Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Wysocki, "Awaywithwords"

Wysocki, Anne F. "Awaywithwords: On the Possibilities in Unavailable Designs." Computers and Composition 22 (2005) 55-62.

In this brief article, Wysocki complicates the dichotomy between image and word, a division reinforced in the work of Kress, who partitions words and their "temporal and sequential logic" from "image-presentations" and their "spatial and simultaneous logic" (56). Because alphabetic text is arranged, it calls "visual attention to itself" (58) and because visually designed objects are constituted with temporal strategies, we must recognize the material constraints that bear on any composition. That is, we should always try to recognize that which is taken to be natural, while detailing the social and historical constraints involved in any design. Finally, rather than asking what is lost, Wysocki focuses on a more constructive angle: what is possible?

^Vocabulary persists as a problem here. Likening image and word is useful from a design perspective, but how can we qualify our use of those terms without reinscribing the dichotomy?

Key terms: embodied worlds (57), spatial memory (57), naturalized, unquestioned practice (57), Kress' image-representations (57), image and logics of space (58), real affordances (60), perceived affordances (60), NLG's unavailable designs (60).

"The lesson is that things can be put to many uses, often neither just nor humane" (55).

"I have learned in the process of developing communications that it is always worth asking how our materials have acquired the constraints they have and hence why, often, certain materials and designs are not considered available for certain uses" (56).

"Did you read my title as "a way with words" or "away with words"?" (56).

"That is why, then, I wish to question what becomes unavailable when we think of word and image as Kress has suggested we do, as bound logically and respectively with time and with space" (56).

"If we are to help people in our classes learn how to compose texts that function as they hope, they need consider how they use the spaces and not just one time that can be shaped on pages" (57).

"Instead, we should acknowledge that when we work with what is on pages or other surfaces, alphabetic text is always part of what must be visually arranged and can be designed to call more or less visual attention to itself (with the current academic and literary convention to be that of calling less attention to itself)" (58).

"And so to use image to name some class of objects that function in opposition to word is thus either to make an arbitrary cut into the world of designed visual objects or to try to encompass a class so large the encompassing term loses function. To say that all these objects rely on a logic of space is to miss their widely varying compositional potentials" (59).

"By focusing on the human shaping of material, and on the ties of material to human practices, we might be in better positions to ask after the consequences not only of how we use water but also of how we use paper, ink, and pixels to shape--for better or worse--the actions of others" (59).

Related sources:
Drucker, Joanna. The Visible Word: Experimental Typography and Modern Art, 1909--1923. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994.
Mitchell, W. J. T. Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.
Norman, Donald A. "Affordances and design." <http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordances_and.html>.
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