We aren’t trying to lie with visual imagery. We aren’t trying not to tell the truth. We’re just looking for ways to showcase more of our identity than the static images in our wallets or on our walls, shelves, or refrigerators let us. We don’t want THE picture of ourselves—the one a guest or an audience focuses on—to always portray us as static, simplistic, or one-dimensional.
You might say we are looking for opportunities to present lies and more truths in how we picture ourselves and others.
For us, static images are often a synedochic drag because we are more than parts for whole or whole for parts. We are a whole lotta wholes, parts, wholes parting, and parts wholing. We are extremely frustrated by the limited spaces wallets, shelves, walls, and refrigerators allow us to represent ourselves visually. Picturing real estate, in other words, is limited. Static images or pictures that don’t rotate or change like in slideshows work well for synecdoche but not for synecdoches. Static images limit how we present our identities in non-virtual/digital spaces.
Digital spaces, unlike walls, refrigerators, wallets and purses, are often less limiting spaces and allow for dynamic or multiple representations. Digital spaces are where we have opportunities to more fully synecdochize ourselves. Web technologies, in particular, allow for a diverse presentation of visual images in small amounts of space. Homepages, for instance, are important web real estate—much like refrigerators (which, for us, is a remediated form of Facebook). You can’t represent a whole person in a space that’s about 1024 px by 768 px wide. But you can represent a lot more of him/her with a slideshow—with dynamic imagery or imagery that rotates and changes in the same digital space.
We believe it is vital for students to recognize the synecdochic affordances and constraints of static and dynamic imagery in digital spaces as well as appreciate the importance and consequences of selecting between these representational possibilities. We see opportunity in digital spaces in what they afford or allow us to do with imagery, but we also understand that these different display technologies also constrain how we represent ourselves and others. A critical rhetorical and technological knowledge of picturing and picturing technologies is, as we understand it, an essential skill for designing, working with visual imagery, and better seeing the "politics of the interface" (Selfe & Selfe, 1994).
In what follows, you’ll find a “cheat sheet” of general examples and summaries of what static and dynamic imagery affords and constrains in the “Features” section. Our “Visions” section is where we offer a more detailed analysis of the technological and representational affordances and constraints of static, static-dynamic, and dynamic imagery as they have been used on one university’s homepage. If you go to our “Shows,” you’ll discover activities, lessons, and how-to’s for practicing and reflecting on static and dynamic imagery and the rhetorical situation. Finally, you'll find a “Re-Focus” of what we’ve said so far. In this final synecdoche of our thoughts, we offer a conclusion, recapitulations, and call for us all to pay more attention to the synedochic aspects of technology in our classrooms.
Our "Features" features examples and explanations of static and dynamic imagery. This is a synecdoche of our piece. It's a part for whole and a quick reference to the main affordances and constraints of static and dynamic imagery.
When we use the terms affordance, constraint, and anchoring, we are using these definitions:
Affordance: “A feature of a cultural tool which makes it easier for us to accomplish certain kinds of actions” (Jones & Hafner, 2012, p. 192).
Constraint: “A feature of a cultural tool which makes it more difficult to accomplish certain kinds of actions” (Jones & Hafner, 2012, p. 193).
Anchor: The ways in which verbal text and, for us, the context of a picture help “anchor” or sets the stage for understanding a visual text a particular way. In more words, it’s how verbal text and context help frame a picture for an audience to read it a certain way (inspired by R. Barthes, 1978 & N. Allen, 1996).
And, we ask you to remember one person's constraint may be another person's affordance/treasure/lemonade. In other words, affordances are constraints and constraints are affordances depending on context and purpose. In our examples below you'll see how we play with these terms.
affordance—one representation. If a word like "parent" anchored the picture, it'd be communicating to audiences what a parent looks like (a parent is a woman).
constraint—one representation. If a word like "parent" anchored the picture, it'd only be communicating to audiences this is what a parent looks like (a parent is a woman).
affordance—multiple representations. If a word like "parent" anchored the picture, it'd be communicating to audiences there are a lot of different kinds of parents and families.
constraint—multiple representations. If a word like "parent" anchored the picture, it'd be communicating to audiences there are a lot of different kinds of parents and families—not just one type.
