valerievisual

Readings, and Related Inspirations


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Design Decisions – a presentation

It is becoming increasingly important for writers to think visually. If we are going to survive in a world of screens, we need to begin to think about how to go about it. One of the tools we already have is design. We already think about the margins and fonts we use when we create a traditional style essay. And those of us who tweet, blog, or use instagram are thinking about the presentation the 140 character message, the blog we keep about running, or the instagramming we do of our food.

In 2002, Diana George claimed in her article, “From Analysis to Design” that “to talk of literacy instruction in terms of design means to ask writers to draw on available knowledge and, at the same time, transform that knowledge/those forms as we redesign” (26). George goes on to quote the New London Group on the matter: “Designing transforms knowledge in producing new constructions and representations of reality.” For both George and the New London Group, design is an impactful part of our rhetorical approach to whatever project we’re working on.

Today I will be talking about 3 web tools that we could use to do a variety of projects and presentations. We will talk about the available designs and capabilities of these tools, and we will talk about how to decide which is best for whatever projects you may be working on. In 2005, Anne Wysocki made an argument that is still very important, which we should keep in mind as we walk through the tools below: “to ask after the constraints as we teach or compose can help us understand how material choices in producing communications articulate to social practices we may not otherwise wish to reproduce” (“awaywithwords” 56).

Prezi is a presentation tool which has both a ‘path’ feature, and a zooming feature you can use to create a linear OR non-linear presentation to keep your audience engaged. Prezi has templates you can start with, or you can design your own prezi using your own background pictures or shapes.

Here are several examples.

Sugar the Quiet Killer

The above was created using a template. I chose to do a prezi because of its embedding capabilities, because of the availability of this particular template, and to show my students what prezi can do on a basic level. I did alter this template somewhat.

Stitches Book Recommendation

This one is a student project done for a comic book classroom. The student took advantage of the storyline in which a boy goes down and into the story. For this one, the student did not use a template, but took scenes directly from the comic.

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wordpress is a blogging tool that you are currently looking at. Blogs can be used as presentations, like the one you are seeing here, they can be formatted into whole single projects, they can be turned into websites, and they can be traditional blogs, among other things. The wonderful thing about wordpress is its versatility – if you can think of it, you can probably design it on wordpress. Keep in mind that the themes are rather limiting, as each theme has different capabilities. Traditionally, we think of what we put inside the theme as ‘content,’ and the visual design as ‘form.’ But as Krisitn Arola pointed out in 2010, “the form/content separation is problematic in that form is implied as not content” (“The Design of Web 2.0 6).

Here are some examples of wordpress blogs used in different ways:

Accidental Devotional

The above is a traditional blog kept by a teacher, mother and activist right here in Atlanta. You can see how simple the author has kept her blogroll, with a plain background and not a lot of flashy widgets. And yet she has a wide audience, and has even given a TEDex talk.

GSU Tools prototype

This is a wiki prototype that is in the process of a build through the Student Innovation Fellowship. If you compare it to the first blog design, it is almost unrecognizable as the same type of tool, unless you know what you are looking at. The theme on the above blog allows the boxes to display in the way they do, and each theme has different menu capabilities that some others do not have.

Travel Portland

And this one is a webpage made by wordpress. The theme is likely an expensive customizable one which delivers a clean presentation to help the reader get more information on travel to Portland, Oregon.

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tumblr – is another blog site, but it has a much different design aesthetic than wordpress, and is even pretty well-known as a social media site where users display predominantly visual blogrolls, or feeds, as we typically think of them when we talk about SNSs.

Here are some examples of how people are using tumblr.

Obama is checking your email

The above is a satire tumblr making fun of a claim about a year ago, that President Obama is checking our email. This tumblr went up and content was quickly added for a short period of time. The purpose of this tumblr was to make fun of a news story that would likely be forgotten very quickly. It was important that this tumblr be plain, and contain almost all visuals so the reader could scan through, have a good laugh, and move on.

