Wednesday, September 17, 2014


For the past few weeks, "graphicacy" has insinuated itself into the part of my brain where nagging curiosity comes from (the self-nagebellum), becoming the terministic equal of an ear worm: word worm. Term worm? Lexical maggot? Whatever. And there, for weeks now, it has wriggled, dug in.

I don't recall encountering "graphicacy" before Liz Losh mentioned it casually in her presentation to EMU's First-year Writing Program during her visit last month. I wrote down several things from Liz's talk, but graphicacy was there on top of my notes, large and starred. It stands to reason that graphicacy keeps company with literacy. Both are -acy words, which means they are adjectives converted to nouns and that they name or identify conditions. Presumably these, too, are nominalizations, but they by-pass verbs, which is the problem I've been thinking about. We have reading and writing to verb literacy, but what verbs graphicacy?

I had to do a little bit of cursory sifting and searching for graphicacy, to start. It seems like the term was initiated in a mixed and sprawling range across math education (learning to plot points and interpret graphs), geography (facility with maps), and graphic design (technical-aesthetic savvy). Late last month, it surfaced in the context of a conversation about multimodal composition and the graphic rhetoric we have adopted at EMU, Understanding Rhetoric. This is the main reason it took hold for me: graphicacy seemed to gather an array of practices related both to understanding and making visuals. It sweeps into one pile an assortment of visual communications--graphs, maps, word clouds, comics, painting, photography, typography, data visualization--much in the same way visual rhetoric does. And yet, with graphicacy as with visual rhetoric, it feels like we are still missing a sufficiently encompassing verb to capture the array of practices.

At our Advanced WAC Institute on campus late last April (or was it by then early May?), I worked with a team of colleagues on a new (for us) configuration. With colleagues from Communications and Education, we put together an institute keyed on five complementary practices: writing, reading, critical (or I would say "rhetorical") listening, speaking, and visualizing. The fifth term, visualizing, was mine to introduce to institute attendees, and it was the most difficult to identify with a verb that was adequate to account for the frame, which amounted to concept mapping, drawing/sketching as heuristic for arrangement, and creating occasions for students to work at the intersection of textual and overtly visual and designerly composition.

Because we called it "visualizing," we began the sessions needing to backtrack and contextualize. With visualizing, we weren't talking about conjuring brainbound images or about an indwelt priming of the mind's eye to work on problems or particular ways of seeing. These were among the associations attendees made with visualizing. And this seemed reasonable. Visualizing wasn't quite the right verb. But what is the right verb? What is the general verb comparable to writing, reading, listening, and speaking that relates not only to seeing but to creating visuals, especially in consideration of vector illustration programs and shape-based concept mapping software that bears only faint relation to drawing?

Graphicacy stirs this question yet again but does not quite answer it. But I hope not to call it "visualizing" ifwhen we convene the institute again next time.

Friday, October 29, 2010

To Be


First to school is first to answer the question of the day.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Notch for Orange, Notch for the Belt of Verbs

Syracuse's home win over the Hoyas earlier today inspired thoughts of a verb to add to the belt:

The Orange clowned No. 8 Georgetown, 77-70, in front of a season-high 31,327 fans at the Carrier Dome.

Clown as verb: to subject to ridicule, to cause another to appear silly, etc. Unlike evidence and discourse (as verbs), it is improbable that I will ever sneak clown or clowned into the academic prose.

Nevertheless, in celebration of the upset, go on, add it to your belt of verbs.

Previously on B. O. V.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Belt Belt Belt of Verbs

Today is Start-of-Semester Day in Syracuse (even if I don't teach until tomorrow). How better to celebrate the occasion than by adding a verb to the belt of verbs (and thereby contributing to the Greater Verbiage)?

He'd discourse on the animals' diets, reproduction, life spans, their interesting and unusual characteristics. (48)

A rare sighting of discourse as verb. Tracy Kidder wrote this about Paul Farmer in Mountains Beyond Mountains (a book which I will think of as Verbs Beyond Verbs from this point forward).

Friday, January 26, 2007

Belt of Verbs - Friday Leather Punch Edition

If you're a user of the language, you'll need a verb sooner or later.

Evidently, today's Friday Leather Punch Edition is concerned with evidenced. As in,

The strong odor in the office evidenced Yoki's sick stomach.

Here it comes: I really don't like the verb evidenced. I know it's a legitimate word, but it always sounds wrong to me, no matter the context. A faint hunch tells me it's a rip-off of evinced (that one, a verb of verbs!). I doubt I would be stating it too strongly to say that this is the real dividing line in the academy and, yes, all of humanity: those who use evidenced, and those who do not.

I checked it against the only corpus of texts I have on my trusty laptop computer--the last nineteen years of CCC articles. Thirty-one out of 414 articles put to good and proper use the verb evidenced. More than seven percent! But the distribution isn't even across the years. Just nine articles use evidenced from 1989-1999; twenty-two articles use evidenced since the turn of the century.

What does this evidence evidence? The question is too fresh to return a decisive answer. And in the mean time, I will stick with suggested, indicated, and proved as ready-to-verbalize ahead of evidenced. Make room for evidenced, if you must, in one of the deep pouches on the expanding belt of verbs.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Belt of Verbs

Buckle on your verb belt because it's time for "Belt of Verbs": a couple of kicky, kooky verbs for filling up the empty pouch.

1. From this ESPN headline: decisions
Former WBC Ortiz decisions Garcia

I'm not much for boxing (anything that reminds me of enduring punishing blows to my head, no thank you), but "decisions," the lexicon tells me, has been around for quite some time. It's what one winning boxer does to a losing boxer without a knockout. Improper usage: "I decisioned to have an A&W Root Beer with lunch." Unless you're a boxer. Then you can say "decisioned" whenever you please.

2. From a book I've been reading: multiplexed
"Two kinds of apprehension are mutliplexed together."

I guess this means something like giving off many complex and layered signals all at once: an entangled conduction that allows for (even anticipates) loss. So it's in the realm of the intelligible that comes just before noise. Not to be mistaken for the many-screened movie theater or the manufacturer of foam planes.