Department of Rhetoric and Writing

The University of Texas at Austin

The Face(book) of Campus Violence

If you hadn’t heard, two Penn State students dressed up for Halloween as victims of the Virginia Tech campus shooting. These pictures popped up on facebook, and last weekthe mainstream media caught the story. This week, Northern Illinois University rescheduled the first day of final examinations after a threat was found scrawled in a dorm bathroom. These two events are linked, not merely because the NIU threat made reference to the Virginia Tech shooting, but because both events, and the Virginia Tech tragedy along with them, are funded by individuals’ odd attachment to a kind of transgressive iconic visual performance.

Police should use caricatures to identify criminals

caricature of Arnold Schwarzenegger by Glenn Ferguson


The Guardian is reporting that a study by Charlie Frowd, Vicki Bruce, David Ross, Alex McIntyre, and Peter J. B. Hancock at the University of Central Lancashire published in Visual Cognition found that subjects were able to identify a caricature of a person’s face 40% of the time, but could only identify the same face in a police sketch 20% of the time. via Boing Boing

History of children’s literature illustration

Slate has posted a slideshow on the history of the illustration of American children’s books. The slides are based on Timothy G. Young’s book, Drawn To Enchant, which explains how images for children went from orderly scenes of proper behavior, like this one by Justin H. Howard for Doings of the Alphabet (excluding, of course, the bratty mischief-makers in the background):

illustration by Justin H. Howard for Doings of the Alphabet, published in 1869

to the madcap drawings of Maurice Sendak:

illustration by Maurice Sendak for Where the Wild Things Are, published in 1963


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Display on Display

This video does a great job explaining the economics of display at play in contemporary advertising. While visual communication research does a nice job reading visual content, sometimes we tend to overlook the basic necessity of surfaces of display that anchor visual communication in particular spaces. To that end, the video also might serve as a nice way to introduce questions of visuality that may be prior to an image’s content.

Analysis of political campaign posters

The New York Times has posted a slideshow by Ward Sutton, “Reading Tea Leaves and Campaign Logos,” analyzing the posters and bumper stickers of presidential candidates.

analysis of Bush/Cheney campaign bumper sticker

Rambo has a posse

I hope Shepherd Fairey is getting a check out of this:

Shepherd Fairey-style Rambo poster Read more about Rambo has a posse

Miss Landmine Angola


Miss Landmine Angolais an art project by Morten Traavik designed to raise awareness for Angolan landmine survivors. Here’s the Miss Landmine Manifesto:

* Female pride and empowerment. * Disabled pride and empowerment. * Global and local landmine awareness and information. * Challenge inferiority and/or guilt complexes that hinder creativity-historical, cultural, social, personal, African, European. * Question established concepts of physical perfection. * Challenge old and ingrown concepts of cultural cooperation. * Celebrate true beauty. * Replace the passive term ‘Victim’ with the active term ‘Survivor’ And have a good time for all involved while doing so!

The project is complicated, seeing as it is based on the controversial beauty-contest model, but it might serve as a useful classroom example for talking about the body and the ways it can be represented. via: Boing Boing

Website documents lascivious Fox News content

Fox News Porn collects racy images and videos culled from Fox News and dresses them up on a pseudo-porn site with Girls-Gone-Wild-type disclaimers. (Be advised: the link above and parts of this post are probably not okay for work.)

Slippery Images

Edmonton Swastikas, 1916

Paul Lukas, who runs a weblog called Uni Watch (the obsessive study of athletics aesthetics), has an entry up on the swastika and uniforms from the early 1900s. This picture shows the Edmonton Swastikas from 1916. Lukas details the popularity of the swastika graphic prior to its ignominious use by the Nazi party. Lukas’ piece is interesting for a variety of reasons (including some nice images and a link to a “Canadian artist/mystic” devoted to rescuing the swastika from its association with the Nazis), but it got me thinking about the ease with which images become iconic (at times unintentionally or at cross purposes with an image’s original meaning) and the kinds of control this easy iconicity demands in visual practice.

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