Department of Rhetoric and Writing

The University of Texas at Austin

Visualizing time

Visualizing Time: sequence image

Here’s a great collection of freehand drawings where the artists were asked to visualize time. The individual images are usually witty statements about their authors’ views of time. Read more about Visualizing time

Black sheep and propaganda

An election poster reading

This poster is a political advertisement for the SVP (in English, the "Swiss People's Party"), a far-right political party in Switzerland that has made anti-immigration policies a centerpiece of its campaign in an upcoming election. The posters have been controversial: the tagline reads "to create security," and the image depicts three white sheep booting the black sheep from the swiss flag, presumably symbolic of Swiss territory.

Functional architecture

Stata Center, MIT. Gehry & Partners The Morgan Library and Museum exterior. Renzo Piano Building Workshop


Slate has posted a slide show featuring functional architecture, emphasizing the function and versatility of buildings over Gehry-esque flashiness. This article from Good Magazine makes a similar point.

Mustache blog

I’ve spent the past hour trying to think of an educational or theoretical reason for posting this link, but I can’t come up with anything. Here it is anyway.

image from Mustaches of the Nineteenth Century

Speak, image

Abortion as the Grim Reaper (the culture wars by way of Bergman)


Manohla Dargis just published her NYT review of Lake of Fire, a new documentary directed by Tony Kaye about the "abortion wars" in the U.S. (Kaye is probably most famous as the director of American History X.) Apparently, Kaye has been making this film for over sixteen years, and the duration of his effort may show in the length of the film, which clocks in at 152 minutes.

Read more about Speak, image

Swastika barracks

US navy's Coronado base barracks


The image above was taken from Google Earth and shows the barracks at the U.S. Naval base in Corronado, California. Aparently the buildings are lovely from the ground, but from the air they’re, uh, offensive. The Navy is planning to spend “$600,000 for landscaping and architectural modifications” to alter the way the barracks look from the air. What I find interesting about this story is that Google Earth “created” this problem for the Navy. The technology literally allowed people to see this symbol. It reminded me of this passage from Jorge Luis Borges’s “The Aleph”:

Digital forensics

The New York Times has posted an interviewwith Dartmouth’s Hany Farid, the creator of “digital forensics.” Here’s how Dr. Farid describes the field:

It’s a new field. It didn’t exist five years ago. We look at digital media—images, audio and video—and we try to ascertain whether or not they’ve been manipulated. We use mathematical and computational techniques to detect alterations in them.
Doctored Star magazine cover of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie
In society today, we’re now seeing doctored images regularly. If tabloids can’t obtain a photo of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie walking together on a beach, they’ll make up a composite from two pictures. Star actually did that. And it’s happening in the courts, politics and scientific journals, too. As a result, we now live in an age when the once-held belief that photographs were the definitive record of events is gone. Actually, photographic forgeries aren’t new. People have doctored images since the beginning of photography. But the techniques needed to do that during the Civil War, when Mathew Brady made composites, were extremely difficult and time consuming. In today’s world, anyone with a digital camera, a PC, Photoshop and an hour’s worth of time can make fairly compelling digital forgeries.

Dr. Farid makes some other interesting claims as well. Since 1990, the percentage of fraud cases involving photos has risen from 3 percent to 44.1 percent. While the majority of the interview focuses on digital manipulation in scientific research, clearly photographic forgery is becoming a significant problem in all areas of society.

Scientific Imaging & Looking Inside a Knee

Over the summer I was unfortunate enough to require a reconstruction of my Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). As I was wheeled out of the clinic in an anaesthetic haze, my doctor handed me a series of photos not unlike the ones below. Endoscopic Images of Knee Interior

Scientists investigate paintings for clues about volcano eruptions

The Fighting Téméraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken by J. M. W. Turner, 1838


On the heels of yesterday’s post about the art (and absolute fidelity to reality) of scientific photographs, this story from The Guardiandescribes how scientists from the National Observatory of Athens are investigating sunset paintings “to work out the amount of natural pollution spewed into the skies by [volcanic] eruptions such as Mount Krakatoa in 1883.” Apparently the method has some validity:

They used a computer to work out the relative amounts of red and green in each picture, along the horizon. Sunlight scattered by airborne particles appears more red than green, so the reddest sunsets indicate the dirtiest skies. The researchers found most pictures with the highest red/green ratios were painted in the three years following a documented eruption.

via Boing Boing

Microscopic photography at the Micropolitan Museum

A cross section of a Leaf of Prunus Laurocerasus, Common Cherry laurel

Those of you interested in the rhetoric of science should enjoy The Micropolitan Museum of Microscopic Art Forms, which is supported by the fantastically-named Institute for the Promotion of the Less than One Millimeter. The site boasts some beautiful imagery which, along with the accompanying text, should be able to spark some fantastic discussions about the relationship of visuals and scientific knowledge.


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