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).

Black Gentrification in Atlanta Neighborhoods

Barbara, Combs. “The Ties That Bind: The Role of Place in Racial Identity Formation, Social Cohesion, Accord, and Discord in Two Historic, Black Gentrifying Atlanta Neighborhoods.” SOCIOLOGY DISSERTATIONS(2010): 1–407. Print.

Map of gentrified neighborhoods in Atlanta. Source: clatl.com

In her dissertation Barbara Combs of Georgia State University, discusses the phenomenon of “black gentrification” in  Atlanta neighborhoods. She proposes that “black gentrification” is similar to mainstream gentrification, in exception that  “black gentrifying neighborhoods both the poor and working class residents who resided in the neighborhood prior to its gentrification and the new residents of greater economic means are black” (2). In this case it distinguishes from mainstream gentrification  because “black gentrifiers in black gentrifying neighborhoods often feel a responsibility or obligation to their lower income black neighbors” (2). Combs argues that “attachment to the neighborhood space …(place affinity ) has the potential to obviate social tensions in gentrifying black communities and bind residents to each other and the social space they all occupy” (3). She explores ways to ” strengthen social and economic cohesion in these gentrifying black communities” (3).

Metro Atlanta neighborhoods faced economic decline due to the U.S. recession. The American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008 made funds available to refurbish homes that were vacated or foreclosed. However,  an “Atlanta Journal Constitution article appearing January 25, 2010, Federal officials say Atlanta is moving too slowly spending $12.3 million it got last March to buy vacant homes in neighborhoods ravaged by foreclosures (Stirgus 2010)” (20). Combs the gentrification taking place in the two Atlanta neighborhoods under study…against the findings of Larry Keating and the Gentrification Task Force Committee on Gentrification.” (23). Although whites are moving into gentrifying communities the racial composition remains predominately black. Combs suggests ” African Americans have played a key role in the development and maintenance of black communities” (25). Post-segregation African Americans were afforded new housing options due to Civil legislation. Many remained in the inner city due to ” rising gasoline prices and commute times, proximity to amenities, quality of life” (25).

Sociologists have begun to research the impact of place. race, and class have on black gentrification. Combs states “overarching goal of this dissertation is to determine the potential for place attachment” (3), meaning what compels lower income residents to stay within black communities that have social tension. This essay addresses how the demographics in Atlanta neighborhoods shapes identity of a space, Patricia Hill Collins describes”everyone has a race/gender/class specific identity,” and everyone is simultaneously “being oppressed and oppressor” (Collins, 1993: 28)” (118). Combs defines spaces as a physical construct that”includes things like buildings, streets, and natural structures as well as aspects of physical proximity or location in relation to other fixed, bounded geographical areas or things” (183). While place is socially constructed  “comprised of the social, historical, cultural, educational, economic, business, religious, and other institutions in the area” (183). She is interested in how these factors foster “place attachment”.