Vintage Black Beauty

This tumblr is an excellent example of how these tools can be used for larger projects like collecting digital artifacts for display in an archive. This tumblr has a much different theme than the Obama one does, and it takes advantage of layout to give the reader a sense of the types of images collected within. This tumblr is actually being used as a part of the author’s dissertation.

 

 

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NCTE Eye-Opener

This weekend I had the priviledge of attending the 2013 National Council of English Teachers 103rd Annual Convention titled “(Re)Inventing the Future of English in Boston.

Taken from ncte.org

Taken from ncte.org

I made a lot of observations during the conference that have affected me both emotionally and professionally (like how cool of a city Boston is), but for this entry, I chose to focus on just one thing:

Technology

As many of you might know from reading past blogs (I haven’t made any recently 😦 ), I am very interested, and immersed in ways to harness technology that are interesting and relevant to my students. But one thing that absolutely blew me away, was how little technology is allowed in public school classrooms.

Middle and Secondary school teachers I spoke with reported the restrictions of websites in their classrooms to include any social medias, youtube, and even google. That’s right. Students can’t google anything.

In the interest of keeping this short, I would like to link you to an article that is definitely worth reading to find out more on this topic:

How Shadowing my 2nd-grader Led to a New View of Tech in the Classroom

This is a must-read article. The topic, in my personal belief, should be one that all educators make a big stink about. And not just educators, but parents, and people who care about children, and people that work for companies that might one day hire someone that is now a child.

Please pass it on, and make the move to comment (either here, or in Hybrid Pedagogy, or elsewhere) – we all need to hear this.


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Celeste Condit Had Me at Robot – 8150

Articles like Celeste Michelle Condit’s “Chaim Perelman’s Prolegomenon to a New Rhetoric: How Should We Feel?” make me love academic scholarship even more than I normally do. In the article, Condit chastises Perleman for neglecting pathos almost entirely in “The New Rhetoric.”  In response to Perelman’s overt link between those he labels “ignoramuses” and “nonspecialists easily around and led astray” (117), Condit lashes back saying that Perelman “repressed the democratic mass” (100). Throughout her article, Condit uses rather harsh language to assign Perelman to trying to make humans too rational and not at all emotional.

Kind of like Spock - though few people are aware that Vulcans are not emotionless. They are trained to display no emotion from childhood. Like Americans, but with pointier ears.

Kind of like Spock – though few people are aware that Vulcans are not emotionless. They are trained to display no emotion from childhood. Like Americans, but with pointier ears.

Boldly, Condit argues the following: “Until we build our theories around emotion, therefore, we have an impotent reason, which cannot control a Holocaust (as Perelman and Olbrecht-Tyteca observed) and which might even create new forms of the same through a privileging of narrow processes of ‘reason’ over how human bodies feel” (104). Perhaps I am reading this wrong – I had to go over it several times to make sure – but is Condit saying that too much reason could not only not prevent a Holocaust (the Holocaust?), but that it might even create new forms of Holocausts?? That seems like a big leap to me.

And while I largely agree with Condits reading of Perelman’s “The New Rhetoric,” I take a few more issues with her claim that emotion rests with the body. On page 106 of her article she urges the reader by saying, “We need to ask many questions about how the bodily predispositions we share with other animals (such as lust and hunger and status drives) are remade by communication processes into social emotions.” I’m not sure I can get behind the notion that our bodies create status, though now that I think about it, I suppose the way we look does have a HUGE impact on how we are treated. Perhaps my initial reaction has more to do with the Shakespearean liver than it does appearance. I’m going to think more on this one.

This then brings us around to Condit’s definition of rhetoric: “theories of symbolic interactions among human bodies” (107). I am going to have to do some more pondering of this definition too and I invite readers here to comment on it. But I would also like to note that this definition seems somewhat in opposition to what she accuses graduate students in rhetoric of doing when she says, “Although the label ‘rhetoric’ is often pasted over recent works, most graduate students merely want to do ideological critiques of mass media artifacts” (97). If that’s the case, then are graduate students, obsessed with ideology, an exception to this bodily obsession?

