this course we will look at what Jay David Bolter calls writing spaces—those online and in-print areas where texts are written, read, and manipulated. We will consider how the latest technologies are blurring the distinction between writer and reader, author and subject, and text and image. Indeed, much of our time will be spent thinking about the language of images and how one reads images on the page and on the screen. Ultimately our discussions will ask us to question what, in our technologized and visual world, writing is, and how images have been and are being used as evidence to both support and supplant it.
Although the course will involve a substantial reading component, our primary focus will be on your writing. We will have three primary writing assignments each of which will ask us to explore writing in a different medium and with different rhetorical goals. We will be writing theory-driven academic texts. Most reading assignments will be accompanied by a prompt which will ask you to respond in an online forum, thereby beginning discussion of the text prior to class and extending in-class discussions outside of the walls of the classroom. Other assignments may ask you to engage in online chat, and still others to critique multimedia presentations. Each of the larger assignments will have rough and final drafts. The rough drafts will be critiqued by your classmates.
Many of the images we will be looking at are upsetting—because of their subject matter and because of the way certain technologies have been used in print and online media to exploit, categorize, and define. Yet, those very same technologies—especially in our internet-mediated environment—allow individuals access to information previously locked away. As a result, it will be especially important for us to realize that different people respond to images in different ways, to respect the various reactions, and try to understand why they happen. Indeed, as Luc Sante writes at the end of his essay, "Evidence," "As we look [at these pictures] the clocks have all stopped, the air is going out of the world, the great glass bell is descending on the circumference. There is no place for us outside this frame, nothing to breathe, nowhere to stand. We cannot be the viewer of such a scene. We must have forgotten: We are the subject."
Brief Description of Assignments
Unit I: Technology and Remediation
In this unit we will be considering how, as Bolter describes it, "our culture is . . . redefining the visual and conceptual space of writing" (12). We will begin thinking about the technologies of writing: blogs, chat, text messaging, video blogs, podcasts, and so forth. You will write an essay in which you analyze the online version and the print version of the same text in terms of Bolter’s arguments on remediation, spatiality, and change.
Unit II: Evidence and Visual Rhetoric
We are inundated with images: TV news and sports shows with multiple windows, YouTube and iFilm videos, IM avatars, video games, photographs, and so forth. What are these images doing? What are they evidence of? How does the context impact how we read them and how they read us? You will write an essay in which you discuss a series of images and what they are giving evidence to.
Unit III: On Beautiful Evidence
This unit will take up the second half of the semester. In it we will explore the intimate relationship between texts and images. We will consider how to best present together images and text so as to create what Edward Tufte calls Beautiful Evidence. Tufte argues that "making an evidence presentation is a moral act as well as an intellectual activity. To maintain standards of quality, relevance, and integrity for evidence, consumers of presentations should insist that presenters be held intellectually and ethically responsible for what they show and tell" (9). We will attempt to do just that by completing a miltimodal essay in which Tufte’s, Bolter’s, and/or Sante’s ideas are fully incorporated.