"Impossibly Distinct: On Form/Content and Word/Image in Two Pieces
of Computer-based Interactive Media." Computers and Composition
18 (2001) 137-162.
"Impossibly Distinct" counters the commonplaces of the form/content,
information/design, and word/image dichotomies. By reading (phenomenologically,
rather than closely) two CD-ROMs on Matisse, Wysocki
suggests that we have a "need for exploring new concepts and terms for
the thick rich mix of visual potentials on screen" (161). Ultimately, this
formulation pushes us to think about how visual elements or aspects of texts
make those texts work in particular ways. Wysocki eventually articulates a
clear preference for the Maeght CD (self-conscious) over the Barnes CD
(hierarchical). Because the two pieces are visually distinctive, she works
through an analysis of how assertions are differently designed into each
piece across discursive and non-discursive aspects. That is, the
assertions can’t be reduced to words without sacrificing the evocative
dimensions of the experience.
Wysocki’s call for "new concepts and terms" is left open at the end.
How has this been resolved? Or, rather, are form/content, information/design,
and word/image dichotomies still largely uninterrogated?
Key Terms: phenomenological approach (140), new categories (138), push and
pull (142), spatial-visual structure (147), temporal structure (147), hierarcy
(156), designing multimedia (156), words as conceptual lexical units (159).
"I want to begin to indicate what our teachings about the visual
elements of texts (what our teaching about composition in general) perhaps
should expand to include" (138).
"That is, I will be arguing in the next pages, if we hold to the notion of
content suggested by the citations which I opened my writing–if we understand
content as words and understand visual presentation as theme or emotion or
useful only as pointers to our supporting information–then we remain unable to
see or explain what is asserted in the visual compositions I am about to
"The differences between the visual presentations of these CDs are not
then simply of form or theme or emotion or assistance to memory (the
possible functions of the visual named or implied by the texts I quoted on my
first page); the differences between the visual presentations of these CDs are
differences of assertion and thought" (152).
"To conceptualize the Maeght CD, I have to move through it, to figure our
what those little buttons do and to construct my own sense of the piece’s
structure" (156). ^Schematics.
"This indicates to me that our teaching about the visual aspects of texts
shouldn’t be just about teaching people in our classes how to use the visual as
theme or as first impression or as a guide to information; we need also, I
believe, to be teaching how the visual structures of a text are, in addition to
being assertions about artists and art collectors (for example), also assertions
about what kind of readers we should be" (159).
"I do not have terms to offer here, but I do not think the split between
information and design gets at how strategies of visual composition contribute
to the relationship we develop with what we offer each other on screen. Finally,
the relationship among the kinds of visual elements and arrangements I listed
above are not ones where the visual needs support by the words: not only are the
words of these CDs (as of any Web page or paper page) always visual elements,
but the assertions of these CDs cannot even be found primarily in ‘words‘"
- Related sources:
- Aarseth, Espen. Cybertext. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1997.
- Elkins, James. The Domain of Images. Ithaca: Cornell, 1999.
- Leppert, Richard. Art and the Committed Eye. Boulder, CO: Westview,