Bibliography (4/2)

Wood, D. (2010). Rethinking the power of maps. Guilford Press.

I found this book by searching Google Scholar for texts citing The Power of Maps. The abstract I found listed this as a “contemporary follow-up” to Wood’s original publication, offering a “fresh look at what maps do, whose interests they serve, and how they can be used in surprising, creative, and radical ways” (Amazon Book Review). This book was cited 377 times. [JS]

Crampton, J. W. (2001). Maps as social constructions: power, communication and visualization. Progress in Human Geography25(2), 235-252.

I found this article by searching Google Scholar for texts citing The Power of Maps. This seems to be an extension of Wood’s ideas and focuses on how maps can be problematic communication devices. The two major developments this article brings forward are “1) investigations of maps as practices of power-knowledge; and 2) ‘geographic visualization’ (GVis) which uses the map’s power to explore, analyze and visualize spatial datasets to understand patterns better” (Article Abstract). This article was cited 368 times. [JS]

Kitchin, R., & Dodge, M. (2007). Rethinking maps. Progress in human geography31(3), 331-344.

I found this article by searching Google Scholar for texts citing The Power of Maps. This article narrows the focus of Crampton’s article, claiming that cartography is “profitably conceived as a processual, rather than representational, science” (Article Abstract). The piece asks about map security ontologically – and argues that there is no secure ontological status. This article was cited 370 times. [JS]

Harris, L. M., & Hazen, H. D. (2005). Power of maps:(Counter) mapping for conservation. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies4(1), 99-130.

I found this article by searching Google Scholar for texts citing The Power of Maps. This article looks at how defining and mapping geologically protected areas for conservation links to “themes from political ecology, social natures, and conservation biology literatures to extend our understanding of maps as reflective of, and productive of, power” (Article Abstract). This article was cited 116 times. [JS]

Wood, D. (1993). The Fine Line Between Mapping and Map Making. Cartographica: The International Journal for Geographic Information and Geovisualization30(4), 50-60.

I found this article by searching Google Scholar for texts citing The Power of Maps. Written by Wood, this article is responding to “Brian Harley’s efforts to re-form the history and theory of cartography” (Article Abstract). Wood argues that Harley was erroneously “dazzled” and “inspired” by Continental thinkers but failed to effectively argue for “cartography embodying the self-conscious awareness only an honest, living history could provide.” This article was cited 58 times. [JS]

Reading Questions (3/20)

On page 78, Sousanis writes, “Drawing is a way of seeing and thus, a way of knowing.” He claims this allows us to extend our thinking by “distributing it between conception and perception,” and argues this is a generative process by which we form ideas in search of greater understanding (79).

This makes me wonder – does someone need to have some proficiency/mastery in drawing to fully extend his or her thinking in this way – or for the process to be successfully generative? I think of myself (a self-professed poor drawer) during most of our stop-draws; I’m often consumed by the notion that the image I am looking to create is never truly reflected. When I write, however, I do experience this extension of thought. So, should we think of this experience from drawing as universal, or as just one of several formats to engage with this thought-extending process? Perhaps the woodworking or the quilter – folks who may self-profess proficiency in neither drawing nor writing – could also experience this? Is this more generally a notion realized through the creation of art?

Sousanis cites Masaki Suwa and Barbara Tversky’s idea that drawing is a means of developing a conversation with ones self, allowing us to tap into our visual system and see relationally. He claims that his relational viewpoint, or perception, is fundamental in meaning making. Sousanis writes, “in reuniting thinking and seeing, we expand our thinking and concept of what thinking is.” He ends the idea with stating, “to prepare good thinkers we need to cultivate good seers” (81).

This is a bit of an extension from my question above, but doesn’t Sousanis ignore a specific population of people in this claim? If I am blind I cannot reunite thinking and seeing – does that mean I cannot expand my concept of what thinking is? Do I not have the potential to be a “good thinker” (in this sense) because I cannot be a good seer? Or should we, again, look at this as just one of the potential avenues to cultivate expansive thinking?

Brooke Notes (3/13)

Sousanis, N. (2015). Unflattening. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.


