising techniques, for instance, you might show PBS Frontline: Merchants of Cool, which explores how corporations market products to teen consumers.

A Few Comments

  • Be sure the documentaries you choose are appropriate for the classroom, and provide any warnings or disclaimers to the class before showing the film. There is no censorship in the documentaries. Some of the films display raw images of situations that may upset students, including violent and graphic images. Many deal with tough subjects that may lead to controversial discussions. Always preview the entire documentary before you use it. That’s the best way to ensure that the film will fit with the students and local community where you teach.
  • Note the “donate” links. All the documentaries are available for free. You don’t need to donate anything to view the films. If students are confused by the “donate” links, spend a few seconds explaining why they are there and let students know that they do not need to click on them.

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Categories: Discussion, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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Getting Beyond Words in Visual Analysis

posted: 12.2.09 by Traci Gardner

Look at any visual text in your community, like a poster or billboard. You’re likely to see a blending of words, images, and layout working to communicate a single message.

Take that poster or billboard into the classroom, and what will students see when you ask them to analyze the message? Most of the time they zoom in on whatever words are included. They may later come back to other aspects of the poster, but the words color what they see.

You can share analytical tools like my WILCO mnemonic to ensure that students look at the whole message before drawing conclusions. Even then, the words in the messages can ultimately take priority.

How can we emphasize the other aspects of these messages? How can we silence the words, even briefly, to teach this lesson? Non-English posters are a great solution. Consider this poster from the Spanish Civil War:

Spanish Civil War Poster from UCSD
Source: The Visual Front


If you cannot read Spanish, you are forced to focus on other aspects of this poster to draw conclusions about its meaning. As the words fall away, the red hand in the center, the children huddled in the lower left corner, and the interplay of strong red, black, and white colors immediately rise to the surface. You have to rely on the images, the colors, and the layout. Granted, propaganda posters have fairly easy to detect messages, but the strategy works with any visual text that incorporates foreign language words.

Here are some sites with resources can you use for this strategy:

You’re bound to be wondering about the students in the classroom who can read the non-English text on these posters. Do exactly what you’d do if the text were in English: ask them to ignore the words and concentrate on the other aspects of the poster. Once you’ve explored the image, layout, and color, these students can be invited to translate the words for the class if desired.

If no one in the class can translate the words, that’s okay too. The point of the activity is just to emphasize how much of the message is communicated by things other than words on the posters. Once you’ve completed the activity, move to some English posters, like those from one of the war poster sites I’ve written about earlier this year. Ask students to use the same strategy they used on the foreign language posters. Urge them to get beyond the words by looking at the image, color, and layout first!

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Categories: Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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A Simple Starting Point for Visual Assignments

posted: 11.17.09 by Traci Gardner

It’s easy to give students assignments that ask them to create posters, magazine covers, and billboards. It’s somewhat harder to make sure they have the technology support that they need to complete the project. If you’re looking for a very simple starting point for this kind of visual assignments, BigHugeLabs’ toys and utilities is a good option.

On the BigHugeLabs site, you’ll find templates that make very basic images that you can save as JPG images. Some of the utilities offer printing services, but you do not need to purchase anything to save the images. Once saved, they can be added to word processing documents, slide show presentations, or Web pages.

Any of the following tools could be useful in the writing classroom:

In addition, the site has a number of handy utilities if you’re using Flickr extensively in the classroom, such as Flickr DNA and Mosaic Maker. If students are designing a slide show or Web page around a particular photo, the Color Palette Generator can “Automagically create a color palette” for them, based on that image. If you’re up for some fun and mischief, there’s even a Lolcat Generator.

For lots of classrooms, these basic tools are all you need to get students going on a visual assignment. Others, however, will dismiss these utilities as unsophisticated. It’s true that they give students a limited range of options. That limitation can be an actual benefit, however:

  • Use the tools to create “rough drafts” before moving to more sophisticated programs like PhotoShop or Aviary. They allow students to sketch out their ideas and get a mock-up without getting bogged down with the many possibilities of a blank document in more sophisticated tools.
  • Compare and choose the best text or image for a project. Students can quickly mockup multiple versions of their project with different headlines and ask peers which version best catches their attention. Or try the reverse and have students swap in different background images with the same text. This strategy also works if you want to discuss different students’ work.
  • Talk about the limitations and their effect on the rhetorical strategies students can choose. Ask students to think about which limitations would stand regardless of the graphical tool. For instance, the width of a billboard and the size of a magazine cover are fairly standard. You won’t get more space by switching to another program, but you can get more sophisticated layout options, for example. Use the limitations to teach students the value of choosing the tools you use wisely.

Regardless of how you decide to use the tools on the BigHugeLabs site, they’re a nice option for visual rhetoric activities—both when students create texts and when they are exploring the strategies behind how visual texts are made.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Document Design, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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The Persistence of Stereotypes in Visual Texts

posted: 10.7.09 by Traci Gardner

In my most recent Ink’d In column, I wrote about “Finding Hidden Messages in Visual Texts” and pointed to some World War II posters that demonstrated anti-Japanese bias as examples.  In my related classroom activity, I ask students to look for similar messages in more contemporary texts.

The Inside Higher Ed article “A Tale of Two Posters” provides a perfect contemporary example to use in class: a parody campaign poster that raised questions about racial stereotyping on Tufts University campus this fall. The stereotypes represented in the poster attack Asian appearance (“squinty eyes” and the exaggerated expression in the photo of In-Goo Kwak), Asian language use (use of broken English), and Korean culture (“kimchi”).

