image sandwich

[ENGL 527: playing with Photoshop]

cloudwavI found these images via Pinterest (out of curiosity as a search sieve – they came from Tumblr an FFFFOUND!). I wanted to create something symbolic of what I am feeling at this juncture of closing in on my MA and starting my PhD – both in the clouds out of excitement for my future, but also a bit out to sea, or adrift, for leaving the comforts I have constructed for myself (with the support of others) at Eastern. Both are representative of travel or movement, flux in ebbs and flows of change. But neither are unpleasant or foreboding; the crest of the wave is small, and the cloud formation is cumulus; but the potential for a more tumultuous trajectory exists, as thunderstorms can spawn from mounting cumulus clouds and waves can build with wind. While this image represents pathos to me to in this particular event, mythos is also present, as culturally clouds and waves serve as metaphors – head in the clouds, and ebb and flow. To invoke Barthes, I believe that apart these images could represent studium, particularly in their function as metaphor for states of being that can be felt in a more general sense, but together they create punctum to me, or a more poignant combination of metaphor to represent feeling.

Discussion Question: Entering a risky territory

[ENGL 527] Entering a risky territory: space in the age of digital navigation – Valerie November, Eduarado Camacho-Hubner, and Bruno Latour

This might be too playful (resultant from fever or frenzied excitement from attending the Networked Humanities conference this weekend), but what if we moved from thinking about maps in terms of space (“tyranny of space” as a historical invention on the premise of precise geometry to give shape to states that are anything but perfect geometry)  to scapes? What I’m referring to here is the iPad app made by Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers that creates soundscapes based on the proximity, size, and shape of elements on the scape, that seem to be able to respond to something like the navigational trajectories as described by Latour, November, and Camancho-Hubner in the article. To me this is something a little bit like echolocation or a mindfulness to the aural structure of a changing scape that might be more immediate than a visual one in digital navigation. It might be easy to say that we tend to rely more on visuals than sound sin navigating, but sound in navigation already exists in many intricate and dynamic scapes- air traffic controllers, or high precision military guidance – and to an extent on the GPSs of the common through voice command/direction (which is relatively static or at least stagnant in relation to the dynamism of our trajectories). With digital technologies of navigation, will us laypersons get to experience maps that move beyond visuals or aural relays that are based on the visuals that are mapped mimetically? (this might be more of a have we ever considered this question, or a how would this be or not be useful).

[thanks to Nick for sharing Scape]

visual vision



Not sure if it’s the visual rhetorics course, jumping back into my MA project, contemplating visuals for my conference presentation next week, or designing a web space, but I’ve noticed a growing affinity for seeing color combinations and patterns.

Image: Color Wheel, Moses Harris 1766 – the first full color circle

Camera Lucida, Part 2

[ENGL 527]

Discussion question for class:

Barthes describes photography as “that-has-been” or the “Intractable” (hard to control or deal with) (77). Images that would have been taken may have been monumental (like monuments) of person, time, place, but as photography became/becomes more accessible, it becomes more visible, or things, people, and places do as we photograph them. He goes on to say that in our daily flood of photographs (and this having come out in 1980, situate that in time now to the nth degree), the forms of interest photographs provoke may be experienced with indifference as a feature that goes without saying (77) – causing an almost skimming of the photographs we encounter, only pausing when punctum pricks our attention. He describes this submitting to the flatness of photography through likening the action to the camera lucida, an apparatus that allowed drawing an object through a prism, from the eye’s viewpoint as “the essence of the image is to be altogether outside, without intimacy, and yet more inaccessible and mysterious than the thought of the innermost being; without signification, yet summoning up the depth of any possible meaning; unrevealed yet manifest, having the absence-as-presence which constitutes the lure and the fascination of the Sirens” (quoting Blanchot 106). Reading this, I couldn’t help but situate this within the web, though image/photograph heavy in its design/function/use, focused more particularly through image-centric sites such as FFFFOUND!, Tumblr, Pinterest, Flickr, etc. How does the web shape punctum in these galleries of “Save Image As” or share with _________? Does the screen operate as a camera lucida? How does (or doesn’t) “intractable” take on new meaning in digital spaces, particularly regarding origin/source of the “that-has-been” (but-from-where)?