I have much more to say on this topic, but for the sake of time I will leave you with something that I couldn’t stop thinking about as I read this article: Spock. It’s all logic all the time for Vulcans … or is it?

Star Trek Original Series Season 1, Episode 24 – This Side of Paradise – In which Spock shows emotion and frolics with ladies.

http://www.startrek.com/watch_episode/WbAn6ZPDBzv6  – I can’t get the embed code, so here’s the link. Enjoy.


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Participant Pedagogy in Games

Hey all –

For today’s MOOCMOOC challenge, I would like to re-introduce the idea of gaming in the classroom. Some of us had mentioned this in the first #moocmooc discussion on Sunday.

Based on our readings, and some thoughts I have had about decreasing the grading load, especially for us composition teachers, I have come up with a game to play to teach my students rhetorical, audience, networking, community, online, blogging, google doc, and honor system skillz – all rolled into one.

I invite you to check out the game on my syllabus: What’s Making Me Happy. Please please please respect the spaces I have provided for my students and keep the Google Score sheet clean.

I welcome ANY feedback you might have about the game. It launches (in my classrooms) in about 3 weeks. It has never been attempted and I’m not sure what exactly to anticipate.

Cheers!


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Last Night I Thought Of Benjamin

Last night I heard a sound I immediately mistook for fireworks outside my boyfriend’s house. My first thought was that a bunch of teenagers (stereotype, I know) had set off a lot of fireworks in the street in front of the house. This is not unreasonable because kids cross the nature preserve on their way home from school every day, and you know they’re out there making out, or smoking… or setting of fireworks all the time. Expect I knew it wasn’t fireworks when the sound was followed by a loud POP! and the lights went out.

We ran to the door and looked out. It was dark out there, but it wouldn’t be for long. Following the pop was a mighty set of crackling, and then a lot of sparks up in the tree to the right of the house.

A branch from the tree ( a large branch) had snapped at its base and crashed down on the electrical wires. It was pretty scary at first. Everyone was out in the street looking. I don’t know if the lady across the street has super powers or what, but she had already called 911 and was done by the time my bf was halfway done with them on my phone, the only one we could find in the dark. The rest of the neighbors were standing around asking each other if we should all call. I know who’s going to survive the apocalypse on this street. And I know I want that lady across the street on my zombie apocalypse team.

Fortunately for us, we had just had a hot pizza delivered so we could work through the night without having to make food (not that pizza is actually food, but hey, it’s finals). Since we couldn’t work without power, and we figured walking under a tree on fire was probably a bad idea, we sat on the steps, ate pizza and watched.

The tree didn’t catch like I expected it to. “Wow,” I remarked to my companion, “If this was AZ, that tree would be engulfed in flames and we’d have to cross under those wires.”

“I know,” he replied. “Fortunately, it’s wet here and that tree has to burn for a while before it really goes up.”

That made me feel better, until more of the power lines snapped, hitting the cars in front of us. Had someone been crossing under them, they probably would have become quite unalive.

And then something funny occurred to me and I said to my companion, “you know, if we were about 10 years younger, we would be posting this on Youtube.”

He pointed upstairs to the neighbor, who was already posting something somewhere.

Since I had thought of it too, I figured I would get out the camera and join the fun. The fire department had arrived and forced us back inside and were gingerly approaching the danger. Here’s what I got:

Now… the interesting part about these photos, as they pertain to our course… is that they were much more exciting to take than they likely are for you to look at. As Benjamin might say, they have an aura because I took them, and I was there, and you all know me. But they are also digital, and so are now instantly on the internet, available for anyone to see at any time, without context. You can’t see what’s behind me, or above me. And I’ve cropped out the VERY bright light provided by the fire truck. How do you know there isn’t an elephant over there. We certainly didn’t know our neighbor was over there waiting for the power to get shut off from the wires so he could cross and get home.

