Archive | February 2014

I have C.R.A.P. to say so far…

I am having a hard time deciding what I have to say about this week’s readings, but only because I don’t know whether to go theoretical with Trimbur’s article or to be practical with Williams’ book.

Williams is going to be useful, as I haven’t had any design classes. Being more aware of how designers use contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity when creating pages may change the way I look at pages from now on. I hope that I won’t forget to also stay aware of content.

Design, so far, has just been something I read a little about on my own. I used to think it was all fluff, until I realized that design can also be about living consciously. That is, being aware of not only the aesthetics, but also the function and sustainability of every material thing in one’s world. Learning to think of aesthetics as functional also helped changed my mind about design. Working in a windowless space with colorless paint peeling off the walls under too-bright fluorescent lights makes me think that aesthetics could actually influence human health, for better or worse.

Trimbur touches on those ideas in “Delivering the Message.” This was a fascinating look at the impact of visual context on text, and how the message can actually change when you take an article or essay out of its context, away from the other text and images on the same page, and study it in isolation.

The part I found most interesting was the paragraph on page 268 which begins, “The complicated relationship between reading and seeing text and image raises…”. Williams raises some questions, but refers us to other texts for the answers (or more discussion, anyway). We have a book by Kress in the library, and I requested Graphic Design in America: A visual language history through Mobius so I can read more on Giovannini’s ideas about “hyperactive” pages encouraging browsing rather than reading. Lack of in-depth reading is a sad state of affairs, but I am as guilty as most people of sometimes skimming online articles, rather than really reading, and sometimes I stop after the first page so I can move on to the latest facebook quiz a “friend” just completed. I hope Giovannini includes a discussion about how individuals find their own reading paths to negotiate a page. Knowing more about that would be helpful when designing a page I want people to pay attention to.

For now, what I have found that gets real attention is simply engaging with people online. That’s not really part of this course, I guess, but it seems crucial to building a readership and having good online discussions. I learned this accidentally because I was blogging with a group of people a few years ago. We became friends, about 100 of us, by reading and commenting on one another’s blogs. About 30 of us meet in Philadelphia every summer now for some face-to-face time and margaritas. The first time I attended it was more like a reunion with best friends than a first-time meeting. Writing had let us get to know one another from the inside out.

But back to visual rhetoric, design, typography, and C.R.A.P., I still don’t know what I want to say.

The following simple graphic is a lot like how I feel when I try to read online. After just an hour, I might have 10 tabs open to articles I think I’ll go back and finish later. I rarely finish them.


Dana Carvey illustrates presidential rhetorical style…

Some comments, on “Presidential Rhetoric’s Visual Turn” (2000) by Keith Erickson, in Visual Rhetoric: A reader in communication and American culture.

True or false? “Although occasionally disdained by critics, fetching images nonetheless rhetorically influence the public’s acceptance of political fantasies insofar as they suppress reliance upon logic and collaborative evidence, and visually stress dominant and underlying ideological themes” means that politicians use performance fragments to blow smoke up the public’s collective ass. Oops, I meant they use performance fragments to divert our attention from the logic, or lack thereof, of their political positions and from the evidence of their real focus, including laws they have promoted or vetoed, acts they have supported, etc.

This comes as no surprise. I wonder if this article was intended for a freshman or sophomore class in rhetoric. Not that it is bad, the points are clearly made, and plenty of evidence is used. These are ideas which are crucial to critical thinking in a visual-digital age. They just aren’t new ideas to anyone who has taken a few years of college classes.

The point about political fantasy is a good one. For example, President Bill Clinton took on the label “Clinton the Environmentalist” after his July 4, 1996 release of a bald eagle named “Freedom,” despite his mixed environmental record (

I wonder why the author calls the instances of presidential photo ops and sound bites “performance fragments”? It’s true that each instance mentioned was brief, but to call it a fragment suggests that there was more to the performance. I’d like to know what the “more” is, in his opinion. To suggest that the entire presidency is a performance is a little too cynical, even for me.