Students should easily see similarities if you show them the image of Tojo from the War Posters and the photo of In-Goo from the parody poster:

Tojo from WWII Poster, Hon. Spy Poster Detail from Photo by In-Goo Kwak

The Inside Higher Ed (IHE) article indicates that In-Goo, the parody’s designer, included the stereotypes specifically to counter what he saw as political correctness in the campaign poster of another student. Regardless of the intention, indeed perhaps because of it, the campaign poster lends itself to classroom discussion of how and why stereotypes persist in societies. You can use the WILCO mnemonic to analyze both campaign posters in more detail as part of your exploration.

In addition, take advantage of the opportunity that the article provides to discuss the nature of stereotypes, prejudice, and language use. As always when you explore emotionally-charged issues, be sure to discuss the importance of respecting the feelings of others before your analysis. Once the ground rules are set, students are bound to have an opinion on whether In-Goo’s poster should have been allowed and whether Tufts University responded appropriately. Alongside the related World War II posters, the Inside Higher Ed article will lead to some lively discussion in the classroom.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Discussion, Document Design, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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Free, Classroom-Ready Visual Texts from CreativeCloud

posted: 9.29.09 by Traci Gardner

Have you ever wondered what would happen If You Printed The Internet? According to the CreativeCloud site, you’d need 700 square miles of paper. No word on how many reams that would be, but it’s certainly part of a great visual argument.

At first glance, the page is just a clever meme, rethinking the size of the Internet in more familiar terms. The techniques that the author, identified as Tom, uses however are well worth a second look. The presentation lends itself to some great discussion about visual arguments. You might try these discussion questions with students after reading through the series of slides:

  • How did the author make certain words stand out? What makes them “pop”?
  • How does word choice matter? For instance, why is it “If YOU Printed the Internet”? Why use that pronoun?
  • How are images used? Why did the author choose general clip art images?
  • What underlying arguments does the series of slides present? What points is the author trying to make?
  • Why use comparisons to make this argument clear to the audience?
  • Does the presentation work? Would it work as well in another kind of document (e.g., an essay, a podcast)?

After exploring the presentation, you could ask students to make similar visual arguments on topics of their own choice.

Don’t stop with If You Printed The Internet either. There are a number of great resources on the CreativeCloud site. Be sure that you consider these other visual texts that can be used in class:

30 Sensational Print Ads From Around The World
Visit this treasure trove of unusual advertisements for outstanding examples of ad analysis and visual argument. The images are scanned from print advertisement. Some may be inappropriate for the school where you teach, so be sure to preview them in advance and choose those you want to use. After exploring how these ads work, students might look for other sensational ads in magazines they read or compare these contemporary ads to ads from the 30s to the 60s.
6 Massive Old School Printers (& How They Were Advertised)
Most of the students we teach today always thought of computers and printers as something that you could have in your home. Challenge them to compare today’s ads for printers and other technology to these great ads from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. According to a recent New York Times article, today’s technology ads focus more on benefits and friendly language than complex specs. Students can compare how benefits and specs were discussed in these older ads to the ads of today. If those ideas don’t pique your interest, these technology ads are ripe for discussions of race, class, and gender.
10 Beautiful Illustrations From Seriously Rare Books
Ask students to consider what makes the illustrations beautiful and what they add to the texts. Challenge students to visit the campus library and search out additional illustrations that they would add to the collection, or ask them to update the collection to show 10 beautiful illustrations from 20th or 21st century books.

There’s much more on the CreativeCloud site, and additional resources seem to be posted every month. Be sure to check the site periodically for new materials you can use in the classroom. Even if you don’t find something for class, you’ll find some interesting images like these 9 Amazing 3D Pavement Paintings or the 30 Amazing Pictures of Forest Fires.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Document Design, Popular Culture, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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More Resources for Poster Analysis

posted: 9.23.09 by Traci Gardner

Earlier this week, I shared 16 War Poster Sites for Persuasive Analysis, but I know you need some additional resources before you can ask students to work through a poster independently. That’s today’s focus.

First, for a general overview of how visual documents work, visit the Purdue OWL’s Visual Rhetoric: Analyzing Visual Documents. The site focuses on how to write an analytical essay, but the general information will work for analytical class discussion as well.

To practice in class, use the visual analysis exercises at Bedford/St. Martin’s Re: Writing site. The Preview Exercises on Proximity from the ix visual exercises CD-ROM discusses how grouping and spacing elements in a visual design contribute to the overall message that a text communicates.

If you’d like a structured list of questions, you have several options. You can try the Document Analysis Questions from ReadWriteThink, the War Poster Analysis from the Truman Presidential Library, or the Poster Analysis Worksheet from the National Archive. All three sites outline questions that students can use or their own or that you could use to lead class analysis.

For classroom discussion, I find the analysis questions can make things a bit too stiff and scripted. I devised a mnemonic to guide our conversations. Once we’ve worked through all five letters, I know we’ve touched on all the aspects of a basic analysis:

Mnemonic Example Discussion Questions
W: Words What words are there? What is their tone? How do they relate to the other information on the poster?
I: Images How do the photos and illustrations contribute to the message? Are they polished? Formal? Informal?
L: Layout How does the arrangement of the words and images work? How are the components grouped? How do they coordinate or contrast?
C: Color What colors are used on the poster? How do the colors affect the message?
O: Overall What is the overall impression of the poster? How do the different parts combine to communicate a message? How effective is the poster at its purpose?

In addition to working for more informal discussion scenarios, these areas that the mnemonic covers, like the Preview Exercises on Proximity, are more general than the structured lists. You can work through the different areas of WILCO with any poster (not just war posters) as well as with other visual documents like PowerPoint slides, billboards, or Web pages.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Document Design, Popular Culture, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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