Description, Purpose, and Relevance

Visual images and multi-modal texts have powerful messages that we understand because they appeal to our cultural and rhetorical knowledge. We are overwhelmed with images in our daily lives, but this overload does not mean that we can simply tune all of them out; identifying patterns of meaning or underlying messages being conveyed by the images that surround us, reduces the feeling of being overwhelmed by them. In the same way that rhetoric structures our social reality, visual rhetoric structures our social vision of the world around us. For this assignment, your purpose is to carefully select a relevant visual space on UAB campus or in Birmingham, analyze its visual elements (location, function, design, proportion, symmetry etc.), attributes (contents- furniture/people, color, texture/mood etc.), and appeal (how is it making a connection with its audience) in order to support your claim about the meaning and relevance of this place in the community.

By now, you have conducted an I-Search of a place from your past in order to understand how it has contributed to the formation of your identity. You wrote specifically about a private place and its personal impact. With this visual analysis, I am trying to move you away from the private spaces that you inhabited in the past to the more public spaces that you now inhabit as college students. The purpose of the assignment is to help you attain a deeper understanding of a place and its culture by engaging in ethnographic research methods (direct observation, participant observation, personal interviews and conversations) and supplementing that with secondary research (mostly online). As such, you will still be able to narrate the story of your research (why you chose this place and how you went about gathering information), but the focus of the essay will mainly be on the place and its visual analysis.

In keeping with the AGSC guidelines, the assignment aims at enabling you to demonstrate your rhetorical knowledge as it pertains to real world contexts, develop the skills of critical thinking and analysis by engaging in primary research, engage thoroughly in the processes of writing, demonstrate your knowledge of conventions, and most importantly, learn to explore writing as a means of self-discovery and communication. Ultimately, however, the purpose of the assignment is to help you delve deeper into the new community that you are now a part of, understand its culture through analysis of its various features, and become more aware of how places impact community and identity.

Structure

  1. Introduction- Which place did you decide to choose for this ethnographic study and why? Introduce it to the reader by providing a brief description/background. In your thesis statement, make a claim about what the place represents and how.
  2. Research: How did you do the research? (Participant/observation, interviews, conversations) Add details, complications, etc. Have you found anything written about your topic before? (Online/Library) What did you find? How does the information relate to your own findings?

III. Analysis and interpretation of the information: Analyze the various elements of this place in order to show how they work together to give meaning to this place: location, purpose, appearance, design, people etc. What does your information reveal about the culture and relevance of the place that you studied?

  1. Conclusion: What meaningful inferences can you draw about this place?

Visual design elements to consider

Features: what are the specific features of this place (outside/inside, prominent/unique) and how does the space integrate with building design, scale, and proportion? Does it evoke a sense of unity and balance? How?

Design and Accessibility: Is it accessible via walking, biking or public transit? Does the place reflect the community’s local character? Does it foster social engagement and create a sense of community? Does it encourage interaction among diverse sections of the public? How? Is it safe? Is it fun?

Size and Use: How big is this place and how does its size affect the way you view it or the feelings it inspires? What is the use of this place? How can you tell from the elements that you see? Is the emphasis on practicality or on beauty and ornament? Do you see any unintended uses of this place? What does the interaction between the people and the place tell you about its use?

Shapes and colors: What are some of the dominant shapes you see in this place? Do they symbolize anything or relate to the use of this place? Do they remind you of other such places? What are the dominant colors and what emotions do they evoke? How does the color relate to the use of this place?

Emotional response: What is your overall emotional response to this place? Why? What elements contribute to that response? What elements could you change that might provoke a different response?

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