Thursday, October 1, 2009

Q: Can visuals make arguments? How do visuals make arguments? Give an example.

A: Visuals can make arguments, but as is argued in the two articles for today, they do so in much the same way that written or verbal arguments do. In other words, in order for a visual argument to be successful, it must convey a question, and then it must attempt to answer this question in a way that attempts to convince the viewer of the author's point of view. To accomplish this, the visual must reference things that are accepted and understood within a societal and cultural context. This context often changes over time, which is why many visual arguments from decades ago that would have been effective then would not be effective in today's society. One example is how smoking was once a symbol for intellect, cultural refinement enjoying the finer things in life, relaxation, and (believe it or not) health. Today, an argument that attempted to use cigarettes in this manner would either be laughed at or simply not understood.

Likewise, visuals can make effective arguments if they are able to successfully tap into society's collective consciousness. We see this a great deal in two areas: advertisements and political cartoons. As someone who eschews advertisements, I'll bring up a relatively benign cartoon that surfaced on 9/30/2009

In this comic, we see Obama skipping from one troubled area within America to the next with an almost acrobatic ease. Of course most people would agree that the majority of these problems would not be problems if not for the incompetence of the previous administration. Despite this, Obama is the man who currently has the job to fix this mess and this comic makes the argument that he is taking it all on. I think that the argument that it makes is that applying his time and resources to convincing the Olympics Committee to pick Chicago might be a waste, given everything else that he must contend with. Regardless, the Olympics committee is impressed by his abilities, even if Chicago isn't going to win. So, to break this down to its two main arguments: 1. Obama is wasting his time with the Olympics since their importance is not equal to the other issues he must contend with, and 2. Obama is practically running a decathalon by trying to solve all of these problems facing the nation.

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