Examining Rhetoric: Visual and Verbal in Digital Space

Mary E. Hocks makes some valid claims for composition studies in her article: “Understanding Visual Rhetoric in Digital Writing Environments”. First, she argues that digital writing environments require different skill sets for critical analysis because “these digital writing environments make it difficult to separate words from visuals or privilege one over the other” (629). Further, she labels this particular characteristic of digital writing environments as “postmodern” (630). She emphatically asserts that “new technologies simply require new definitions of what we consider writing” (630). Hocks encourages the pedagogical instruction of critical analysis of digital writing environments, including teaching how to identify assumptions of gender, age, nationality and identity in these writing environments (630). She argues for the recognition of digital writing environments as hybrids: “We need to recognize that these new media and the literacies they require are hybrid forms” (630). By identifying the digital writing environments as hybrids, Hocks urges us to change the way that we view them: “Acknowledging this hybridity means that the relationships among word and image, verbal texts and visual texts, ‘visual culture’ and ‘print culture’ are all dialogic relationships rather than binary opposites” (631). I think this particular statement rests a profound movement away from dualistic thinking visual/print and into a recognition of the importance of what Hocks calls “hybrid literacies” (631). Since the totality of the visuals and print combine together for an inseparable “hybrid” effect for the reader, the webtexts should be analyzed with a holistic view. Hocks concept of composition as a discipline that examines hybrid literacies in digital writing environments applies to this project: Digital Dissent: Building Indigenous Identity, a webtext that can be viewed at crystalveronie@wordpress.com. The project consists of an analysis of indigenous websites addressing the issues arising from Tar Sands in Canada and the accompanying protests against the petroleum industry. Although the nature of the resistance in itself is fascinating and ultimately extremely important in the face of ecological disaster, in this project, I am specifically interested in examining how these “hybrid literacies” reveal dissent and assist in building indigenous identity.

Works Cited

Hocks, Mary. “Understanding Visual Rhetoric in Digital Writing Environments.” College Composition and Communication 54.4 (2003): 623-656. JSTOR. Web. 13 Mar 2013.

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