Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Eloquent Images III

Barta-Smith and DiMarco - "Same Difference: Evolving Conclusions about Textuality and New Media," 159-178
In "Same Difference," Barta-Smith and DiMarco argue for an evolutionary view of new media (precedent rich) rather than a revolutionary view (precedent creating or precedent exploding).  Beginning with "what is a visual revolution?" and concerns about discussions of new media that "suppress continuity" (161), they apply a sophisticated reading of Maurice Merlau-Ponty as a way to "celebrate imitation as combination and succession" (163).  An evolutionary frame tacks new media to certain historical trajectories (there's been visuality ever since the first eyeball!).  The article rings solidly with a developmental view (in fact, it reminded me of Emig's "The Origins of Rhetoric: A Developmental View," speaking of evolution) and there are frequent references to perspectives from cognitive science.  Visual evolution is distinct from imitation (which emphasizes the causality connecting visual assimilation to sensorimotor activity) in that it recombines and leads to "structural integration" (173) and reorganizes existing cognitive patterns.  Theirs is a nuanced argument, and it's interesting to me because I haven't read much about on new media and cognitive science. 

Briefly, there is one small thing about this article that didn't work for me.  Merlau-Ponty's critique of Piaget is accepted but never really opened up.  Where does Piaget get it wrong exactly (tertiary circular reactions?)?  It's difficult to say, and the article doesn't refer directly to Piaget, only to MP.  I don't know whether the standard applies, but I was surprised to find Piaget invoked without really being explored first-hand in the imitation and perception discussion.  Oh...I should go read Merlau-Ponty?  Right. That would only be fair.

So if we accept visual evolution over visual revolution, what does it mean?  Barta-Smith and DiMarco write that we need to: "Accept the continuity among oral, print and visual media and search for it," and "Create and user-test new forms of writing in real contexts" (175).  I wonder, though, if the contested frame (evolution v. revolution) substantively impacts how we practice new media. 

"Meaning presents itself even without words.  To this way of thinking, the best innovations in writing and new media will value existing forms, coordinating them into new arrangements rather than celebrating their demise" (176).
"Likewise, we may find that the most revolutionary ideas about writing and new media emerge as mixtures of existing text, voice, and image, that is, as evolving combinations rather than definitive conclusions about textuality and new media" (175).   

Keywords: imitation (167), visual, new media, evolution, revolution
Figures: Ong, Piaget, Merlau-Ponty, Tebeaux, Ann Russon

Wiley - "Cognitive and Educational Implications of Visually Rich Media: Images and Imagination," 201-215
Coming from an educational psychology perspective, Wiley undertakes what we might call a cost and benefit analysis of images in text.  Do images help or hinder learning?  According to Wiley, cognitive science research on this issue is conflicted, demonstrating that images may either help understanding in some instances and hinder it in other situations. The chapter's purpose: "examine the educational implications of visual adjuncts and how they may affect the processing of conceptual information and therefore, the transmittal of knowledge within particular subject matter areas" (201-202).  On the upside, images may be more efficient (quicker to scan for meaning) and memorable (visualizations as mnemonic devices), and they can serve conceptual modeling (204).  On the downside, they can minimize reading engagement, substituting "intimacy and intensity" with superficiality (207), and they can act as "seductive details" (206) that recruit attention away from substantive meaning and "actually prevent readers from developing understanding" (208).   Notably, one of the anti-images sources is S. Jay Samuels, dated 1970. 

"Hence, figures, graphs, or flowcharts that may enable the reader to think about abstract concepts through images may allow for the creation of more complete situation models and as a consequence may in fact improve comprehension of text, as the studies of Darrell Butler (1993) and William Winn (1988) have demonstrated" (205).
"Visual adjuncts can serve an important role in clarifying and providing vivid examples of evidence and in exciting the reader about a topic, perhaps even in providing an aesthetic or persuasive experience, but the images and animations themselves can hardly stand along in terms of subject matter learning" (212). 

Keywords: seductive details (206), emotionally interesting adjuncts (210), joy of discovery (212)

This is my last entry on Eloquent Images for a while (sorry...I know you wanted me to take the series even higher, but the trifecta has got to be good enough for now).  For the independent study, I'm moving on to Lanham followed by Bolter and Grusin.  In method~ologies, Durst's Collision Course tomorrow (students as reflective pragmatists, give 'em what they want)...in 307, c. 5 in The Cluetrain Manifesto, and Thursday, I'm stepping to the mic for a lunchtime talk about Why Blog.  It starts, "Blog because...."  Gonna be great. 

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