I created this poster for the Junior League of Poughkeepsie’s upcoming event using Canva, a free online design tool. I have tried to upload a larger, clearer image, but WordPress continues to reject it.
My main concerns were to have the Junior League’s logo prominent but not too overwhelming and then to use the stacks of pastel book stacks to make this seem more child-friendly (it is a children’s authors luncheon). I used pictures of the authors, because I have a strong feeling most people are not going to be familiar with their names or the titles of their books alone. The smaller picture is of the event host, who is apparently well-known, and he looks very sprightly, so I thought he would be eye-catching.
Perhaps what I am most pleased with is that I learned how to make a QR code, because if this flyer is hanging up in a library, a person might be able to take a picture of it on their phone to remember all the contact details, but savvier folks can just use a QR reader to go directly to the website to purchase tickets.
I would have actually preferred to use more white space, because I think this is actually too busy, but there seemed to be a lot of necessary information to communicate to potential attendees.
DiSalvo, C. (2012). Design and Agonism. In Adversarial Design (pp. 1-26). MIT Press. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.online.library.marist.edu/stable/j.ctt5hhbs4.5
Carl DiSalvo focuses his book, Adversarial Design, on computations, but in the first chapter of his book, he offers several very useful terms as I think about how to analyze the visual rhetoric of protest signs. His essential research question is to muse whether or not there is a need to continue to discuss what design is and what it can accomplish. DiSalvo’s answer is yes (he goes on to write an entire book), particularly the relationship between design, politics, and the political.
He begins by defining what he calls “adversarial design” as “work straddles the boundaries of design and art, engineering and computer science, agitprop and consumer products. It spans a range of audiences and potential users and falls under various labels, such as critical design and tactical media (1-2). Several of the signs I plan to use as artifacts do employ different images, media, technology (including strings of lights).
DiSalvo continues by writing, “I use the phrase adversarial design to label works that express or enable a particular political perspective known as agonism. And I do not limit the term design to the profession of design but rather extend it across disciplinary boundaries to include a range of practices concerned with the construction of our visual and material environments, including objects, interfaces, networks, spaces, and events” (2). As a theory, agonism proposes that political conflict is essential and yet does not have to be negative.
DiSalvo uses several different projects as examples, but perhaps the most useful to me is an analysis of a project called The Million Dollar Blocks project – a map design that, as he writes, “political design because it reveals, questions, and challenges conditions and structures in the urban environment; it opens a space for contestation; and it suggests new practices of design in mapping and urban planning” (11). This method of determining what is political design is important and helpful.
He adds, “By revealing the conditions of political issues and relations, adversarial design can identify new terms and themes for contestation and new trajectories for action” (13).
He continues by offering three characteristics that reminded me of Foss’s visual argument litmus test:
Campbell, K. (2002). Consciousness-Raising: Linking Theory, Criticism, and Practice. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 32(1), 45-64. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.online.library.marist.edu/stable/3886305.
In “Consciousness-Raising: Linking Theory, Criticism, and Practice,” Karlyn Kohrs Campbell is primarily concerned with the suppression of women’s writing, the reclamation of that work, and the development of theories that will effectively allow scholars to analyze women’s writing that has traditionally been examined through male-driven theories. She offers a history of women’s protest rhetoric lost and reclaimed, including the work of scholars who “not only preserved speech texts but also included detailed information from archives, newspapers, and personal papers regarding speech occasions, audience reactions speech preparation, and the like” (47).
Campbell presents a history of efforts to collect and present women’s writing over the years, and names relevant anthologies. She then discusses how “[t]heorizing about rhetoric emerged in cultures hostile to and denigrating of women,” (48) and notes that, through an earlier book of her’s, she developed “interrelated strategies” that she termed a “’feminine’” style (49). Campbell specifically addresses the ways women contributed to anti-slavery discourse and, using Habermas and other theorists, discusses explicitly how their protest rhetoric was uniquely “feminine” in their approach.
Finally, she shares feminist rhetorical strategies that exist in order to do this “conscious-raising” work, and reclaim (and reframe) women’s rhetoric.
This application of feminist historiography as well as Campbell’s compelling demonstration of how to apply feminist theories to women’s rhetoric (particularly protest rhetoric), is incredibly useful as I look to understand the protest signs from the 2017 Women’s Marches. Her interest in going beyond say, the “traditional” novel and her interest in the way women’s rhetoric affected social change seems very appropriate for my vision for my final project.
I am going to attempt to apply Foss’s logic on another image from the 2017 Women’s March protests. I am using the following quote as my framework: “What turns a visual object into a communicative artifact – a symbol that communicates and can be studied as rhetoric … The image must be symbolic, involve human intervention and be presented to an audience for the purpose of communicating with that audience” (144).
