Eloquent Images II

Wysocki – "Seriously Visible," 37-59
First, hypertexts, in their affordances of choice, are inherently engaging, and
these engaging properties (engagementalities?) extend to civic and democratic
practices (freedom, liberty, etc.).  Second, predominantly visual documents
are unserious; they are the stuff of children’s books–lite, silly and
non-rigorous. Wysocki opens with these old feints, and offers "responsive
counterexamples" elaborated through analyses of
Scrutiny in the
Great Round
Throwing Apples
at the Sun
, two visualmedia pieces.  Before introducing the
counterexamples, Wysocki thickens the air with surveys of the critical tensions
invested in the opening positions.  To set up the idea of hypertext reader
as civic agent, she cites Lanham, Bolter, Edward Barrett (cognitive science),
Woodland, Nielsen, then extends to Mill, Habermas and Virilio to explain the
correlation between hypertext as choice and the dependence of public sphere on
divergent opinions.  Importantly, Wysocki includes a section in the essay
(40-41) to acknowledge the "quickness of [her] preceding arguments" before
imparting a second survey of positions suggesting that the visual is elementary,
again from Habermas and Virilio.  Included here are a series of scholars who
have called for renewed attention to the complexity and dimension of images
(42-43).  Before shifting into the analysis of the visualmedia pieces,
Wysocki explains,

The assumption behind the critique of the visual is that we take
in what we see, automatically and immediately, in the exact same way as everyone
else, so that the visual requires no interpretation and in fact functions as
though we have no power before it[…]; the assumption behind the celebrations
of hypertext is that any text that presents us with choice of movement through
it necessarily requires interpretation (43).

The analyses of Scrutiny in the Great Round and Throwing Apples at
the Sun
are nuanced and insightful; this got me thinking that I probably
ought to spend some time interacting with one of the pieces first-hand. 
The analyses are also successful in that the attention to detail and difference
effectively demonstrates Wysocki’s response to the opening bits, arguing, in
effect, that "visual texts can be as pleasurably challenging as some word-full
texts" (56).  A few other brief quotations–copied here–round out the
essay, which closes with pedagogical assertions:

"But we can compose in new ways only if we acknowledge that the visual and
hypertextual aspects of our texts are not monolithic.  Even to say ‘the
visual’ or ‘the hypertextual’ is to imply that anything that fits under one of
those signifiers points to the same signified; the pieces of multimedia I have
analyzed show this not to be the case" (57).

"If we want there to be more complex texts in the world and more complex and
active readers and citizens, then let’s work with people in our classes to make
such texts and to develop together the abilities and concerns to help us be the
latter" (57).

Kirschenbaum – "The Word as Image in an Age of Digital Reproduction," 137-156
Many people presume that "the boundaries between word and image have never been
more permeable than they are now" (136), but images and text are very different
data-structures and those differences figure significantly in projects designed
to digitize illuminated texts such as William Blake’s poetry (141). 
Furthermore, image and word are defined by their technical structures; anyone
with a dial-up modem understands that image files are larger and slower to load,
Kirschenbaum explains.  These distinctive constitutions limit the kinds of
"electronic moves" (142)  we can make with words and images.  For
tagging and retrieval, this means that images must, in effect, be partnered with
a descriptive lexicon; Kirschenbaum shares an example of the "characteristic
components" used to identify Blake’s "The Shepherd": shepherd, male, young,
short, crook, tights, standing, contrapposto, and looking (146).

There are two other examples of text and image complicated by visualization
(as in, is it image or is it word?): the

Language Visualization and Research group at Cornell
(148) and Kirshenbaum’s
own project using VRML in
Mapping and Codex Transformation in the Z-Buffer
(150).  Once the
text surrenders into image–as is the case with the 3D narrative
project–writing activity slides to second chair, outdone by "the kaleidoscopic
visual effects" (153).  With this description of his project, Kischenbaum
includes the question, "Can one speak of ‘links’ in a 3-D writing space, or does
the addition of a third dimension foreground the extent to which linking is a
‘flatland technology’?" (150).  Hmm.  Flatland technology. About the
Lucid Mapping project, Kirshenbaum writes, "I meant to suggest a sentient and
directed narrative experience, assembled ‘on the fly’ in response to changing
visual and spatial conditions within a graphical environment: a mapping that
then in turn alters the topography of the environment itself, and so on, thus
sustaining the classic cybernetic feedback loop" (152).  There is a whole
lot more to say about the split between image-text as conceptual blend (or even
"aesthetic conceit") and image-text as technically constituted, and I want to
look again at this article with more thought about the archival material (how
different are the humanities computing initiatives from our own efforts to
remake the image-bound archives of CCC Online?).  In as summative of
a statement as I could locate, Kirschenbaum ends the article with, "My point is
that there are significant ontological continuities with analog media that are
not adequately accounted for by casual assertions about the blurred boundaries
between word and image" (153).

"The point I want to illustrate through the above discussion is that one cannot
talk about words as images and images as words without taking into account the
technologies of representation upon which both forms depend" (141).
The notion that digital texts and images are infinitely fluid and malleable is
an aesthetic conceit divorced from technical practice, a consensual
hallucination in the same way that William Gibson’s neuromantic ‘lines of light’
delineate an imaginative ideal rather than any actual cyberspaces" (154).

Terms: jaggies (142), imageforms (145), image-vector-text and scalability
(152), lucid mapping (152)