Thanks to the hard work and creativity of instructors in the Computer Writing and Research Lab here at UT, we at viz. have been able to expand and update the assignments section of our site with a number of new classroom activities oriented around visual rhetoric and culture. If you are looking for new ways to include multimedia, visual, and digital environments in the classroom, or for ways to encourage students to produce multimedia projects of their own, please take a look at the new offerings. First-timers and veterans alike will find a number of great projects.
In the coming weeks, we hope to add a few more assignments to the pages, and to that end, we encourage assignment submissions by viz. readers. Have a successful assignment or classroom activity on visual rhetoric and culture that you'd like to share with the world? Please use the contact page to get in touch with our editors. Pending review, your assignment would be posted, with attribution, for other viz. readers to adopt and adapt for their own classes.
We would also be interested in hearing about successful tweaks to existing viz. assignments, many of which are designed as templates for implementation in more specific classroom contexts. For example, our friends over at www.auburnmedia.com found a way to tweak the Comparison and Rhetorical Analysis assignment by pairing it with a video about the developing world called "The Other Side of the Coin is Rusting."
Submitted by micklethwait on Mon, 2009-03-23 10:32
Maybe it's trite to bring up the new Facebook layout, but the current stink about the second major redesign of the site in less than a year exposes a frightening level of mass narcissism in the evolution of graphic design. For just a random sampling of news articles and blog postings on this topic, just look here, and here, and here (Facebook's own poll of user reactions).
FlowingData is a site that "explores how designers, statisticians, and computer scientists are using data to understand ourselves better - mainly through data visualization. Money spent, reps at the gym, time you waste, and personal information you enter online are all forms of data. How can we understand these data flows? Data visualization lets non-experts make sense of it all." To my knowledge, the site hasn't been linked on viz. before--but I think it's something our readers would really like (but then, they probably already know about it).
There is a lot of noise in the press today about the unveiling of a portrait that is now believed to be of William Shakespeare (see here, here, here, here, or here). The painting is believed to be the original source for the only two surviving likenesses of Shakespeare from his era, both of which were produced in the decade after his death. This painting, inherited by the descendants of the playwright's patron, is believed to have been painted in Shakespeare's lifetime. Image credit: AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis
There is no definitive proof to show that the painting is unquestionably of Shakespeare. The evidence includes its association with the family of Shakespeare's patron, its supposed resemblance to existing portraits, and the results of "scientific testing" and the nebulous testimony of "experts" who are quoted as being "90% certain" that this is a portrait of Shakespeare. The articles also rely heavily on the ethos of Stanley Wells, noted Shakespearean scholar and chair of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. (But as one of the commentators on the NYT blog entry notes, Wells is responsible for the inclusion of Edward III in the Oxford Shakespeare, a decision that has been met with considerable skepticism among Shakespeare scholars.)
I wouldn't exactly say that I'm skeptical of the claim that this is a portrait of Shakespeare. But I am interested in the extent to which the reception of the portrait is shaped by everyone's apparent desire for this to be a portrait of Shakespeare. In the absence of definitive proof either way, everyone seems to have decided that it's simply more exciting to assume that it is than to be circumspect about whether it could be. Further, it's interesting to consider how the particular details of this story brings to life many of the fantasies of Shakespeare biography and criticism. The longstanding desire to discover Shakespeare's "lost" works--an event that would establish the critic as a celebrity of some standing among Shakespeareans--is often imagined as peeling an old playtext off the back of an abandoned painting in a dusty antique shop. In this case, life imitates art (or fantasy).
UPDATE: Today there is a wonderful little item on the painting in the NYT, with the following question:
We somehow want the young Shakespeare to look like Joseph Fiennes, fiery and slashing. But what if he looked like Ricky Gervais? Would the plays mean less to us?
It hardly ever happens this way. I get a DVD in the mail. I'm told it's an animated film directed by "a girl from Urbana." That's my home town. It is titled "Sita Sings the Blues." I know nothing about it, and the plot description on IMDb is not exactly a barn-burner: An animated version of the epic Indian tale of Ramayana set to the 1920's jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. Uh, huh. I carefully file it with other movies I will watch when they introduce the 8-day week.
After Ebert decides to watch it he writes:
I am enchanted. I am swept away. I am smiling from one end of the film to the other. It is astonishingly original. It brings together four entirely separate elements and combines them into a great whimsical chord. You might think my attention would flag while watching An animated version of the epic Indian tale of Ramayana set to the 1920's jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. Quite the opposite. It quickens. I obtain Nina Paley's e-mail address and invite the film to my film festival in April 2009 at the University of Illinois, which by perfect synchronicity is in our home town.
To get any film made is a miracle. To conceive of a film like this is a greater miracle. How did Paley's mind work? She begins with the story of Ramayana, which is known to every school child in India but not to me. It tells the story of a brave, noble woman who was made to suffer because of the perfidy of a spineless husband and his mother. This is a story known to every school child in America. They learn it at their mother's knee. Paley depicts the story with exuberant drawings in bright colors. It is about a prince named Rama who treated Sita shamefully, although she loved him and was faithful to him.
Despite rave reviews like this one,--and winning a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival--Paley’s film has remained unavailable to most people because she was unable to clear the rights to the songs she used in the film, and the cost securing those rights scared off most distributors. Fortunately, some of these issues have been resolved, and the film is now being released to a wider audience.
Submitted by Nate Kreuter on Wed, 2009-03-04 11:50
I am a desperately addicted fly fisherman, (click here to see my favorite fly fishing blog, Sexyloops) and I recently took note of the pornographic qualities of a genre of angling pictures. In an era of catch-and-release fishing it's customary for fishermen and fisherwomen to pose for impressive shots with their catches before returning their catch (hopefully) safely to the water. Consider this typical example:
First spotted at boingboing, the Lane Medical Archive at Stanford University has posted some mystery photos to Flickr hoping someone out there might be able to provide some context. Although I love the idea of harnessing the power of the Internet to enrich the context of the archive, they may not get what they were looking for: one of the first commenters reaches for snark, the official language of the web:
I may be a layman but it appears these people are examining X-Rays of a patient's abdomen. If this information was helpful I may be able to speculate further as to the color of their lab coats and the genders of the people shown.
Image credit: boingboing via Flickr via Lane Medical Archive, Stanford University (copyright holder)
Hardworking Assistant Directors in the CWRL have posted videos of this year's lecture and workshop series to Vimeo.com, including this presentation on using Google Maps in the classroom. You can subscribe to the "CWRL Lecture Series" channel and the "CWRL Workshops" channel to see future updates.
Submitted by micklethwait on Mon, 2009-03-02 11:54
The March 9, 2009, issue of Newsweek Magazine inadvertently draws attention to a pathic characteristic of graphic design: the capacity of visual images to create emotional appeals.
The design of this magazine cover uses color--the pure green background--to evoke the political flags of nations like Libya and Saudi Arabia and political parties like Hamas. The surprising thing is the text itself. The Arabic script here, though meaningful in itself to those who can read it, is reduced to a simply visual signifier as its 'literal' meaning to the readers of Newsweek is made parenthetical. The Arabic text here seems geared solely toward evoking fear and apprehension in the non-Arabic speaking audience.
However, I would certainly praise Newsweek for their decision to avoid the stereotypical images that have become iconic of radical Islam in Western media (chanting crowds, burning flags and effigies, suicide bomb vests, 'Quranic' calligraphy, etc.) in favor of a simple textual presentation.
But why the seemingly gratuitous use of the Arabic script?
The article in question is available to read online.