Understanding Visual Rhetoric in Digital Writing Environments

In her essay “Understanding Visual Rhetoric in Digital Writing Environments”, Mary E. Hocks discusses how digital environments are designed with features like “audience stance, transparency, and hybridity” (629). The ” visual and interactive nature of native hypertext and multimedia writing” (629) makes it difficult for scholars to distinguish words from visuals, as Hocks suggests “Interactive digital texts can blend words and visuals  talk and text, and authors and audiences in ways that are recognizably postmodern (630). She references ” Gary Heba’s delineation of how html authoring mirrors rhetorical processes for composition” (630) and ” Patricia Sullivan’s arguments that expand our definitions of electronic writing to include graphics, screen design, and other media form” (630). The work of early professionals in “technical communication” that “demonstrated how rhetorical decisions impact the visual design of an online document or system” (630) alerted scholars  to think about the visual aspect of writing. Anne Wysocki stated that “computer-based interactive media can now blend text and images so thoroughly that they are indistinguishable on the screen (2010)” (630). These arguments have convinced teachers to redefine what we consider to be  writing. Hocks introduces the idea of interpreting new media as “hybrid forms” . As students we “look at artifacts such as online games or Web sites” (630) and we make  “assumptions about gender, age, nationality, or other identity categories” (630). Hocks states that all writing is hybrid that “it is at once verbal, spatial, and visual.” (631).  As interactive digital media has become a part of college writing courses, writing is now  “internetworked writing”-writing that involves the intertwining of production, interaction, and publication in the online classroom or professional workplace as well as advocating for these rhetorical acts and, conversely, the one’s online audiences”(631). In online writing, teachers want us to recognize the “rhetorical features of these highly visual digital environments” (631). Hocks wants to highlight “key features of visual rhetoric”.

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She presents three terms Audience Stance, Transparency, and Hybridity to “describe how visual rhetoric operates in digital writing environments” (632).  Audience Stance is defined as “The ways in which the audience is invited to participate in online documents and the ways in which the author creates an ethos that requires, encourages, or even discourages different kinds of interactivity for that audience” (632). Transparency is “the ways in which online documents relate to established conventions like those of print, graphic design, film, and Web pages” (632). Hybridity is ” The ways in which online documents combine and construct visual and verbal designs” (632).

The Atlanta Beltline’s Potential to Increase Racial Inequality

Jacob, Brown. “Respatializing Race: The Open Case of the Atlanta Beltline.” Emory University, 2013. Web.

In his thesis “Respatializing Race: The Open Case of the Atlanta Beltline”,  Jacob Brown a student of the London School of Economics at Emory University, discusses the ” spatial dimensions of racial inequality” (3) that exist in Atlanta. In particular he examines the Beltline and “interrogates its broader potential to act as an agent of racial equity” (4). Brown notes that while the Beltline contributes green and art spaces and “connect Atlanta’s neighborhoods through multi-use trails and rail transit” (4) it can also have a “potential effect on Atlanta’s racial inequality” (4). Other projects such as the Olympic Park, Turner Field, Underground Atlanta and Omni International (5) claimed to solve issues similar to those addressed with the Beltline. However, these projects have all led to displaced impoverished black communities. Brown suggests because the Beltline shares characterisitcs of these projects and “how race affected these developments, and vice versa, indicates the Beltline’s potential relationship with racial equity” (7). 

Northeast Beltline (Author’s Own)

This source is useful for researchers because it shows how Atlanta’s environment is built to enhance disparities between  its “wealthy White north side”and “poor Black south side” and how this impact weakens social connections between neighborhoods. In the case of the Beltline the development appears to be beneficial providing “small businesses along the pedestrian trails, residential developments, art installations and parks” (10). However, this small improvement is overshadowed by inequalities. The Beltline rail is designed in a way that “divide neighborhoods and constrain intra-neighborhood connections” (16) leading to social exclusion due to lack of transportation. The purpose of this source is to address how the construction of the Beltline will impact racial equality in Atlanta. Brown believes racial inequality is “not just caused by urban planning decisions” (27) it is a  “much deeper problem that permeates political, economic and social spheres” (27). However, it is important to understand the relationship between urban infrastructure and racial problems. “Design is largely reliant on how each of these spheres reacts to it” (27), infrastructure serves as a tool that can either mend or intensify conflicts.