I wonder all sorts of things about these visuals as they pertain to our class and what our theorists might say.

Would McLuhan have made some statement about the camera being digital, or the fact that I’m posting these on a blog? There is also a different picture I took with my phone that I texted to facebook.

What might Geimer have said about the water spots on the window that my camera has focused on without my knowledge? What might Crary said of you as the observer? Or Selfe say about the interface you are observing my photo arrangement on?

I guess I’ll never think of visuals the same way again.


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Sonntag’s Ghost

The following article was just published this morning:

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-afghan-photos-20120418,0,5032601.story

Before you click on it, know that there is immediately a soldier posing over a dead body.

The article is interesting because it appears that the U.S. Army now has a protocol to deal with this kind of press. The photos number in 18 and were given to the LA Times by a soldier involved. According to NPR News this morning on the News Hour 5 minute thing they do, the soldier wanted to show the break-down in leadership overseas.

What is most notable to me is that these photos, of which the LA Times have elected to only publish two of, are of Iraqi soldiers that are already dead. The soldiers posing with the bodies have been sent out on missions to find the bodies and ID them. This is much different than what is happening with the photos in the Sonntag article – the ones involving torture.

What is even more surprising is the following quote from this news story:
“It is a violation of Army standards to pose with corpses for photographs outside of officially sanctioned purposes,” said George Wright, an Army spokesman.

I wonder what Sonntag would have to say about this incident, were she alive today? It is so eerily similar, yet so incredibly different. Is this the move of a group of soldiers tired of their continual deployment, just trying to shake things up? They must know about the photos at Abu-Ghraib… right? They know… right? Or are these another bunch of teenagers bored, and without considerations about their frolicking activities in the desert with dead bodies and a camera?

And with that – I will leave you all to get back to work.

 


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Moving On From Comics 101

Comics aren’t new. They’ve been around for more than 150 years. Yet for some reason, scholars have neglected them as a topic worth studying. I guess I can understand why. Comics are for kids, right? When you go to read the paper and your 7 year old nephew is sitting at the table with you, asking if he can try your coffee, what do you do? You hand him the funnies, right?

We all grew up with Garfield, or we should have, if we didn’t. Garfield’s funny.

But the truth of the matter is that comics are not just for children. In fact, most comics are not for children at all. Not at all.

Many comics are serious story-telling that work well in the same medium that the above cartoon uses.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware of the television show The Walking Dead on AMC. Maybe zombies aren’t your thing and you don’t watch it, but hopefully you’ve heard of it. You may or may not know that it’s based on a popular comic put out by image Comics of the same name. The Walking Dead has been coming out in comic form, single issues first, then graphic novels, then huge bound volumes that are some kind of collector’s thing that I don’t really understand, since 2003. It has an author, just like a regular book, Robert Kirkman, and an artist, as one might imagine, named Tony Moore.

And it is gory, gritty, adult reading.

Here’s something that many people may not know about comics, and that wasn’t mentioned in any of our readings:

Comics have separate authors that get recognized as legitimate writers in the genre, just like all-text literary authors are. If you like the work Kirkman does on The Walking Dead, you might also like what he does on Marvel Zombies or a non-zombie comic called Invincible.

Further than that, the artists that work on comics are as well known, if not arguably more so, for their interpretation of the author’s work in image form. For example, the artist on the comic 30 Days of Night is called Ben Templesmith. There was a movie put out based on this comic released in 2007. Warren Ellis, an incredibly well-known comics author, started a pet project called Fell in 2005, a dark Noir tale, and sought out Templesmith to do the art. And it was a really nice project.

