Eloquent Images: Word And Image in the Age of New Media

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Mary E. Hocks, Michelle R. Kendrick
MIT Press, Sep 1, 2005 - Art - 328 pages
2 Reviews
The emergence of New Media has stimulated debate about the power of the visual to dethrone the cultural prominence of textuality and print. Some scholars celebrate the proliferation of digital images, arguing that it suggests a return to a pictorial age when knowledge was communicated through images as well as through words. Others argue that the inherent conflict between texts and images creates a battleground between the feminized, seductive power of images and the masculine rationality of the printed word. Eloquent Images suggests that these debates misunderstand the dynamic interplay that has always existed between word and image.

Arguing that the complex relationship between text and image in New Media does not represent a radical rupture from the past, the book examines rhetorical and cultural uses of word and image both historically and currently. It shows that complex, interpenetrating relationships between verbal and visual communication systems were already evident in hieroglyphic writing and in ancient rhetoric and persist in the work of classical rhetoricians, in cultural studies of technology, even in the binary code distinctions of digital environments. The essays blend theory, critique, and design practice to explore the often contradictory relations of word and image. All of them call for theoretically grounded approaches to hypermedia design.

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Eloquent Images seeks to understand if new media/digital media should be understood as a “pastiche of existing forms of inquiry and communication” or if new media/digital media represents a paradigm shift that necessitates “new methods of inquiry and understanding” (Hocks and Kendrick 2). The essays show that there is no answer, no single approach, no official way to understand new media but instead show the varied possibilities for understanding new media including the rhetorical and the cultural. Most essays here take up the textual vs. the visual debates. Many of the critiques discuss the complicated intersections of the text and the image, as the title suggests, with much historical emphasis. Interestingly, the authors claim that the aesthetic approach to new media is a “purely formal” one and that it is isolated from production and rhetorical contexts. Of course, I see the aesthetic as incorporating the formal, cultural and rhetorical aspects, etc....so I see am going to have to address this.)
Of the essays in this collection, one of the most interesting is Jay David Bolter’s essay “Critical Theory and the Challenge of New Media.” In this chapter he demonstrates the need for a new critical theory that can merge cultural and historical issues as well as formal issues of design” (33). He continues to describe what a critical theory of new media should do: “ A new critical theory is needed that can make us aware of the cultural and historical contexts (and ideologies) without dismissing or downplaying the formal characteristics of new media. This theory needs to explain these formal characteristics without explaining them away, because practitioners have no choice: If they wish to create successful product, they must attend to these formal values (which used to be regarded as aesthetic values in art or utilitarian considerations in software engineering and computer programming). Any theory that is going to be useful for actual practice must offer the practitioner guidance in conceiving and executing the form of her work. A new critical theory should offer in addition an understanding of the cultural contexts in which the form is embedded. Such a theory should analyze and even criticize current cultural practices through new media forms. Instead of holding up new media forms such as the world wide web as examples of the excesses of late-capitalist culture, however, a new theory should turn new media forms themselves into vehicles of critique. Design in context must be critical and productive at the same time” (Bolter 34). Here Bolter insists that the aesthetic = the formal aspects of design.

Review: Eloquent Images: Word and Image in the Age of New Media

User Review  - Michael - Goodreads

In their introduction, Hocks and Kendrick question the notion that "visual culture" and "print culture" are separate, or that new media is where they are combined for the first time: our culture has ... Read full review


Critical Theory and the Challenge of New Media
Seriously Visible
Video Visualization and Narrative

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About the author (2005)

Mary E. Hocks is Assistant Professor of English and Director of Writing Across the Curriculum at Georgia State University.

Michelle R. Kendrick is Assistant Professor of English in the Program in Electronic Media and Culture at Washington State University.

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