“Inquiring into patterned activity at any one scale can tell us something that is not evident at any other scale. Through the deliberate alteration of scale, this opening segment of the project seeks to define Canadian-American writing studies interdependency from perspectives that are yet uncommon; it seeks to introduce a viewshed for graphical, distant, and aerial treatments of disciplinary activity that may contribute to a definition concerned less with fixed essences or contrastive differentiation than noticing time-sensitive patterns and emerging shapes” (Mueller, 23).
As an “indexical aereality,” this text spatializes disciplinary activity and movement across the Canadian-American border through maps (43). This spatialized knowing seems reflective of Sousanis’s wayfinding in its shifting from a static locale to a dynamic motion of relationships that serve as definitional and shape-making. As shapes emerge, so too do contours or borders—borders that overlap other borders possibly. Are there ways of mapping or knowing borders as fluid or the edges as fraying? Some rhetoric scholars see the field as one of borrowing from others, others seem more siloed in their view—does scaling in this way take stock of the silos’ contents and their movement, or show tributaries from other ways of knowing and other fields? Also, rather than mapping only disciplinary activity, could we map disciplinary inactivity? Failures of doing, not doing, and not reaching—an antimap?
“Every map is like this, every map facilitates some living by virtue of its ability to grapple with what is known instead of what is merely seen, what is understood rather than what is no more than sensed. I want to say that recently the distance between this visible, palpable world of our senses and the world we make of it has stretched” (Wood 7).
“This is the very point of the map, to present us not with the world we can see, but to point toward a world we might know” (Wood 12).
It’s interesting that throughout this class we have discussed and analyzed visual rhetoric examples we can easily look at, yet Wood criticizes the idea that we oftentimes take physical copies of maps so seriously. With this second quote, Wood encourages us to look beyond what maps present and to consider what we cannot see. This idea is similar to what Sousanis explores with the imagination in Unflattening (88). Considering what Wood argues and Sousanis’ ideas about imagination, do you think that our use of the maps over time hinders our ability to be imaginative? Does this result in an inability to change the status quo? How does Wood’s discussion of property and mental maps play into this?
Sousanis discusses several dimensions in his text, and at this point, we arrive at the fifth dimension. These frames illustrate that from the same mind that creates dimensions, it also limits them by our habits (111). Advocating for “plasticity,” we need to lessen our habitual tendencies or learn flexibility. What I am struggling to grasp is then why Sousanis chooses to illustrate/write a graphical book. What do we need to re-learn or be more flexible on in order to comprehend more opportunities than a book for composition? At what point do we stop forming habits?
In the second half of Unflattening by Nick Sousanis, imagination is a key term used to help us see beyond what is presented when it comes to ideas, concepts, visuals, ect. Sousanis describes imagination as a way to “exceed our inevitably limited point of view to find perspectives not in existence or dimensions not yet accessible” (88). It seems that embracing imagination validates discovery, helping us see in new inventive ways.
With this in mind, what role does imagination play in our critique and understanding of visuals and is our interpretation valid?
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?
On pages 54-55, Sousanis outlines Decartes’ and Plato’s mistrust of visuals due to its dependence on perception. As logical positivism became the reigning ziegeist of the time, visual thinking was not the only thing that lost its credibility–rhetoric, in large part, was dismissed as well.
What are the parallels between discrediting visual thinking and rhetorical thought?
“And third, there are those who insist that the most important site at which the meaning of an image is made is not its author, or indeed its production itself, but its audiences, who bring their own ways of seeing and other knowledges to bear on an image and in the process make their own meanings from it” (Rose 23).
In this section, Rose discusses the ways of seeing and the sites, “at which the meanings of an image are made” (16). Although she does not directly discuss ethos in this section by calling it such, she does address the credibility of the author/creator of a particular image. With her perspective of meaning making in mind, how does this theory of knowledge production translate to quantitative images (graphs and charts)? For example, if different individuals released two graphs and each image represented the same set of quantifiable information differently, what would be the author’s role in the image reception? What if one author was Neil deGrasse Tyson and the other was a graduate student in physics? In this case, would the authors still not contribute as much meaning to the image as the audiences themselves? [LW]
Unflattening by Nick Sousanis
While most of us see an argument as a battle of words between two opposing sides, Nick Sousanis in Unflattening considers an argument as a dance. “This doesn’t mean erasing or ignoring differences. Instead, it’s a complex dynamic,”what Simeon Dreyfuss calls “holding differences ways of knowing in relationship”(38). Is the author trying to start a new argument by addressing inconclusiveness of classical arguments? Approaching an argument as compromising, listening, or basically seeing the other side’s perspective not just our own and to embrace each other? Isn’t he just repeating the Rogerian theory of argument? But the question is validity of an argument. Not all of the arguments are valid to be embraced by opposing side. I am wondering how Sousanis would address the validity of arguments by visual tools. [SK]
Is Sousanis by asking which view is the truth trying to refer to Plato’s perspective of truth? Does he mean that what we see is the shadow of the truth not the “Truth”? Can we trust the multidimensional view of our visions? [SK]
“This isn’t Facebook: the photos have scratches, wrinkles, and dust- people awkwardly framed and with half-closed eyes. Just pictures taken with the hope they might preserve a moment. They reminded me of my own family album. My dad died in 1999. When I try to picture him, I don’t see him- I see photos of him.”
This really made me think of Barthes when he says, “The Photograph is an extended, loaded evidence — as if it caricatured not the figure of what it represents (quite the converse) but its very existence … The Photograph then becomes a bizarre (medium), a new form of hallucination: false on the level of perception, true on the level of time: a temporal hallucination, so to speak, a modes shared hallucination (on the one hand ‘it is not there,’ on the other ‘but it has indeed been’): a mad image, chafed by reality.” I have to wonder what Barthes would think of this, would he agree or disagree that social media/technology has changed the purpose of photography?
“Memory is funny. Specific and vague. Visceral and unreliable. Truth and fiction” (Simons).
“When you decide to get rid of a town, there are odd considerations and effects. For instance, once it’s gone, has it really, truly disappeared?” (Simons).
Despite the fact that the Pine Point town doesn’t really have much of a physical existence anymore in the space it once occupied, there is this collection of pictures, video clips, government documents that mention the closing of the town, and the collective (if selective) memories held of the town by each of the former residents. Given these remnants still exist even after the town itself is no more, it seems that there is a certain sense in which the town never truly disappeared entirely, but rather its story is merely forever paused.
However, Simons also touches on how the memories of the former Pine Point residents are incomplete in some aspects, and even selective in some instances. I am reminded of Barthes’ attempts to remember his mother as she was, and how despite his efforts, he only recognized her in fragments.
This brings me to the questions: When the collective memory of a town such as this is fragmented and piecemeal, has the town truly disappeared if it cannot be recalled in its entirety? What constitutes a “good enough” collection of memories for something to live on, in a sense? When the former residents themselves are no longer around, will the imagery left of the town be enough to give others an accurate glimpse of what was? Or does complete accuracy not matter so much for the visual memory as long as people are given glimpses of what this town was like?