Visual Argument Reflection

After looking at the comments I received from my peers (Maury, Megan, Laurie, and Jenny), I think they did a great job getting at the argument I was trying to construct with my visual, which was simply that we are humans regardless of any other identity factor placed upon us and that we suffer and cry and laugh and learn and work even when living in different conditions. The learning, the work, the hardships and the losses, and how we survive may take different forms, but humanness is our underlying factor. My peers pointed out that my visual was about “the richness of the human experience,” “the range of human emotions and actions,” about the “perseverance” of mankind, and the “human condition.” It was this range of humanity that I wanted my visual argument to show that gave me such a hard time. I spent quite a bit of time choosing images from around the world so as not to assume that humanity is restricted to the US and developed countries, but to show different cultures, social classes, races, ethnicities, and religions. Part of my problem was that I think I initially wanted too many pictures for one collage, thinking that I could show the beauty and ugliness of the human race if I made a virtual mural. But I then started to wonder how many pictures in one collage would lose the focus of my argument and be too much for people to take in? When I reduced the number of pictures, the next big question became, What would be my central point to link them all together? DaVinci’s diagram of the anatomy of a man has some cultural weight to it that I have seen used before to represent mankind (disregarding the fact that it only represents a male), so I placed it at the center, hoping that it drew attention to the humanness of each person represented in the pictures that framed DaVinci’s diagram (which two people commented on). The next obstacle was how to arrange the other images. Should it just be random placement, or should there be an order to them? I chose the latter because I wanted to show a cycle we go through as individuals and as societies, from conflict to resistance to joy to learning to work to death. I wanted my visual to represent different cultures moving through these moments in a way that it seems like we forget. So often there is the Us vs Them argument, setting barriers to protect us from the influence of the Other, when we forget the simple fact that the Them really mirror Us in a way that can be startling and uncomfortable to other people. When we think of the conflicts raging in other parts of the world, like the Middle East, we tend to forget that they bury their dead as we do; it seems like all we see is our “pain” and our grievances, unless noticing others’ hurting furthers our own righteous indignation. So yes, after my long-winded explanation, I think my peers were spot on in their interpretation of my visual argument, and it makes me happy that the pictures I chose in the end were able to capture humanness rather than the “versus” attitude that I see so often in news outlets and on social media.

As for where I stand on the debate on whether or not visual arguments are possible, I am a big believer in the fact that visual arguments can be possible. Not to say that every visual is an argument (ex. I will never understand those large canvases that hang up in museums with only a dot of paint in the center and would never consider one of those to be a visual argument), but I do think that people can use visuals to construct an argument, and an argument that speaks as sharply on a topic as the most impassioned speech. When I was first thinking about a topic for what I wanted my visual to convey, I thought a great deal about the Civil Rights Movement and how we use those pictures to reveal something about the nature of racism in America, with a story from this year’s Martin Luther King Day having inspired me to really think about how we use words and how we use pictures. The woman from the story was using MLK quotes to stand up against someone trolling the holiday, but her most poignant moment was when she used images from the movement to question the troll on what exactly he/she was mocking that day. For me, visuals can convey arguments and evidence in a way that not even words can truly underscore. A powerful image can highlight an event and an emotion that are not easily brushed off.

Taken from the article on DailyKos.

Taken from the article on DailyKos.

As for my own visual argument, it took a long time for me to think of how to craft a visual that could be used as an argument. But I don’t think that such long contemplation is necessary. I cannot imagine that during situations like the march in Selma in the 60s or riots happening in, say, Russia, that a photographer would sit there for thirty minutes agonizing over the perfect shot the way I agonized over choosing the perfect picture. For me, I was crafting an argument using images that already existed and piecing them together outside of their original context, whereas pictures like those on Civil Rights Movements websites or in Holocaust Museums, are crafting arguments with images where the power of the images in enhanced because they are placed within their context. I cannot imagine ever saying that visual arguments are not possible when I feel that emotional hit every time I look at pictures of war torn countries, of children starving in the streets, of people facing armored police/military figures in the streets while trying to protest peacefully or violently. I find that an argument is one that is attempting to persuade an audience towards believing something, whether through emotion, logic, through varying combination of the two. Many visuals are just as strong as what can be conveyed through words, written or spoken.

Let the reflection soundtrack commence!


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