One last bit about this piece…before reading this article, I hadn’t seen(or heard) the word “prudent” so many times since Dana Carvey did impressions of GW Bush. For your visually rhetorical pleasure, here is Dana Carvey doing impressions of presidential styles in a 3 1/2 minute clip from Conan. His impressions could also serve as visual rhetoric themselves, in that some of them make a point about presidential rhetorical styles, foibles, and flaws. One example of style is GHW Bush’s use of “evil-doers” versus Barack Obama’s “those who wish to do us harm.” Carvey’s send-up makes some valid points. Aannnnd…then it turns into a discussion of Ronald Reagan and actor Jimmy Stewart using “F-bombs,” something that was definitely not part of either of their rhetorical styles.

And Dana Carvey as Church Lady. The look says it all.


World-making: When art tries to make life follow suit…

A discussion of Morris and Sloop’s article, ” What Lips These Lips Have Kissed: Refiguring the politics of queer public kissing” (2006).

Good philosophers define their terms. I’m annoyed by Morris and Sloop in their article about queer public kissing because they don’t do much of that. I don’t mean words that we could look up in the dictionary to understand, of course. I mean terms used in a specific way within a discipline. Defining their terms would only take a few sentences in most cases. Then we wouldn’t have to speculate about what exactly they mean to say. We could move on to the real heart of the discussion.

One example is “queer world-making.” What do we mean by world-making, and what would a queer world look like? The concept of world-making is used in fiction, religion, ethics, and other disciplines. I think the authors owe it to themselves to explain a bit about how they are using the terms, how they understand the concepts. That is, unless they don’t care what their readers get out of the piece. I assume they mean “changing the world to become more accepting of queerness,” but I don’t like assuming. I want to know exactly what they mean to say.

In the notes, they do discuss their use of kairos, so they get credit for that. It’s odd that they used kairos early on, but left us to wonder how they intend to use it in the article until note #47. Sigh.

Also, they spend at least a paragraph at the beginning of each section telling us what they are about to tell us, what they are going to argue or prove. That’s great, but then they don’t always accomplish what they so confidently said they would. I don’t discount their experience, or even disagree with their positions, I just wish they would do a better job of presenting their arguments. This is a difficult topic, though, it would be hard to present well because of all the emotion it carries with it.

A word about the kissing… because that’s the subject, right? Everything we do can be interpreted within our cultural framework, agreed. To follow their logic all the way to it’s conclusion, though, seems to suggest that hetero-kissing serves to shore up the status quo and further oppress LGBTQ couples. I don’t want to do that, so should I refrain from kissing my boyfriend in public? I don’t think this is what the authors intended. I wish Morris and Sloop had included a few words about the limits of their argument. If we don’t discuss the limitations of our argument against heteronormativity, someone on Fox News will pick it up and announce that we want to oppress opposite sex couples.

Once I processed my annoyance and tried to read the article without being sidetracked by the annoyances, it did get better. I’ll try to be more positive in my next post.

I’ve been having a discussion on facebook for a few days about the idea that public kissing is a performance; and more specifically that hetero-kissing is a heteronormative act. It starts like this:

Fucking rhetoric…every time my boyfriend kisses me now, I say, “stop that, you’re being heteronormative!” One commenter thought that could be reverse discrimination. To alleviate that situation, he volunteered for some subversive hetero-kissing. I responded that from my point of view, there is no reverse discrimination going on now, so that would be a false premise leading to the false conclusion that hetero-kissing is subversive and therefore he is part of “the loyal opposition.” Nice try, though. Love that guy!

Since we’re all about gay in this reading, I thought I’d include a Dolce and Gabbana ad. There are quite a few D&G ads using gay imagery. Go D&G! I was surprised to find some Doritos ads which use gay innuendo. Apparently they have stirred up a little controversy, too. You’d think more companies would use LGBT imagery since it seems guaranteed to get attention in one way or another. I hope Cheerios follows up their multi-racial family ads with multi-orientation family ads, not for the attention so much as for the progress toward a more accepting media environment for all orientations. There I go, world-making and all. Sometimes, it would be nice if life would imitate art. Or follow suit, when art tries to be inclusive. Or follow suits like these…