Envision: Persuasive Writing in a Visual World
Length: 2460 words (7 double-spaced pages)
Envision: Persuasive Writing in a Visual World, is most certainly a book that more than lives up to its title. Envision is basically a book that covers both persuasive writing strategies, as well as the use of visual rhetoric. Other topics covered by the Envision book include developing research questions and ideas, finding research sources, working in collaborative groups, and other writing topics. It is a how to manual... how to become a more developed and more disciplined writer. Envision teaches topics and ideas that probably were not covered in your typical high school English writing class.
All in all, the techniques featured in Envision seem to require a great deal of focus and planning. That's rarely how I write. I prefer to write in a much less structured way. I honestly do not know if I will use the concepts in Envision when it comes to the future. If I ever take a writing class again, then I most definitely will brush up on Envision. However, if I never take another writing class, then Envision may end up shuffled away on my bookshelf.
One of our assignments for our college English 015 class was to complete a semi-weekly log of our thought and feelings on specific chapters pertaining to Envision. That was a certainly a challenge at times. Envision is a solid book in its own right. However, it is sometimes difficult to have personal thoughts and feelings towards such a technical writing, and Envision is a technical manual. However, I certainly tried my best in submitting well thought out reading logs, every week that they were due in class.
Fortunately, my professor gave the entire class some creative control in what we could write about in our weekly Envision reading logs. Our thoughts could be no-holds-barred. As a result, some spelling errors and crude language were featured in many of my logs. I do not intend to offend any readers out there, so I offer a fair warning. But if you seek to delve into my mind, then you do so on my terms, and my mind is often not a pretty place to be. While my logs aren't exactly prim and proper, it cannot be argued that I held back any honest feelings towards my assignments.
Many of the subjects that I read about in this book were later applied towards my English projects, which can also be viewed on this website.
My logs are also not a summary of the chapters, as my professor specifically instructed the class to not write a summary. Therefore, if my logs appear to be a bit out of context for a general internet audience, then it is by design.
Chapter 1: Introducing Visual Rhetoric
Reading the visual rhetoric chapter made me think to an extent. It certainly isn't a new concept to anyone how visuals can subtly fit hand-in-hand with the written word, but still, it was interesting to see some thoughts I've had myself on these matters fleshed out for me, and catagorized.
It even made me look at the cover of the book again. The word ENVISION, with pictures of a city, Uncle Sam, and a black person next to the word. The word ENVISION changed the meaning of the pictures to me. Instead of a city, I envisioned commerce. Instead of Uncle Sam, I envisioned a "big brother" mentality. And instead of a black person , I envisioned racial harmony.
It also made me think about logos and the like. I remember seeing a logo for a bank. West Milton bank, and the logo was a "WM" slanted from left to right. My friend, an advertising art student, told me at the time that the slant created a flow that encouraged the reader to read the logo, and that it was aesthetically pleasing on a subconcious level. After reading the chapter, I wondered if this would fall into visual rhetoric. I believe so.
I've got to admit, I don't (automatically) think of pictures as (part of)
writing, per se. It seems to me that it falls more into the category of art
(not that writing itself isn't an art, but let's not split hairs here).
Humans are creatures with odd priorities. Imagine two lines intersecting, making 4 right angles. A crucifix. An ancient Roman might view it no more than a device which to use as a means to a slow painful death, and to proudly display the body of a fallen enemy. But once Christ enters into the equation, the cross becomes a symbol. Wars are fought over it, and countless numbers die in the name of it. Later it becomes jewelery, or something to burn in a black person's yard. It becomes something to kneel before and pray to, or it becomes something to mass produce in Korea by sweatshop workers. And yet all it's really meant to do is be a device for execution.
This rambling has a point. Sometimes the message gets twisted by who the
audience is. But visuals are somewhat universal. They can convey messages that transcend language barriers, and that's why they can be important.
Still, I'd prefer not to think about it. Sometimes you don't want the magician to explain the trick. I'd rather be entertained, rather than overthink a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. If someone (outside of class) asked me what the rhetorical function of a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip was, I'd probably reply that I don't give a shit what it is. This chapter, to me, has all the inconsideration that Siskel and Ebert had when they gave away the ending to "the Crying Game." Also, when I think of the phrase "a picture's worth a thousand words" then I think of that gawd-awful song by Bread. Man, they sucked. This is all besides the point though, but I'm supposed to write what I feel.
I feel that this discipline, however, has its place. In this ever increasingly
media literate society, it pays ( for those in the media) to have new concepts that are both aesthetically pleasing, as well as deliver covert messages or imagery. People are now better at weeding out useless information, and are much more savvy than even a few years ago.
P.S. This chapter came off to me as an intellectual snob. It dropped a lot of
names that I am not familiar with, and it didn't bother to explain who some of these people or what some of these works actually were. Also, on page 24, in the first paragraph, it mentions "the curcial elements of analytical writing." Curcial? Honestly, has anyone used the word "curcial," let alone know what it means? I certainly don't, and I'll admit it. I hate it when authors use obscure words like that in order to inflate their own ego. Why not write words we actually understand for once?
Chapter 2: Understanding the Strategies of Persuasion
Personally, I'm wondering what these visual concepts have to do with English language in particular. It seems to me that they could be used other languages as well. I suppose this class isn't quite what I thought that it would be. I thought that this would be a writing class, and this book we're reading seems more suited towards a graphic arts class or something.