Fell with Warren Ellis

30 Days of Night - Templesmith

It is hopefully obvious, even at first glance, that Templesmith drew both of these pages, Fell on the left, 30 Days on the right(below). Unfortunately, there was a page more similar in color where the art style was much more similar, but for some reason, wordpress didn’t want to upload the other page.

Looking at these pages, we can see that comics are not, decidedly, ‘just for kids’. We begin with a note containing an overt reference to suicide at the top of the left hand page. In the first three panels of the comic on the right, we see a vampire rip a guy open. Comics are for kids, you’ve heard? If I ever have children, they can have Garfield, but sticky hands off my first edition Fell trades until they’re at least 16.

And this brings me back to my original argument: “Yet for some reason, scholars have neglected [comics] as a topic worth studying.”

McCloud’s book, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art is an excellent place to start if you are not already immersed in the world of comics. And even if you are, it has some really excellent language to attach to concepts that would make any seasoned comics reader nod, and say, “yeah…. that is how it works, isn’t it?” For example, Scott McCloud, in Chapter 2, introduces us to some really important theoretical concepts like the icon. He leads us through all the types for, and uses of, icons, and the various levels of abstraction. In later chapters, McCloud will introduce us to concepts that had no name attached to them, such as the concept of closure: “closure allows us to connect these moments and mentally construct a continuous, unified reality”(67). Here, McCloud is putting terms to basic reading skills needed to produce meaning in comics. We all do it as we read, but pre-1993, there was no set term for this kind of production.

The keyword here is ‘basic’. Before McCloud’s book was published in 1993 though, there weren’t texts that talked about comics in this way. McCloud’s text is seminal in two ways: in its depth about the nature of comics, and in the medium in which is is written to convey these concepts. McCloud is successful in illustrating his point through the use of the comics medium. The problem is that we are 20 years into McCloud’s 1993 future, and we don’t have much theoretical work on comics to stack on top of Understanding Comics. 

The Eisner reading doesn’t take any strides past McCloud. In fact, it’s much more basic than McCloud, and an appropriate reading level for children. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s just really basic.

Hatfield, on the other hand, does make some new arguments, and some important claims. Like any scholar talking about a rather ‘new’ topic, Hatfield is concerned with where comics fits, disciplinarialy. As well he should be. No one has ‘claimed’ comics, as it were. And more importantly, no one knows how to classify comics!

One of the major arguments Hatfield poses is in trying to establish the importance of comics as a medium: “asserting that comics can be literature is, in part, a way of asserting that they are artistically serious and important” (9). Amidst the discussion about where comics fit in the disciplines, Hatfield is trying to give comics agency in the literary world. Are they literature? Are they literary? Are they something else? I plan on discussing this issue in some depth in my final paper, so I am not going to go into it here, but the distinction is an important one, for sure.

The other issue Hatfield brings up is the fact that we’re still presenting comics, “as if the field were almost brand-new” (5), as though people need to understand how to move their eyes from panel to panel before we can really dig deeper into theoretical or narrative contexts. We’re so busy talking about whether or not comics are literature, that we don’t really talk about any particular comic. But a problem I have with this discussion, besides the fact that it is hopelessly behind where I personally think we need to be in the field of comics, is that the argument appears to be an all-or-nothing brew-ha-ha for comics as literature. Except not all text-only books are considered literature, so why would be attempt to distinguish all of comics as ‘literature’ or not? A story like Fell is so much more interesting, well written and serious than a comic like 30 Days of Night. It would be like literarily comparing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes to Rice’s Interview With a Vampire. Why would you even try to do that?

By now, I’ve gone well over our allotted 500-1000 words, and I apologize, but I have a lot to say about comics. I think Hatfield has a really strong argument here, and I agree with him wholeheartedly. We need to figure out how to talk about comics more cohesively. We need to agree on terms, on citation, and we need to reign in that identity issue comics is suffering from so this study can gain some notoriety. Comics aren’t going anywhere, and they’re getting really good.

Let me know if you want to look into being a comics reader. I know some really good titles to recommend.