Reading Notes:

Citation: Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New York: Hill and Wang. 1980. Print.

Barthes explains Photography as that-has-been, as representation – not Photography of just an image, but a just image (justesse) – that authenticates the existence of a being in Time, that in that moment, is reversed to photographic ecstasy (the nostalgia and certainty the photo elicits in that it is evidential and exclamative (113)).

Key Words:

  • ur-doxa
  • noeme
  • camera obscura/lucida
  • satori
  • animula
  • (new) punctum: of intensity – Time
  • flat Death
  • acheiropoietos
  • anamnesis
  • ecstasy

Passages to Keep: 

“I remember keeping for a long time a photograph I had cut out of a magazine – lost subsequently, like everything too carefully put away…” (80).

“The Photograph does not call upon the past (nothing Proustian in a photograph). The effect it produces upon me is not to restore what has been abolished (by time, by distance) but to attest that what I see has indeed existed” (82).

“Mad or tame? Photography can be one or the other: tame if its realism remains relative, tempered by aesthetic or empirical habits (to leaf through a magazine at the hair dresser’s, the dentist’s); mad if this realism is absolute and, so to speak, original, obliging the loving and terrified consciousness to return to the very letter of Time: a strictly revulsive movement which reverses the course of the thing, and which I shall call, in conclusion, the photographic ecstasy.

Such are the two ways of the Photograph. The choice is mine: to subject to its spectacle to the civilized code of perfect illusions, or to confront in it the wakening of intractable reality” (119).

Accepted Claim:

A mad image: The Photograph is an extended, loaded evidence – as if caricatured not the figure of what it represents (quite the converse) but its very existence. The image, says phenomenology, is an object-as-nothing. Now, in the Photograph, what I posit is not only the absence of the object; it is also, by one and the same movement, on equal terms, the fact that this object has indeed existed and that it has been there where I see it. Here is where the madness is, for until this day no representation could assure me of the past of a thing except by intermediaries; but with the Photograph, my certainty is immediate: no one in the world can undeceive me. The Photograph then becomes a bizarre medium, a new form of hallucination: false on the level of perception, true on the level of time…”it is not there…but it has indeed been” (115). [want to connect this to Latour’s ANT]

Claim of Some Doubt:

Life/Death: the paradigm is reduced to a simple click, the one separating the initial pose from the final print” (92). [makes me think about the function and maintenance of archives]

3 Sources to Aid With Reading: This being my first encounter with Barthes, I would be interested in reading Mourning Diary (of his mother’s death); Sartre (vision of objects as certain); and Maurice Blanchot (post-structuralist French philosopher – influential on Barthes’ shift from structuralism to post-structuralism?)

Annotated Image

For ENGL 527: Visual Rhetorics

Annotated ImageI took this photograph of plastic food models outside of a restaurant in Tokyo on my trip to Japan in 2011. These representations of food items offered, along with photos of food on menus, were my way of reading (living there at the moment, really). I could not read kanji or speak Japanese and I am a vegetarian, which complicated the basic task of eating. Traveling in a foreign place put special emphasis on maps and visuals and photographs on maps, because again, I could not read the kanji for the destinations of the bus or train lines, nor road signs, and could only communicate with people because of photographic aids in my maps and guidebooks. Although I was reliant on visual elements to experience the culture, the overwhelming amount of photos and images in places like Tokyo often became more white noise than aid. Accompanied by kanji (which became odd symbols of no linguistic meaning to me), or of icons/references I did not know, the very images that allowed me to interact could silence me in my tuning them out.

Camera Lucida

[ENGL 527]

Citation: Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New York: Hill and Wang. 1980. Print.

Summary: The photograph touches, has an effect, when it is withdrawn from its usual context of composition talk – technique, art, reality, etc.- to allow it to rise on its own accord into affective consciousness (55).


  • studium
  • punctum
  • animation
  • adventure
  • operator
  • spectator
  • spectrum
  • biographemes
  • camera obscura
  • sign/signifier
  • affect

Passages to Keep:

“I may know better a photograph I remember than a photograph I am looking at, as if direct vision oriented its language wrongly, engaging it in an effort of description which will always miss its point of effect” (53).

