Hocks, Mary. “Understanding Visual Rhetoric in Digital Writing Environments,” College Composition and Communication 54.4 (2003): pp. 629-656.


Hocks discusses two major topics in her article. The first thing she defines 3 key terms using two hypertexts, composed by Anne Wysocki and Christine Boese. She also discusses how these 3 terms are elements of work produced by students. She has a few major points she makes, but her main point is that visual rhetoric is a “transformative process of design” (645). Her other points include using a digital writing environment can help us become newly aware of classic principles of rhetoric but also help us to develop a new way of teaching writing as design.

The three terms she discusses are audience stance, transparency, and hybridity. She uses these words throughout her article to discuss these two hypertexts. She defines audience stance as the interaction of the audience the online piece of writing, it includes the Aristotelian principle of ethos. The author of the online document can invite or reject audience interaction. Transparency refers to the way in which the online writing resembles culturally familiar scenes with their own convention. These include print, graphic, design, film and web pages. Hybridity refers to the ways online writing mingles visual and verbal elements in its overall presentation. Hocks does an analysis of how these terms can be seen in the two hypertexts. She discusses how Wysocki’s essay helps grasp the histories of design. She also discusses how in Christine Boese essay displays the three aspects of digital media. She continues to compare both articles based on the three aspects of digital media. She discusses that in order to teach visual digital rhetoric students need to know how to use multimodality and also need to use technology to produce this new knowledge. She shows that audiences can and do contribute to the meaning of a text of a digital document in the “heterogeneous medium” (633). The limiting factors to the audience’s exercise of agency are how much the audience requires the “linearity of traditional logic” and how much the audience needs to see other familiar conventions from already well-established mediums like print. She analyzes a website on the theatre performance of colorblind casting produced by Spelman College. Hocks stated that the students recognized that by putting their work on the web, they were “creating new knowledge for a real audience” (650).

Hocks’ article defines and discusses audience stance, transparency, and hybridity. She gives many examples and heavily relies on other articles to prove her points. She discusses two articles and uses them to show how those articles used the three digital media aspects and also compares these articles to help us better understand these concepts.