  • Flatness
  • Unflattening
  • Pragmatism
  • Multidimensional
  • Sequential Art

The primacy of words over images has deep roots in Western culture. But what if the two are inextricably linked, equal partners in meaning-making? Written and drawn entirely as comics, Unflattening is an experiment in visual thinking. Nick Sousanis defies conventional forms of scholarly discourse to offer readers both a stunning work of graphic art and a serious inquiry into the ways humans construct knowledge.

Unflattening is an insurrection against the fixed viewpoint. Weaving together diverse ways of seeing drawn from science, philosophy, art, literature, and mythology, it uses the collage-like capacity of comics to show that perception is always an active process of incorporating and reevaluating different vantage points. While its vibrant, constantly morphing images occasionally serve as illustrations of text, they more often connect in nonlinear fashion to other visual references throughout the book. They become allusions, allegories, and motifs, pitting realism against abstraction and making us aware that more meets the eye than is presented on the page.

In its graphic innovations and restless shape-shifting, Unflattening is meant to counteract the type of narrow, rigid thinking that Sousanis calls “flatness.” Just as the two-dimensional inhabitants of Edwin A. Abbott’s novella Flatland could not fathom the concept of “upwards,” Sousanis says, we are often unable to see past the boundaries of our current frame of mind. Fusing words and images to produce new forms of knowledge, Unflattening teaches us how to access modes of understanding beyond what we normally apprehend.

Harvard University Press []

Works Cited

Ball, D.M. & Kuhlman, M.B. (2010). The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing Is a Way of Thinking. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

De Bono, E. (1970). Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step. New York: Harper and Row.

Jensen, D. (2004). Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green.


  • “A changed approach is precisely the goal for the journey ahead: to discover new ways of seeing, to open spaces for possibilities, and to find ‘fresh methods’ for animating and awakening” (27).
  • Unflattening is a simultaneous engagement of multiple vantage points from which to engender new ways of seeing” (32).
  • “In relying on text as the primary means of formulating understanding, what stands outside its linear structure is dismissed, labeled irrational – no more conceivable than the notion of ‘upwards’ to a flatlander. The visual provides expression where words fail. What have we been missing? And what can be made visible when we work in a form that is not only about, but is also the thing itself” (59).


  • Sousanis suggests seeing things from a myriad of different perspectives, but the book has no mention of ethics [at least yet]. Would views considered to be unethical, or harmful, also be worthy of consideration from his viewpoint?
  • Sousanis explains that comics allow us to process images both sequentially and simultaneously. Are there any other formats that also invite this type of thinking? Could you think of shots within a film this way?

Glossary Terms (3/6)

Communicative Artifact: Foss explains that a communicative artifact of visual rhetoric is an actual image where visual symbols are used to communicate; it is the “product of the creative act” and, although not every visual object constitutes visual rhetoric, communicative artifacts encompass three main features – symbolic action, human intervention, and presence of audience (143, 144). [JS]

Rhetorical Perspective: Foss describes rhetorical perspective as a “critical-analytical tool or a way of approaching and analyzing visual data that highlights the communicative dimension of images” (145). Foss states that this theoretical perspective involves examination of the symbolic or communicative features of visual rhetoric. To successfully understand the possible effect a visual may have on an audience, a scholar must understand those communicative features – nature of the image, function of the image, and evaluation of the image (146). [JS]

Bibliography (2/26)

Bowen, T. (2017). Assessing visual literacy: a case study of developing a rubric for identifying and applying criteria to undergraduate student learning. Teaching in Higher Education, 1-15.

I found this article by searching Google Scholar for texts citing Graphesis. Bowen’s piece focuses on multi-modal literacy assessments in higher education. Bowen claims that assessments from this perspective “have not moved much beyond the traditional written texts outside art and design disciplines.” Bowen proposes a Visual Literacy Competency (VLC) rubric and offers suggestions for assignment assessment in two undergraduate communications courses. [JS]

Lorber-Kasunic, J., & Sweetapple, K. (2015). Visualising texts: a design practice approach to humanities data. In Digital Research in the Humanities and Arts Conference. DRHA.

