Although I am unable to relate to the pedagogical element of these readings in a first hand way (okay, so I did hold my student’s hand through an ad analysis), I love the idea of privileging (or at least leveling the divide) between verbal and visual thinking in the rhet/comp and professional writing classrooms.
In “Making the Strange Familiar,” Brumberger laments the academic shackles preventing a utopian environment that would emphasize visual thinking: “In the ideal postsecondary environment…we would transcend disciplinary boundaries and turf to work with faculty outside of English in team teaching and developing cross-disciplinary projects, courses and curricula that would help our students learn to think visually as well as verbally” (381). If this were possible, I wonder, if one could gather resources from a university’s art, anthropology, and/or computer science departments, what would make for an ideal assignment to teach visual thinking?
As robust as this week’s articles are, they seem hard-pressed to cite some concrete examples of what this kind of utopian assignment might look like, or even what it might look like when constrained to resources only English instructors might have. George’s “From Analysis to Design” discusses her student’s projects for her Africa in the Popular Imagination class, but these projects are pretty specialized. In defining visual thinking, Brumberger at first puts visual thinking in affected (not the ‘contrived,’ definition, but relating to affect theory) or perhaps phenomenological terms: “As I learn more about design – from a hand-on perspective rather than a more academic one- I find myself looking and seeing more purposefully, supporting the idea that visual thinking is an active problem-solving process” (380). She then goes on to define visual thinking as an “active analytical process” that puts into play perceiving, interpreting, and producing through seeing, imagining and drawing (381).
I can hardly critique these articles for not addressing what this kind of assignment might look like. I’ve been brainstorming for a while now, and good lord– I can say I truly am having a hard time thinking of one. Perhaps, however, in a style similar to the music video method of approaching ENGL 101’s rhetorical analysis assignment, one could compose a visual argument by presenting a thesis through digital means.Using audio software to play clips of the song (of the lyrics used to make a claim) over footage that relateing to a thesis might force a student to think visually. For example, in ENGL 101, one of the options I gave my students for the rhet analysis was Toby Keith’s “Trailerhood” (for the record, I think Keith contaminant of popular music). Instead of writing a paper with subheadings, topic sentences, and a predictably located thesis (using verbal thinking), maybe a student could use visual thinking by repeating the audio that emphasizes community over footage of where she grew up (streets, businesses, and homes) along with any other images or additional footage to make a claim about how we think of community (As an aside: the repetition and inevitable non-linearity of the music would be a bit jarring and thus neat).
Though this hypothetical assignment only uses technology from non English departments (software like Logic or Cakewalk through a music department, nice cameras from a journalism department), it is a start, I suppose, that most of us instructors in class could realize in our own classrooms.
Brumberger, E. R. (2007). “Making the strange familiar: A pedagogical exploration of visual thinking.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 21(4), 376–401.