Department of Rhetoric and Writing

The University of Texas at Austin

Visual analysis of the Strait of Hormuz incident

Lucaites at No Caption Needed has posted an interesting analysis of the recent dustup between the U.S. and Iran in the Strait of Hormuz. According to Lucaites, the argument that the Bush administration has tried to make about the incident through the images—photos and video—released by the U.S., “relies upon two optics or visual logics, one drawing upon a Cold War consciousness and the other drawing upon the logic of the ‘suicide bomber.’ ”

Elections and Visual Conventions

The Iowa Caucuses have come and gone, and as we prepare for New Hampshire and the remainder, we have some time to reflect on the visual dynamics of television news coverage of elections. Red and Blue states once had their debut to a national audience, and perhaps we’re on the threshold of a new visual convention.

Screenshot of Anderson Cooper's show, featuring magical 3-D pie chart


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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 week the 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. Read more about Display on Display

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

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.) Read more about Website documents lascivious Fox News content


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