Anyway, I was already familiar with a lot of these concepts. Last semester I took a course called Symbolic Logic (which is a really easy math credit, to anyone who is interested). It's not easy to explain the course, but it did take a look at the mechanics of arguements. I learned many of the specific fallacies of logic and appeals to logic/emotion/authority mentioned in chapter two, so much of this stuff wasn't quite new to me. So it's hard for me to offer up a fresh personal opinion on the reading since most of it isn't new. However, I think that learning concepts like this can both make you more manipulative, and harder to manipulate. On that level, it's empowering. Most people enjoy being right and proving other people wrong. These concepts have bigger applications than just for advertising. I also took another class called Mass Media and Communications, where every day the professor would literally state that "media is killing us." At any rate, it forced me to look skeptically at media and advertising (although I unabashedly love trashy TV shows).
To a degree, I resented having to read about advertising. I view advertising in this country as becoming very invasive (pop up ads, telemarketers), and I think on some level most people already know that advertising tries to make manipulative appeals to people's fears/greed.
It's a bit dark and appalling to me. How advertising is so abundant that there are basic required classes taught that deal with learning the subtle nuances of advertising. To me, every dollar spent on advertising is a dollar that could be spent on education, medical research, feeding the hungry, ect. However, if the money was right, I'd do it for a living in a heartbeat.
Oh, and I was also interested in learning that the word logos meant something other than symbols associated with products, and that an ethical appeal doesn't automatically require the use of ethics. Made me think about the origins of words for a little bit.
One thing that I thought about was how advertisers try to "sell" something to you other than a product. The Mormon church seems to advertise a lot on the national level, and while more members means more donations, I think the main goal is to "sell" people the concept of God. Pro Life groups advertise about life being the beautiful choice. And while there is a lot of money in the NRA and gun lobbies, many of those people just like guns, and it's less about money and more about protecting rights. Advertising isn't always primarily motivated by money.
Chapter 3: Analyzing Perspectives in Argument
As far as Envision, the chapter dealt a lot with photographs and angles and
such. I found it somewhat enlightening, and it makes me question whether or not certain pictures I see have some hidden message or motive. I doubt I'll bear this much thought though. I wouldn't want to put that type of analytical energy into simply viewing every picture I see. I know, that's a pretty lazy attitude, but seriously, I'm honest.
The chapter brought up some interesting ethical questions as well. In my
opinion, if you're portraying a news story, then you simply should not doctor photographs. People want truth from the news, and if the public finds out that the truth is manufactured, then the fallout is great indeed. One only has to look at CBS Evening News, The New York Times, or Dateline NBC to see how lies, intentional or accidental, can severely damage credibility. So the same logic should apply.
Chapter 4: Planning and Proposing Research Arguments
First of all, I really dig war propaganda posters. The mp3 communism spoof is actually the same picture I use as my computer's desktop picture.
A great deal of these posters I'd already seen before, as my high school social studies teacher had them hanging in his classroom. Look at the pictures of John Bull and Uncle Sam. They're designed to appear as if they're pointing at you from any angle. It gets your attention.
Okay, as for the content of this chapter, well, it had a lot of solid advice.
However, it seemed a little too drawn out. I don't think I'm going to ever use prewrites, freewrites, webbing, proposals, or any of that other stuff. For me it's just pick a topic, research it, and write about it until it looks good. That works for me, and I suspect that's how most students write.
The advice regarding topics is to choose one that interests you. But I feel
that a good writer can write about topics that absolutely bore him or her. So I prefer to pick topics that are easy to research, and hopefully are compelling enough to my professor. Why pick something that interests you if you run the risk of not being able to adequately research it? And what about the professor? Just because you're interested in something, that doesn't mean your professor will share that interest. You've got to think about holding your reader's attention, and sometimes that means writing what they want to read, and not what you want to write. Case in point, I've learned that my professor dislikes my use of the "you" tense. Since this is an informal writing, then I'm safe writing the word you. But you can be damn sure once my research paper gets handed in, I won't be writing in the style I want to write in. I think that the book should have more on things like that, as it seems pretty practical thinking to me.
For this reading log, the final reading log of the semester, chapter 5 of
Envision was the assignment. This chapter dealt with research, specifically finding and evaluating sources.
The book mentioned the "Iceberg of Research." To me, this signifies that there are so many different sources out there, that there are simply too many for a person to have a specific order of what to look for.
I think that at the rate things are going, all we'll need in order to find
sources is an internet search engine. Truly, that's all I use if I can help it.
The key is to find credible sources, and not some crappy Anglefire or Geocities site. I try to use government, scientific, medical, and other credible sites whenever possible.
As the book also mentions, the internet can be helpful in locating texts. I've
used the internet in the past for such reasons. I was amazed to walk into a
public library for the first time in probably a decade, and find that there was no card catalogue. The old, bulky card catalogue drawers now have computers on top of them, with access to listings of all the books, as well as the internet.
The book talked about field research. Most of the papers I have written
discourage field research. In fact, my use of field research actually lowered
my grade on my last paper. So as far as this class goes, perhaps field research should not be used. I'll never do it again in this class, if given the choice.
Anyway, this book went into great detail when it comes to different types of sources. I don't think I put nearly as much thought into it. Just a search
engine and a few key words, and I take it from there.