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”.

Source: www.liveadmins.com


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).

Ponce City Market Built Environment Description (Interior)

I arrived at Ponce City Market, which used to be the historic Sears, Roebuck & Co. building, around 6:36 pm. I walk into the main food court and I see various restaurants and shops and groups of people walking around and eating. I walk up the stairs towards the back and arrive on the second floor. I sit on at a round wooden table with metallic accents and chairs. I observe the environment below. The design seems industrial with high ceilings and hard wood floors and open railings for bystanders to lounge on. I see groups of people from various areas and they all appear to belong to the upper and middle class based on the business-like attire (suits, luxury brands, etc.) The male-to-female gender ratio seems to be equal, however they tend to only engage within their own gender.  Gigantic black light fixtures hang from white concrete. The building appears to be inspired by urban design. In the distance I hear the chatter of people, salsa music, and the hum of human activity. I can smell food cooking The lighting is dim and low with no windows or natural light which creates a dungeon like ambiance. On the second floor there are a few shops and a gallery area for artist exhibitions as well as a sign pointing to the Beltline. The materials throughout the market appear to be industrial such as steel, wood, and brightly colored paint. These features give the market an urban vibe but also clean sophistication that attracts both young and older people. On the first floor there is an display case which shows a 3-D model of Ponce City Market. The display sits on a platform in front of the elevators. The display appears to be about a foot long but looks to be rendered to actual scale. The model shows how the market is structured on the outside with large warehouse like buildings and minimal green space on the outside. On the opposite wall to the 3-D model there is a sign that says “Welcome to Ponce City Market” and it features a list of rules and regulations such as, appropriate clothing required, no weapons, no fighting or causing a disturbance, no BYOB, no illegal drugs or illegal activity, public intoxication not allowed, no smoking, no loitering, etc. These guidelines suggest that the market is cautious about activities that would cause lawsuits or arrests or anything that would give them bad publicity. They want to establish themselves as a place for everyone in a community not just a club scene.

The second floor of Ponce Market

The second floor of Ponce Market

3-D Model of Ponce City Market

3-D Model of Ponce City Market

Rules/Regulations at Ponce City Market

Rules/Regulations at Ponce City Market



Desensitizing and Controlling Content in Online Environments

In her article “Better Online Living through Content Moderation”, Melissa King proposes “using content control features is not guaranteed to stop the effects of abuse, they do help and their use should not be disparaged and discouraged.”  Content control can help users that suffer from PTSD that need to “avoid topics and people that trigger their anxiety”. King brings awareness to “cultural opposition” towards suffers that are viewed as weak and overly sensitive. Online aggressors who invoke attacks, blame the victims stating they should “just deal with it”, regardless of the context or situation. King believes “Content control is helpful in limiting the worst of these attacks, which themselves can cause PTSD if severe or long-term enough.”

Melody Hensley, a feminist who claims Twitter gave her PTSD

A major argument against content control is that people over-exaggerate the “abuse and harassment they receive” and that they should be “less sensitive”. King claims these arguments create an invalid comparison to exposure therapy, “a type of therapy designed to combat severe anxiety through gradual and controlled exposure to its source, to inure an individual to these triggers and lesson the disruptions they can cause.” Opponents misinterpret “Exposure Therapy” as a means to “hurl insults and threats at someone with the hope they somehow come out more mentally durable”, King considers not only a mishap in content control discussions but also in the understanding of human psychology.

King discusses the other argument against content control, which is the belief that no real harm can come from words said online. She claims that the same “ignorance that yields metaphors to exposure therapy” fuels popular cultures idea that online harassment cannot cause PTSD. She references Caleb Lack, “a licensed clinical psychologist and psychology professor who specializes in treating anxiety disorders”, who claims ““Yes, you can ‘get’ PTSD from Twitter.”  but specifically the bullying and harassment that could lead to PTSD and PTSD symptoms not Twitter itself. Based on these claims, King concludes as fact that “long-term exposure to threatening situations, such as online harassment, is one of the major causes of PTSD”.


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. 

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”.

Class Notes 3/10/16

Things you can observe in digital environment:

  1. Arrangements
  2. Voices
  3. Words and Visuals interact/blend
  4. Perspective
  5. Space
  6. Speed/Time
  7. Editing
  8. Advertisement
  9. Accent
  10. Cadence
  11. Music/Audio
  12. Voice-over

Activity: make a list of terms from the text that might be useful in observing and analyzing digital enviornments


Gender-Neutral Bathrooms


Source: customsigns.com

In Emily Bazelon’s article “Making Bathrooms More ‘Accommodating’ ” she discusses the importance of accommodating  aspects of our society, such as public restrooms, to include marginalized groups.As the privileged majority, we do not consider how a bathroom is designed to exclude minority and disabled groups. Restrooms are available to the public as a basic human right, however our society constricts and places labels. The invasion of the opposite sex in a state of vulnerability can lead to “discomfort, or even real trouble”. In particular, transgender people are challenging social norms, “from signs to design to who gets to enter where”.

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Natural Open Spaces Enhance Learning

Source: http://www4.hku.hk/

In their article “Recognizing Campus Landscapes as Learning Spaces” Kathleen G. Scholl and Gowri Betrabet Gulwadi, “propose that the natural landscape of a university campus is an attentional learning resource for its student” (53). The risk of “attentional fatigue” is increased due to technology and campuses that lack “connected networks of indoor and open spaces” (53).  They suggest that natural open spaces should be examined for their “potential in replenishing cognitive functioning for attentional fatigued students” (53). Scholl and Gulwadi address two concepts “indirect attention and restoration” and a ” holistic landscape” (53).

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Activity #3 Key Words/Terms

  1. “Old Fourth Ward”
  2. “Gentrification of Atlanta”
  3. “Revitalization”
  4. “Beltline”
  5. “racial inequality”
  6. “white flight”
  7. “racial gerrymandering”
  8. “urban renewal”
  9. “04w”
  10. “old fourth ward” “history”
  11. “ponce city market” “discrimination”
  12. “”ponce city market” “history”
  13. “old fourth ward” “race”
  14. “old fourth ward” “segregation”
  15. “homeless”
  16. “Space”
  17. “Black gentrification”
  18. “Old Fourth Ward” “arrest”
  19. “Ponce City Market” “arrest”
  20. “Old Fourth Ward” “Murals”
  21. “Ponce City Market” “demographics”