“Rueful Reluctance:” An Unwitting Cat Owner’s Search for Meaning Among Memes

Using Media Theory to Appeal to Students With Different Learning Styles

Image Credit: Mario Tama for "Lens Blog" New York Times

“Were all instructors to realize that the quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth something hardly less than a revolution in teaching would be worked.”

― John Dewey, Democracy and Education

By Sarah Sussman

Perhaps like many of my students, it was my art and photography classes that taught me how to close read. How does one draw a chain link fence?  Slowly creating each gray line allowed me to think about the fence abstractly. Trying to photograph that same fence from different vantage points similarly changed the whole look of the fence, reinforcing that fences could be metaphors; that photos were constructed and had meaning. The time and attention to detail that art requires pairs naturally well with the kind of microcosmic thinking that close reading and analysis calls for. As instructors, we frequently bank on this dual power that visual media has: to make lessons memorable, and to help students to think about problems more abstractly.

A Prezi Toolkit

a prezi infographic demonstrating how prezi works

Image via BGC DML

By Scott Garbacz

Note for Instructors and Students: This is not a lesson plan as such, but rather a non-comprehensive “tool box” of tricks and techniques you can use to make memorable, comprehensible, and above all interesting visual presentations. I am also aiming at some basic, easy-to-implement strategies aimed at academic purposes. Click here for a primer on more elements of Prezi design. On the other hand, if you’re just wanting the very basics of Prezi, their official introduction to the service may be helpful.

Workflowy in the classroom

Workflowy screen shot 1

By Jenn Shapland

To accommodate students who learn best when things are written out, rather than spoken, I use Workflowy to bring together the usually separate processes of teaching and tracking a class: daily lesson planning, real-time note taking, logging assignments and due dates, and creating a daily archive of class schedule and discussions. In other words, I use one platform—one set of notes—to plan my class each day; to provide a written schedule of each class day’s work and assignments; to display the current day’s plan on screen during class; to take notes on screen during discussions; and to provide students (and myself) with a day-by-day record of the entire semester accessible from the course website.

Theorizing the Body

The Vitruvian Man

by Casey Sloan

We rely on images of the human body in advertising, in art, in visual arguments, and, quite simply, in navigating everyday social life. Over the years, many philosophers and theorists have grappled with questions like: What constitutes the body? Can the body think? How is the body produced? Why are some bodies more socially acceptable or desirable than others?

Walter Benjamin on photography and film

The cover of Benjamin's collection of essays, Illuminations

To wrap up our semester on viz., our staff showcases new static content we've added to our "teaching" and "visual theory" sections.  Below is my discussion of Walter Benjamin's canonical essay on photography, film, and the politics of mass media, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction."  Each day this week, we'll feature a new piece of static content on our blog.  We hope instructors, students, and persons interested in visual rhetoric will browse our archives (linked in the top bar) and find useful material for research, pedagogy, and all forms of intellectual inquiry.

Benjamin, Walter. "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." Trans. Harry Zohn. Illuminations. 1955. Ed. Hannah Arendt. Reprint ed. New York: Schocken Books, 1986. 217–52. 

By Laura Thain

In this seminal essay, originally published in French in 1936, Benjamin outlines shifts in the way art produces meaning after the advent of the photograph.  His essay takes places in fifteen parts, which explore how film is physically produced, how that production influences the way that audiences interact with film, and how those audiences reconcile film with their pre-existing value structures and beliefs.  Benjamin ultimately suggests a method of reading photography and film that accounts for both their material production and how that material production supersedes or alters prior methods of criticism.  Central to critical practice in the age of mechanical reproduction is the establishment of critical distance between audience and media form, so that the audience can resist pure enjoyment and instead ask how photography and film can help us see differently, even as they attempts to perfectly replicate the way we already perceive the world.  Writing from Paris, Benjamin, a Jewish German expatriate disturbed by the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich, explores the political implications of new, mechanized art forms in a rapidly-changing 20th century.

Bringing "Rip Van Winkle to Life," Part III

Image credit: Joseph Jefferson as Rip harryhoudinicircumstantialevidence.com

Just as there are as many interpretations of a text as there are readers, every new adaptation of a text weaves and builds a new story. Given technological constraints, the film version of "Rip Van Winkle" is necessarily short. As such, it’s important to consider the executive decisions made in paring out a new interpretation from the bones of Washington Irving’s 1819 tale. It’s also important to note that the film version was not an adaptation of Irving’s short story alone. The film was most likely created in part because of the popularity of the Jefferson stage play. The play was co-written by Joseph Jefferson and Dion Boucicault, the same Joseph Jefferson who starred in the film and worked with Laurie Dickson and American Mutoscope and Biograph Company to help to create the film.

What's Haunting Dove's Real Beauty Campaign?

Image from Dove's Real Beauty Campaign. Unconventional models of various body types, ages, and races stand, smiling, against a white background

Image Credit: People's Lab

Every image is haunted by the excluded. Every social movement is haunted by flaws. After reading Avery F. Gordon's Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination and Nivedita Menon's Recovering Subversion: Feminist Politics Beyond the Law, I became a bit haunted by the possibility of subversion. These two texts tell us that ghosts, in various forms, are absolutely everywhere, and after ruminating on their content and methodologies, I started to see ghosts, too.

Reaction Shots and Reader Response at the Purple Wedding

Image of Joffrey Baratheon on Game of Thrones, choking, with text overlaid: 'Those shoes, with that dress?'

Image Credit: Cyndicyanide

[Note: Spoilers below the cut.]

As a Game of Thrones fan, I was pretty excited to watch this last week’s episode. It’d been a while since I’d watched, and the wedding of Joffrey Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell gathered together many of the show’s beloved characters.

Developing Austin for the Future

Triangle Blueprint

(Image Credit: austinchronicle.com)

This is most likely my last post of the semester, and I thought I spend it writing about development trends in Austin. Anyone who has lived here for more than a few years should be keenly aware of just how quickly this city is changing. Even my landlord is complaining. Well, he’s not technically complaining, but as soon as he has a vacancy to fill, it’s taken, and I think part of the game has been lost for him. But I digress. One of the things about expansive growth in Austin is that it tends to not coincide with urban planning, as I noted in a previous post about the Texas Capital Building. This lack of planning can be frustrating to locals because, well…it’s not Paris. But there’s charm in the city’s architectural idiosyncrasies, and these things do give the city a sense of character. Austin’s a lot like the grimy sci-fi of the original Terminator film, especially when compared to the forensic cleanliness of Star Trek’s sci-fi. So, anyway, there’s a weird thing happening throughout Austin’s current growth spurt, in which planned communities are popping up in the middle of old non-planned neighborhoods. Two questions come to mind: Does it really matter that these communities are planned given the irregular historical zoning beauty that surrounds them? And, secondly, what’s the appeal of these antiseptic neighborhoods, when Austinites could have…well, Austin?

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