Posts Tagged ‘multimodal’

Can I use cat mutilation to sell, as long as it’s artistic?

I sat down today with the intent of creating a shocking image, something truly offensive. I thought about cutting up a picture of a baby, splashing the body parts with red, sticking them on spikes, and arranging them artfully, like table settings. You know, something Vlad the Impaler might have enjoyed. I went so far as to Google images of concentration camp victims, thinking I could place them around the table as diners. It shouldn’t have been too difficult to follow the design principles of contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity, right?

I couldn’t do it, though. Which brings up an interesting aside. Even though I just wrote about the image, I couldn’t actually create it. We talked in class today about the complexity, power, and transparency of words and images relative to each other. For me, at least, this illustrates – metaphorically, of course – one case where the visual image is simply too horrific for me to create, even though I could imagine it and write it.

Of course, I don’t enjoy offensive images for their own sake. And, in this case, I decided it was too offensive to use even to make my point. So here’s what I composed instead:


It’s my response to Wysocki and, indirectly, Kant.

In “The Sticky Embrace of Beauty,” Anne Wysocki (2004) discusses her dual reactions of aesthetic appreciation and anger when viewing an advertisement featuring a woman who is naked except for thigh-high boots and gloves. Wysocki determines that her appreciation stems from the ad’s exemplary design, but then goes on to question why its design is exemplary. She traces our culture’s notions of beauty to Kant, whose beliefs about beauty have caused a couple of problems. First, because he thought beauty was a universal quality, determining the essential beauty of something became an analytical process in which the form of that thing was divorced from the actual thing (the content). This led to detachment on the part of the judge, which, in turn, devalued the object of beauty.

Because beauty, itself, is a value-laden term, Wysocki argues that, in order to change this objectification, especially of women, we need to change the way we evaluate visual images. In part, this depends on constructing ideas of beauty in reciprocal relationships.

So why did I make this image, albeit a very conventional one in terms of design principles? Wysocki’s essay brought up interesting and important points that I’d never considered about the cultural values in something that, on the surface, seems neutral, such as the visual pleasure to be found in contrast and repetition.  However, her essay also left me wanting. She didn’t address content to my satisfaction. I tend to live by the principle “form follows function.” An equivalent would be something like, “form serves content.” The main reason I care about form in my image is that I want people to find it arresting enough that they will linger, hopefully catching the message.

That’s why I abandoned the cut-up baby idea. It would get across, probably better than my elephant picture, that content matters. However, I decided it’s really not an image I want to create and share, even if it sells my point.


Wysocki, Anne F. “The Sticky Embrace of Beauty.” Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition. Ed. Anne F. Wysocki, Johndan Ohnson-Eilola, Cynthia L. Selfe, and Geoffrey Sirc. Logan: Utah State UP, 2004. 147-73. Print.


Link to “How Are Schools Supporting the Net Generation?”

While working on my journal analysis assignment, I decided to check my email (just one of the many distractions available on my computer). There was my daily ASCD SmartLinks; the first alluring title, “How Are Schools Supporting the Net Generation?,” grabbed my attention. I had to follow it, of course, and was rewarded with a brief article about an address Don Tapscott gave at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development’s (ASCD) annual convention (Tapscott is the author of Wikinomics and Grown Up Digital). The article is much too brief, but Tapscott apparently discusses strengths of the digital generation, the need to change pedagogy, and the need to do more than just let kids have at it (digital media) in the classroom if we expect good results. Here’s the link: