I see myself, a scholar of visual rhetoric, as championing the field of visual rhetoric. You show me your discipline and I will show you how you can use visual rhetoric to inform and improve it. My academic career has been a kind of choose-your-own-adventure story of multidisciplinarity and collaboration. I see that trend continuing with this path of scholarship, as positions would be available within a university’s communications, art, humanities, or English departments. I acknowledge my fluid disciplinary identity, though I am not sure yet if that will play to my favor once I am back in the job market, Ph.D. in hand.
Being a scholar of visual rhetoric brings with it a need for a solid foundation of understanding the iconic/symbolic nature of the visual (semiotics), the constructed mode of visual compositions (rhetorical appeals, elements of art, and principles of design), as well as a keen awareness of audience and perception (encoding/decoding). A knowledge base built on a history of visual rhetoric as well as traditional and cultural rhetorics, linguistics, semiotics, and methodological techniques and tropes that are unique to visual rhetoric is ideal. A background in design as well as visual communication and advertising is also extremely helpful as is a knowledge of past objects of study with an eye toward emerging technological media and means that are and will continue to impact and produce new objects of study. I include a focus on semiotics as informing my directions in visual rhetoric. To me, semiotics is a foundation for understanding visual rhetorics; its reach and implications are now more valuable to scholarship than ever before as new symbols, signs and points for interference emerge within objects of study.
In my role as a designer, I was the constructor of brand identity and visual narratives. I knew how to do the “hows” of design but didn’t know exactly how or why it was all working together, leading me on my quest of higher learning. I love teaching visual rhetoric in my art criticism and theory courses because it is as if I am revealing some arcane knowledge to students that opens their eyes to a new form of critical analysis. There is a special place in my heart for culture studies, particularly pop culture, advertising and film, and it goes without saying that fine arts and design would be a primary area of investigation and application of visual rhetoric. Yet my cerebral interests can’t be denied and are rooted firmly in theory and philosophy. I do not see myself returning to the ad agency (as I maybe overqualified with PhD in hand) but a think tank (perhaps one that focuses on cultural identity, advertising, or trends) would be ideal.
I am a person who complicates and considers the implications of everything. I also turn the rhetorical gaze back on anything (e.g. if I’m in a classroom, I’m investigating that class as a rhetorical situation with a set of implications, limitations and affordances). Having personally applied visual rhetoric in many ways - visual framing of disabilities, visual narratives in literature, the visual rhetoric of resumes, of breastfeeding in public, of simulation visualizations, of 15th century alchemist codex - I view the varied objects of study as giving me more space to play while engaging in scholarship.
In the classroom, I do find that many designers make too much money in the professional field to return to the world of education to teach the next generation of designers. Many instructors in the university system have been born of it and immediately return to teach without valuable real world experience. I would like to give students the valuable real world experience they need and will ensure that visual rhetoric no longer be neglected in design studies.
When I began this Ph.D. program, my dissertation focus was swirling around how visual wit has evolved. Yet as I’ve moved forward, the big questions of authenticity in regards to objects of study has continued to loomed large, even more so now when conjoined with visual rhetoric and the impact of the velocity of technology, as one medium has preceded and conditioned the next when it comes to our use of the visual, both as producers and audience. Implications of born-digital visual artifacts, virtual environments and digital spaces and virtual reality will require new definitions of authenticity to emerge, and I would like to be on the forefront of those future investigations.
As crazy as it sounds, I can also see myself as entering into more of a meta-discourse and analysis of the field itself. As I have learned more about visual rhetoric in this course, I see the sub-discipline as moving through iterations of identity crisis over the years, with new issues emerging that need to be examined and addressed as implications and objects of study are changing/need to change. Though I will be wet behind the ears, who better to see areas where change needs to occur?
As these questions continue to consume my thoughts about the visual artifacts we study, I see myself aligning with Anne Wysocki and Andrea Lunsford. Lunsford sees a need for “a new rhetoric and writing as epistemic, performative, multivocal, multimodal, and multimediated" (8). Pedagogy and methodology itself must be reworked, retheorized, and repositioned within visual rhetoric to stay relevant. I’m facing the fact that I have only scratched the surface of what was a craft that I thought I understood, of a sub-discipline that I hold so dear. Practice and theory can often present as two very different things. With visual rhetoric in particular, they must merge in the classroom if not in scholarship. We must develop theories and methodologies fast enough to keep up with the current trajectory of technology altering the production, dissemination and consumption of our objects of study, or risk losing our way via canonization.
Lunsford, Andrea A. “Key Questions for a New Rhetoric.” What is the New Rhetoric? Ed. Susan E. Thomas. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007. pp. 4-15.