“What I feel about these photographs derives an average affect, almost from a certain training. I did not know a French word which might account for this kind of human interest, but I believe the word exists in Latin: it is studium, which doesn’t mean, at least not immediately, “study”, but application to a thing, taste for someone, a kind of general, enthusiastic commitment, of course, but without special acuity” (26).

“The second element will break (or punctuate) the studium. This time it is not I who seek it out (as I invest the field of the studium with my sovereign consciousness), it is this element which rises from the scene, shoots out of it like an arrow, and pierces me. A Latin word exists to designate this wound, this prick, this mark made by a pointed instrument: the word suits me all the better in that it also refers to the notion of punctuation, and because the photographs I am speaking of are in effect punctuated, sometimes even speckled with these sensitive points; precisely, these marks, these wounds are so many points. This second element that will disturb the studium I shall therefore call punctum; for punctum is also: sting, speck, cut, little hole – and also a cast of the dice. A photograph’s punctum is the accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me)” (26-27).

Accepted Claim:
Last thing about punctum: whether or not it is triggered, it is an addition: it is what I add to the photograph and what is nonetheless already there” (55).

Claim of Some Doubt:
Since every photograph is contingent (and thereby outside of meaning), Photography cannot signify (aim at a generality) except by assuming a mask…the mask is the meaning insofar as it is absolutely pure (as it was in ancient theater)” (34) (and the intermediary is by way of Death 31).

3 Sources to Aid with Reading:

Not sure of which texts, but Barthes references Nietzsche, Brecht (weakness of critical power of photography) , and Sartre (posture of existence)Post-class (Re)Focus:

Visual Rhetoric Is (not)

[ENGL 527]

My understanding of what visual rhetoric is and is not is limited (at this point, this focus, this frame) to a series of statements that are as much definition as anti-definition. With every is is an is not to better focus what seems blurred by my words.

Visual rhetoric is…

Reading and meaning construction (as a medium of conveying a message) as a text (unto) itself. Exists in complexly situated webs (networks, ecologies) of social, historical, political, economic, religious, educational, technological connections that shift. Seeing, but goes beyond looking at the what is there, to the why it is there and how it came to be there. Variance in intent, from playful, to abstract, to informative, to subversive. Beyond the borders of the visual’s focus in frame to take in (trace, follow, account for) what lies outside of the field of vision – in the background, perimeter, what is just out of sight, and what is covered/obscured. As much objects as people (all actors) in its composition. As much message/meaning in absence or void as material-full. Composition that is linked to its materiality/medium (including technologies). Time/place/space dependent. Communication.  Kairos (opportunity) but also metanoia (missed opportunity). Emotional. Knowledge and experience. Personal and social. Through the eyes,

                  but not limited to the sense of sight. Limited to images, and images are not limited to photographs or paintings or things confined to rectangular fields. An absolute or essential Truth, nor is it limited to a singularity or permanence (static location). Limited to accompaniment with or supplement to alphanumeric text. Limited to triangular fields of interpretation: ethos, pathos, logos, or exigence, audience, and constraints, or rhetor, message, and audience. Superficial or shallow because it lacks “depth” in length or the number of elements that compose it. Formulaic or a set number of elements that compose it (color, size, balance, repetition, contrast, arrangement, alignment, shape, etc.) in order for it to be rhetorical. In the eye of the beholder, nor is it a singular line of sight. Necessarily “aesthetically pleasing” or “beautiful”. Composition that requires much financial materials (technological media/medium). Of the arts and humanities. Only in museums, textbooks, or advertisements. Emotional, but not visceral. An essential delineation between fact and fiction  or fantasy and reality. Time/place/space dependent.

Visual rhetoric is not…

Perhaps to blur is to also focus, as one element is highlighted, another is obscured. Each attempt at creating meaning also creates an abstraction. We see not the thing but its connections

(connotations | denotations).