I found this article by searching Google Scholar for texts citing Graphesis. Lorber-Kasunic and Sweetapple’s piece addresses the fact that many forms of visual representation do not reflect core concerns of humanities research because they operate using the conceptual and visual language of scientific positivism. The authors argue that metaphorical and analogical approaches to textual visualization may better serve the cause from a humanities focus. [JS]

Danesi, M. (2016). The Semiotics of Emoji: The Rise of Visual Language in the Age of the Internet. Bloomsbury Publishing.

I found this article by searching Google Scholar for texts citing Graphesis. Danesi’s book elaborates on the use of emojis from a meaning-making, or semiotic, perspective. The book avoids the use of technical lexicon and some notions of theoretical semiotics so that a lay audience more easily understands it. Danesi posits that the use of emoji code may indicate how writing and literacy are evolving. [JS]

Gorichanaz, T. & Latham, K.F. (2016). Document phenomenology: a framework for holistic analysis. Journal of Documentation, Vol. 72 (6), 1114 – 1133.

I found this article by searching Google Scholar for texts citing Graphesis. In this piece, Gorichanaz and Latham propose a phenomenological framework for document analysis. Key concepts of this framework include “intrinsic information, extrinsic information, abtrinsic information, and adtrinsic information,” where information and meaning are distinguished. The authors look at individual documents, but also parts of documents and documents as systems. [JS]

Brown, S. (2015). Remediating the Editor.Interdisciplinary Science Reviews40(1), 78-94.

I found this article by searching Google Scholar for texts citing Graphesis. In this article, Brown purposes that various interfaces for writing and editing influence the interface users – and by extension, the conditions of digital scholarly knowledge production. Brown believes that cultural inflections of these interfaces create “tensions endemic to socialized and networked scholarship [which] is increasingly crucial as reading and consumption merge with writing and production.” [JS]




Brooke Notes (2/6)

awaywithwords: On the possibilities in unavailable designs

Wysocki, A. F. (2005). awaywithwords: On the possibilities in unavailable designs. Computers and Composition, 22, 55-62.


  • Affordances
  • Image
  • Space
  • Visual Rhetoric
  • Word

In her article, Wysocki begins with the assumption that words and images are not necessarily bound logically and respectively with space and time. To frame this, she uses the example of water, stating that our early ancestors would not use water to attack a mammoth. This view of water, however, changes as we acquire the technology to pressurize and, by extension, acquire the capacity to weaponize water. Wysocki utilizes the varied use of water “as an analogy for the materials we use in building communications” (56). She then invokes Gunther Kress’ notion that we must consider social and cultural context, purpose, audience, along with communication strategy and materials when designing communication materials, but pushes this idea further by examining the material constraints, why they are constraints, and why those particular constraints are imposed.

The first constraint Wysocki addresses is the use of space between words, which became prevalent when texts moved from social contexts to individual arenas. She references Paul Saenger’s idea that “how we use space on pages affects how we read and understand,” and, further, affects “how we understand what words, texts, and reading are” (57). Additionally, Wysocki references Susan Howe’s proposal that the act of editing texts that restricts punctuation and unconventional spacing mirrors an American desire to tame wilderness, be that wilderness be specific or metaphoric. This notion can also be applied to space in paper margins or the design of a book layout. Wysoki claims, in order to help students question these ideas about how we have come to understand the use of words and space, the conventions of which are largely unquestioned.

Wysocki returns to Kress’ discussion, pointing out that, by accepting his position of word governance as temporal and sequential, it is no surprise that he takes images as holding opposing qualities from words – that of spatial and simultaneous logic. Wysocki argues this point by explaining W.J.T. Mitchell’s position that “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 “ (58). Additionally, Wysocki posits that images exceed logics of space and can evoke a sense of time – both in the sense that particular elements in an image are arranged to invite ordering, and in the sense that “temporal strategies of composition are very much present even in images that we can apparently perceive all at once” (58). Regardless, Wysocki believes that we cannot simply impose Kress’ definition of “image” to “word,” as this would restrain it to the very constraints we are questioning.

