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).

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”.


Gender-Neutral Bathrooms


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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

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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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Subliminal Exclusion: Discrimination Through the Built Environment

In Sarah Schindler’s article “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment” she discusses how people of color and poor people are disadvantaged due to restricted built environments. The first part of her article defines “architectural exclusion” as “man- made physical features that make it difficult for certain individuals…to access certain places” (1934).


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Margret Morton’s Underground Photography: The Bridge Between Life and Art

In “Tapestry of Space: Domestic Architecture and Underground communities in Margaret Morton’s Photography of a Forgotten New York” Nersessova discusses how Morton’s work displays the human’s connection to space and self-representational architecture.  To begin her analysis she mentions twentieth century Marxist ideals created by the Situationist International. Morton showed principles that were against capitalism and mainstream society or Continue reading