Visual Rhetoric is…

[ENGL 527]

Results of intrigue from playing with Googlism (as a means of starting to define visual rhetoric is… I started (unconsciously?) with “what”, but then moved to “where”, “when”, and “who”):

  • visual rhetoric is a framework that is theoretical; it expresses that how the visual image helps in communicating any message to the audience | implications that the visual is not a message itself?
  • visual rhetoric is as simple as understanding a concept in an image and writing to persuade a reader of that concept | it’s that simple!
  • visual rhetoric is a lot like traditional rhetoric | looking through a triangular lens? too simple; perhaps a prism? and what about a kaleidoscope?
  • visual rhetoric is how/why visual images | a move beyond that what of the visual? is this analysis? where does analysis come into visual rhetoric?
  • visual rhetoric is the need of visual literacy | reminds me of a quote from Cynthia Selfe in Writing New Media, visual literacy is “the ability to read, understand, value, and learn from visual materials-especially as these are combined to create a text-as well as the ability to create, combine, and use visual elements and messages for the purposes of communicating” (69)
  • visual rhetoric is actually representations and images | visual, adj. “of or relating to seeing or sight”, and noun “a picture, piece of film, or display used to illustrate or accompany something. there is still this connotation of visual being a representation or accompaniment to something else, perhaps textual (in a alphanumeric sense). aside from an image (which is what? a photograph? a painting? a graphic?), what else can a visual be?
  • visual rhetoric is an area of study and practice in rhetoric based on the ability of images not only to have an aesthetic effect but also to convey meaning | this leaves me questioning if there is terminology (within visual rhetoric?) that distinguishes between shades/types of feeling responses – the aesthetic response, the analysis response, the reading response. but this leaves me questioning why I don’t question this for “nonvisual” responses.

An attempt at definition through a rebus generator:

Visual rhetoric is

The Object Stares Back

This week’s reading for ENGL 527: Visual Rhetorics with Dr. Derek Mueller

Citation: Elkins, James. The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing. San Diego: Harcourt, Inc., 1996. Web.

Summary: We imagine seeing as objective, as removed from it while existing within it – we open our eyes and see it; but we are so involved in the world, so dependent on it (the observer is object), that we have to pretend we are removed to create distance in order to go on at all  (from 33).


  • (seeing) metamorphosis vs. mechanism
  • looking/ seeing /searching
  • vision vs. sight
  • object (human or nonhuman)
  • inaudible urgings of seeing (24)
  • inaccessible/unapproachable (32)
  • multiplying/changing object (39)
  • observer-objects and object-observers (hybridity 44)

Passages to keep:

“The first thing to be said is that this informal notion of just looking will not do, since the eyes never merely accept light. Instead, there is a force to the light: it pushes its way into our eyes; and conversely, there is a force to the eyes: they push their way into the world.” (18)

“The proof of this is the way that absentminded looking becomes contaminated with stray thoughts. If I’m just looking around while thinking of something else, every object that comes into focus will remind me of my life: the calendar reminds me that I haven’t changed it this week; the old file folders remind me of the work not yet done; the black architect’s lamps reminds me I don’t like architect’s lamps; the coffee cup reminds me again that I am thirsty. Even when I am not thinking of the use of objects, they remind me of use. And there is a curious thing here that easily passes unnoticed: I do not focus on anything that is not connected in some way with my own desires and actions. I fail to see the stretches of wall between the lamp and the coffee cup, or the manila paper of the file folders, ore the black plastic calendar holder. My eyes can only understand desire and possession. Anything else is meaningless and therefore invisible.” (22)

“A picture is not only a view onto the world or onto someone’s imagination: it is a peculiar kind of object that sets us thinking about desire. If I see a mermaid, a silk shirt, a snapshot, a gorgeous landscape, a picture of bread and butter, or photograph of a eunuch, those images are not just passively recorded in my mind. Looking immediately activates desire, possession, violence, displeasure, pain, force, ambition, power, obligation, gratitude, longing…there seems to be no end to what seeing is, to how it is tangled with living and acting. But there is no such thing as just looking.” (31)


Accepted claim: “I don’t really exist apart from the objects I see – what a strange thought. I am neither independent observer nor object in someone else’s eyes. Whatever calls itself I must always move, as Martin Heidegger said, in the between, between man and thing. (44)


Claim of some doubt: “I need to think that I am the one doing the looking and sifting one version of an object to the next. But what if I were changing along with the objects? What if the sentence were The observers – the multiple moments of myself – look among the objects?” (39)


3 sources to aid in reading: No bibliography attached, so hypothetical sources are Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes, Martin Heidegger, the remainder of The Object Stares Back