The sign is made out of yellow material and is in the shape of a five-pointed star. The five-pointed star is a rich symbol with many interpretations; in this case, given the color and the language printed on the sign, it is clearly referencing the Star of David symbol used to mark Jewish people during World War II. The image fulfills Foss’s demand for symbolism. The sign was certainly constructed by a human, and it is communicating a message (a message that is somewhat nuanced, as it does not expressly say, “America is becoming Nazi Germany!”). This sign seems to easily meet Foss’s standards. This is a visual argument.
What this method misses, perhaps, is an evaluation of the communicative artifact’s effectiveness, though I think that could be teased out by following Foss’s assertion that rhetorical perspective depends on an image’s nature, function, and evaluation, where function is divorced from purpose. The sign is a visual argument, but does it command action? A redress of thought? What am I, the viewer, supposed to do with this image? If its purpose isn’t clear, then the argument is moot, I think.
Reading Sonja K. Foss’s chapter, “Theory of Visual Rhetoric,” in The Handbook of Visual Communication helps me most clearly understand what I believe constitutes a visual argument. She writes, “What turns a visual object into a communicative artifact – a symbol that communicates and can be studied as rhetoric … The image must be symbolic, involve human intervention and be presented to an audience for the purpose of communicating with that audience” (144) She goes on to assert that rhetorical perspective depends on an image’s nature, function, and evaluation, where function is divorced from purpose (a bit Barthesian “Death of the Author”). I believe a visual argument can definitely be done without linguistic reference, but less so effectively in the absence of a contextual one.
The image is symbolic: in the later part of the 20th century, pink has been arbitrarily associated with the feminine. The little ear flaps change the shape of the hat from normal beanie shape into an animal (specifically a cat, though some pussy hats look less like cats and more like bunnies, to my mind.) This hat had to be knitted by a human, indicating human intervention. They are being worn on the heads of humans to communicate an idea. That is part of what Foss would suggest is situational, in that most people are wearing these hats at protests, marches, and rallies to communicate solidarity. This concept of solidarity, though, aligns with Foss’s argument that function is not the same as purpose. Suppose the person who knit the hat meant for the hat to represent a position on women’s health rights. The person who see that hat, in the absence of any specific reference to women’s health rights, might read the hat as symbolizing female of power, or a pro-ACA stance, or a push for immigration rights. Thus, the hat is a visual argument because it invites interpretation.
Foss, S. K. (2005). Theory of Visual Rhetoric. In K. Smith, S. Moriarty, G. Barbatsis, & K. Kenney, Eds., Handbook of Visual Communication: Theory, Methods, and Media (pp. 144-152). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
As I look forward to analyzing protest signs from the 2017 Women’s Marches, I thought it would be helpful to look back to some to the earliest examples of protest rhetoric. This article is a fascinating parsing out of Martin Luther’s Nintey-Five Theses. I had a general understanding of the historical event, and the document, but I have never had an occasion to consider it as a physical, material document, and how that might really impact our understanding of the piece on another level.
Culp and Kuswa write:
“It is from learning about what determines the conditions of a sign, particularly a sign that can protest prior to both persuasion and the critique of persuasion theory, that we can formulate a sense of rhetoric that is not automatically consumed with subjectivity (how rhetoric calls into being various types of individuals, identities, and populations). (151)
They note that also:
It is from learning about what determines the conditions of a sign, particularly a sign that can protest prior to both persuasion and the critique of persuasion theory, that we can formulate a sense of rhetoric that is not automatically consumed with subjectivity (151)
Culp and Kuswa write, “In our search, we find a sign in one of the most significant moments of history, Luther’s Ninety-five Theses —and it is a sign that stands outside persuasion” (151). That idea, the positioning of the Ninety-five Theses as being outside of persuasions is very interesting to me.
Culp and Kuswa write, “Signs not only persuade and interpellate, they also mark. Period. They convert.They transition one state into another through their own force. Indeed, our analysis of Luther’s Theses as protest rhetoric inflects the necessity for rhetoricians to ground signs and their marks” (159) They go on to add:
However anachronistic the “case” may seem on first blush, the act of nailing a declaratory document on the side door of a Church in Wittenberg over 500 years ago may function as an important example for our time. Why? Because pre-persuasion intermingles with post-persuasion, and we need a new framework to take into account the agency of different kinds of subjects—the subjects of codes, capital, nodes, networks, and infrastructures. The Theses became a sign of protest through the de-territorializing force of a demand that freed the rhetoric of authority from the sovereign voice, (159)
From a footnote, the authors offer a final, very tantalizing note:
This very specific act—the nailing of demands to a public space—is a sign of protest (it is a historical event that marks an effective clash between a single unyielding individual relying on a commitment to values outside the authority of other humans), and it is a sign that protests (it reminds us that the power to protest is the power not just “of” words, but to convert words into worlds). (160)
The posters I plan to study are not single, profound documents nailed to a public space, but I think they are the genetic granddaughters of this act of rebellion. I hope to reflect more on the physical act of nailing a protest in a public place, and how contemporary protesters might be performing similar actions in ways I’m just not aware of yet.
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