Reading Question 3/20

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?

Glossary Terms: 3/13

Visual: Sousanis simplifies this term by comparing it with verbal modes, which “march along linearly, step by step, a discrete sequence of words” (59). He then goes on to say “the visual, on the other hand…presents itself all-at-once, simultaneous, all over, relational” (59). Rose takes this similar concept and discusses it throughout an entire book chapter, and finally settles on the idea that “visual imagery is never innocent; it is always constructed through various practices, technologies and knowledges” (32). [HD]

Flatness: Unflattening explores the concepts of flattening and unflattening throughout the book, but Sousanis immediately provides readers with what he means by flatness: “Like a great weight descending…suffocating and ossifying, flatness permeates the landscape. This flatness is not literal, no. It cloaks its true nature under a hyper-real facade…This is a flatness of slight, a construction of possibilities…where inhabitants conform to what Marcuse called ‘a pattern of one-dimensional thought and behavior’” (5-6). With this introduction, it is clear that Sousanis will further explore humans sometimes narrow view of the world and universe. [HD]

Stop-Write 2/13

Dillard describes her failing drawing compared to her family’s successful portrayals as a lack of being able to see the “artificial obvious.”  She explains that “The point is that I just don’t know what the lover knows; I just can’t see the artificial obvious that those in the know construct” (Dillard 3). Her family seems to understand the artificial obvious, whereas she was unable to identify it while drawing her “lame” horse.
What is the artificial obvious? How does one recognize or construct it on a daily basis?

2/13 Brooke Note: Graphesis (pp. 1-64)

Drucker, Johanna. Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production


Drucker, Johanna. Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production. Harvard University Press, 2014, pp. 1-64.


The inside flap summarizes the book explaining that “Graphesis provides an ambitious overview of the field of visual knowledge, its history and critical development, with emphasis on developing a descriptive analysis of the ways schematic graphical forms construct meaning. Drawing on fields as diverse as semiotics, gestalt psychology, cognitive studies, history of cartography and statistics, art history, and aesthetics, this unique contribution to our understanding of graphical forms of knowledge production lays the foundation for study ahead.”

The first part of the book explains that it is important to explore graphesis (the study of visual production of knowledge), because it is a large part of our culture (3). Drucker also emphasizes that she uses the humanistic perspective to inform the book. Drucker then sets the tone of the book by providing definitions for the words that are important for readers to know: information graphics, graphical user interface, visual epistemology, and languages of form. On page 20, Drucker provides eight “approaches to the systematic understanding of visual epistemology that form the core of [her] approach.” These eight approaches include knowledge and/as vision, languages of form, dynamics of form/universal principles of design, gestalt principles and tendencies, basic variable, understanding graphics and editing, processing images, and typology of graphic forms. Pages 21-55 explain these approaches in further detail with visual examples. Then, pages 56-63 provide brief descriptions and visual examples of graphical forms in information visualizations and interface designs.


  1. Knowledge production
  2. Visual
  3. Images
  4. Graphical
  5. Humanistic perspective
  6. Principles of visual communication
  7. Information visualizations
  8. Interface designs


Crane, Walter. Line and Form. Bell and Sons, 1925.

—. The Bases of Design. Bell and Sons, 1898.

Jones, Owen. The Grammar of Ornament. Day and Son, 1856.


“The marks and signs that make up an image are neither semantically consistent–that is they don’t represent meaning or value in a dependable way–nor are they graphically consistent, unless they are produced with mechanical means..Visual images are not constructed by a given set of rules…Visual images are not governed by principles in which a finite set of components is combined in accord with stable, fixed, and finite rules” (24).

“The complexity of visual means of knowledge production is matched by the sophistication of our cognitive processing. Visual knowledge is as dependent on lived, embodied, specific knowledge as any other field of human endeavor, and integrates other sense data as part of cognition. Not only do we process complex representations, but we are imbued with cultural training that allows us to understand them as knowledge, communicated and consensual, in spite of the fact that we have no ‘language’ of graphics or rules governing their use. What we have are conventions, habits of reading and thought, and graphical expressions whose properties translate into semantic value–in part through association with other forms and in part through inherent properties” (51).


I’m interested in the idea of the “book of the future” that Drucker briefly described on page 63. Where did this idea come from? Is this her own idea or did she adapt this idea from somewhere else? Will she explain this further throughout the rest of Graphesis?

Brooke Notes-George

George, Diana. “From Analysis to Design: Visual Communication in the Teaching of Writing.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 54, no. 1, Sept. 2002, pp. 11–39.

Summary: “In an attempt to bring composition studies into a more thoroughgoing discussion of the place of visual literacy in the writing classroom, I argue that throughout the history of writing instruction in this country the terms of debate typical in discussions of visual literacy and the teaching of writing have limited the kinds of assignments we might imagine for composition.” (George 11)

As George states in her abstract, she explains how visual literacy has been viewed throughout compositions studies’ history. She begins in the 1940s post-World War II with Dick and Jane books recognizing that pictures need to be “read,” moves into the 1950s and ’60s recognizing that television also has images that need to be interpreted, and into the 1980s where students need to be the producers of images and not just the consumers.

NCTE’s primary author on the committee, Neil Postman, made a call for teaching films in the English classroom in 1961 and for assisting students in acquiring “taste and critical judgement” as a “literary experience” through films (17). In 1986, Costanzo wrote a report for NCTE that explained how film and writing are “equal partners” (24).

Classrooms did not foster visual literacy in textbooks or in assignments like George portrays in her 2002 article. She highlights textbooks from the 1950s-1970s that engage writers with pictures in a superficial way, in using it as a prompt or for analysis, but not for composition. In contrast, George assigns a visual argument assignment and is excited by the arguments her first year writing students compose.


Bartholomae, David, and Anthony Petrosky. Ways of Reading. Boston, MA, St. Martin’s Press, 1987.

George, Diana, and Diane Shoos. “Dropping Breadcrumbs in the Intertextual Forest: or, We Should Have Brought a Compass.” Passions, Pedagogies, and Twentieth-First Century Technologies, Edited by Gail Hawisher and Cynthia Selfe, Utah State UP, Logan, UT, 1999, pp. 115–126.


  • “My guess is that many of these difficulties will not ease up in yet another age of back-to-basics talk and threats of outcomes-based funding. Yet, our students will continue to work with whatever technology–much of it primarily visual–they can get their hands on” (George 32).
  • “Literacy means more than words, and visual literacy means more than play” (16).
  • “What was radical about Berger’s work was his insistence on breaking down the barriers that separated high culture (in this case art history) from low (advertising)[…] In this textbook, not only was meaning no longer restricted to the verbal, the visual was also not used as a gentle step into the ‘more serious’ world of the verbal” (George 23).


  • George explains the influence of design, making an example out of the formatting of a research paper. How can one break the idea of “academic decorum” with research papers and make it mainstream?
  • What are the three R’s she references from Rudolph Flesch?