Brooke Notes 2/27 (Graphesis pp 65-137)

Drucker, Johanna. Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production.


Drucker, Johanna. Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production. Harvard University Press, 2014, pp. 65-137.


Drucker discusses several aspects of graphical expressions, the history behind each aspect of them, and the ways in which they can be created to serve humanistic interpretation.


Short, John Rennie. Making Space: Revisioning the World, 1475-1600. Syracuse (N.Y.): Syracuse UP, 2004. Print.

Brookes, Martin. Extreme Measures the Dark Visions and Bright Ideas of Francis Galton. London: Bloomsbury, 2004. Print.

Allwein, Gerard, and Jon Barwise. Logical Reasoning with Diagrams. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996. Print.

Keywords: representations of information, knowledge generators, the rationalization of a surface, the distinction of figure and ground, the delimitation of the domain of visual elements so that they function as a relational system, timekeeping, temporality, Space-Making, spatiality, administration and record keeping, trees of knowledge/tree diagram, dynamic systems, humanistic methods, and visualizing interpretation.


  1. “A basic distinction can be made between visualizations that are representations of information already known and those that are knowledge generators capable of creating new information through their use” (Drucker 65).
  2. “A timeline, with its single, linear, homogeneous directional flow, expresses a model of temporality consistent with empirical sciences. But humanistic documents embody many alternative versions of temporality. Humanists deal with the representation of temporality of documents (when they were created), in documents (narrated, represented, depicted temporality), the construction of temporality across documents (the temporality of historical events), and also the shape of temporality that emerges from documentary evidence (the shape of an era, a season, a period, or epoch). They need a way to graph a chart temporality in an approach that suits the basic principles of interpretive knowledge” (Drucker 75).
  3. “Some visualization formats, such as tables, are so generalizable and re-purposable that their structure almost disappears from view. We take their operations for granted. This graphical organization and it spatial properties carry the trace of the purpose for which a graphic was created…Thus the static arrangement of information in a tabular form suggests that it has been modeled according to a strict distinction of content types and that these columns and divisions are neither mutable nor combinatoric” (Drucker 87).
  4. “Realist approaches depend above all upon an idea that phenomena are observer-independent and can be characterized as data…Rendering observation (the act of creating a statistical, empirical, or subjective account of an image) as if it were the same as the phenomena observed collapses the critical distance between the phenomenal world and its interpretation, undoing the concept of interpretation on which humanistic knowledge production is based” (Drucker 125).


  1. Drucker states on page 71 that “the challenge is to break the literalism of representational strategies and engage with innovations in interpretive and inferential modes that augment human cognition.” Despite her break down of the principles of visualization, I still find myself asking the question “how do we do this?” When bringing these concepts into a classroom, can the concept of to go about this be broken down more simply?

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]




Glossary Entries – 2/13

Visual epistemology “refers to ways of knowing that are presented and processed visually,” explained by Drucker (7). She notes that for the purpose of this book she will focus on representation and not cognition. She further explains that while “visual expressions of knowledge” are necessary for science disciplines, language-oriented disciplines have only scratched the surface (7).

Language of form “suggests a systematic approach to graphic expression as a means as well as an object of study,” described by Drucker (8). She goes on to state, “Most information visualizations are acts of interpretation masquerading as presentation. In other words, they are images that act as if they are just showing what is, but in actuality, they are arguments made in graphical form” (9).

Bibliography 2/12

I searched Google Scholar for Graphesis by Johanna Drucker and noticed that the book has been cited 68 times. I  read over a couple of them for Bibliography assignment.

Bowen, T., & Evans, M. M. (2015). What does knowledge look like? Drawing as a means of knowledge representation and knowledge construction. Education for Information, 31(1, 2), 53-72.

I found this book by searching Google Scholar for the works that cited Graphesis. People believe that complex and abstract concepts should be in writing or spoken language but authors have done a study on individuals’ drawings and noticed that visuals explain abstract concepts better. “Drawing is a form of knowledge production that can be used to support learning and further understanding complex or abstract concepts through the production of shared graphic objects and symbols”. [SK]

Drucker, J. (2001). Digital ontologies: The ideality of form in/and code storage: Or: Can graphesis challenge mathesis? Leonardo, 34(2), 141-145. doi:10.1162/002409401750184708

I found this article very interesting as they said digital media achieve authority in American culture because of its function in mathematics. “Since the history of images within Western culture is fraught with charges of deception and illusion, the question arises whether the ontological condition of the digital image, its very existence and identity, challenges this tradition. Or, by contrast, does the material instantiation of images, in their display or output, challenge the truth claims of the mathematically based digital file?”[SK]

Burdick, A. (2015). Meta!meta!meta!: A speculative design brief for the digital humanities. Visible Language, 49(3), 13

Burdick suggests a design approach to combine core concepts from critical theory with “design’s speculative inventiveness” and named it to three Meta processes approach (Meta of critical interpretation, the Meta of speculative reflexive design and the Meta of subject-computer-interface) to begins core humanities concepts with future digital humanities tools. [SK]

Lehman, Barbara. (2015). Visual Literacy and Education: Seeing the World Meets Critical Thinking. UCLA: Education 0249. Retrieved from

This article stressed on the demand of being visually literate in the culture dominated by images and called it a media culture. Lehman suggests a foundational approach to teaching the basics of visual literacy and she emphasizes on “seeing” as an active not passive activity. [SK]

Bowen, T. Introduction: Visual Literacy and Creative Engagements across the Global Village.

It is just 4 pages of an introduction of a book that I found in my Google Scholar research for Graphesis. Tracy Bowen says that visual literacy must be global but visual literacy is both contextual and political.  She states that “ an individual’s visual literacy is informed by the cultural codes, inclusion, exclusions and biases that we have come to live by”. [SK]