To sum up the paper, Wysocki juxtaposes two medias – that of a tattoo and that of a film – to explain how their uses of time and space (and by extension, their social functions and interpretations), are quite different. Thus, to use a term, such as “image,” to classify objects functioning “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” (59). Wysocki ends by a call to action – encouraging her readers to see beyond the commonly accepted constraints of “words” and “images” – to try new practices and conventions and to expand what is possible in communication materials.

Works Cited
Haraway, D. (1991). Simians, cyborgs, and Women: The reinvention of nature.   New York: Routledge.

Kress, G. & van Leeuwen, T. (1996). Reading images: The grammar of visual design. London: Routledge.

The New London Group. (2000). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. In Bill Cope & Mary Kalantzis (Eds.), Multiliteracies: Literacy learning and the design of social futures (9-37). London: Routledge.


  • “If how we conceive of water is inseparable from place and time, how can our communication materials, for which we can make no similar claim to naturalness as we can with water, be otherwise?” (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. They also need to question how they have come to understand the spaces of pages so that they can, if need be, use different spaces, potentially powerful spaces that… have been rendered unavailable by naturalized, unquestioned practice.” (57)
  • “If human practices do entwine, as I have been arguing, to the extent that the spacing of lettershapes on a piece of paper reflects and helps continue unquestioned restrictions on behavior or that a habit of understanding words and images as opposites reflects and helps continue beliefs about relations between men and women, then it is possible that trying new spaces on pages or exploring the visuality of alphabetic text can be seeds for changes in such practices and beliefs. But we can only do this if we look beyond what appear to be constraints.” (59)


  • It seems as though Wysocki directs her attention ONLY to the visual aspects of any of her given examples and it makes me wonder – in some mediums, such as film, can we study the “visual” separate from other sensory inputs, such as auditory, tactile (specifically eating popcorn when going to a movie), and olfaction (the “smells” of the movie theatre experience), etc.?
  • At what point would not following conventions – or breaking through constraints – be counterproductive to getting the idea or message across to our audience?Does the audience first need to accept that a constraint need be broken?
  • Are there any scholars who have begun tackling the use of visuals, space, and time in the world of virtual reality?

Big Ideas (1/30)

Images, layout, or graphics communicate meaning by constructing visual arguments, making claims through particular use of comparison, juxtaposition, and intertextuality (George, 29). Images are a means of visual representation of the world rather than replication of a permanent reality. In the case of drawing, there is the image you are attempting to create – and there is the actual image as it is drawn (Barry, 16). [JS]

Glossary Terms (1/23)

Studium: Barthes defines studium as the general effect or interest a photograph leaves on its spectator – “a kind of general enthusiastic commitment… but without special acuity” (Barthes, 26). It often supplies some form of context, be it political, cultural, historical, or the like. Barthes claims the studium displays the photographer’s intentions. [js]

Punctum: Barthes defines punctum as an element of a photograph that “breaks,” or punctures, the studium – “a detail i.e., a partial object” (Barthes, 43). The punctum has an expansive quality, evoking the spectator to add something of her/his own imagination to the photograph. It may be an item of clothing, or a particular expression, or some other part of a photograph – either way, it is not coded like the studium and is not an intentional aspect. [js]


Hello, everyone. My name is Justin and I am in my second semester of the Written Communication MA program, with a professional writing focus. I am an EMU alumnus – I graduated in 2013 with a BS in English and a Philosophy minor. Prior to my pursuit of higher education, I was on a special duty in the Marine Corps, guarding embassies abroad.

It seems as though I am in good company; I too identify as a nerd! I especially enjoy tabletop gaming, and have a particular love for Dungeons & Dragons. Unfortunately, I don’t have as much time to play as I would like; on top of taking two courses this semester, I work full time at the University of Michigan Health System doing communications work for the IT department, am a new home owner, have a seven-month old puppy, and am planning my wedding for this August.

As I mentioned in my in-class introduction, I do a good deal of design work in my career; however, I have had little formal or theoretical training in visual rhetoric. I look forward to exploring this topic and getting to know all of you better throughout these next few months!