affordance—one representation. If "New York City" anchored the picture, it'd be communicating to audiences what New York City looks like (it's Manhattan).
constraint—one representation. If "New York City" anchored the picture, it'd only be communicating to audiences this is what New York City looks like (it's Manhattan).
affordance—one representation. If "Manhattan" anchored the picture, the far shot of the person can suggest NYC is impersonal.
constraint—one representation. If "Manhattan" anchored the picture, the far shot can sugget NYC is only impersonal.
affordance—multiple representations. If "New York City" anchored the picture, it'd be communicating to audiences there are a lot of different aspects to NYC besides Manhattan.
constraint—multiple representations. If "New York City" anchored the picture, it'd be communicating to audiences there are a lot of different aspects to NYC—not just one type.
affordance—multiple representations. If "Manhattan" anchored the picture, the far shot suggests the person's connection to the city is impersonal. The close-up can suggest the connection is more intimate.
constraint—multiple representations. If "Manhattan" anchored the picture, the far shot suggests the person's connection to the city is impersonal. The close-up suggests the connection is intimate and so not either/or.
Before you slide into our next section, we hope you take a look at what we perceive as the value in rhetorically understanding the ways static and dynamic images get used to represent things/people. We offer an analysis of three important stages in Washington State University’s (WSU) homepage history and use of such imagery.
Our vision is focused on WSU's homepage because the imagery presented is anchored to important contexts: the role a university's homepage plays in defining education, in projecting an image of the desired audience/student body, in bolstering the university's ethos through promotion, and in connecting with current and prospective students. The homepage is the brand page. It is THE SYNECDOCHE of the college. We also focused on WSU's homepage because designers' uses of representational technologies have changed dramatically and move from using static to dynamic imagery.
At each stage of analysis we describe the affordances and constraints of the technology. We also examine the representational affordances and constraints in our interpretation of the visual arguments. And at the end we have a slide applying theory to our analyses.
Thus far Moving Images has shown the rhetorical implications of using static and dynamic imagery and their relationship to verbal text and audiences. What follows is an attempt to help teachers and students think multi-dimensionally about static and dynamic imagery.
This web page contributes to the "how to" dimension of understanding how modes are not isolated but, rather, work together to produce meaning and create identification. The pedagogical activities in slide #5 (photodatabases), slide #6 (slideshows), and slide #7 (affordConstrain) are meant to inspire teachers and novice student designers to exercise their rhetorical savvy, allay their fear of digital design by providing instructions on how to create slide shows, and enhance their critical hyperreading abilities with descriptions of some possible class projects. In slide #8 (advanced), we make a few suggestions for working with advanced designers. These activities and suggestions aren't "set in stone." They are just some ideas we’ve had about instructing students about verbal and visual imagery. And slide #9 (theory/ies) is where we discuss the theorists who inspired our work.
It’s not like we are trying to lie with visual imagery. And it’s not like we are trying to present something that’s not untrue either. So take a look, a focus, and a re-focus and see how play with the affordances/constraints of display technologies, like slideshows, tell truth or truths and falsehood or falsehoods about identity. In more words, selecting between static and dynamic displays of visual imagery are important design considerations that depend on audience, rhetorical goals, and feelings. Right now, we feel dynamic, ambivalent, and multifaceted. That’s why we have a lot of pictures in our slideshows.
In Moving Images we were hoping to focus your attention on what George and Shoos describe about the selective processes of technology:
And, it is when the technology is very good at hiding that process of selection and construction that the process is mystified—the ideas presented seem real or natural. They don’t seem to come from anyone at all but rather to exist out there, ready to be represented. (George & Shoos, 1999, p. 125)
Visual verisimilitude, resemblance, and representation technologies themselves afford and constrain different ways of mediating visual identity through the selective decisions of technology and representation. Static images afford and constrain identity at once. They afford only one picture, one representation; it makes it seem like that’s THE picture or representation to an audience. When that’s a rhetor or designer’s purpose or argument, that’s the tool to use. But, at the same time, static imagery constrains representation; it makes it seem like that’s the ONLY picture or representation to an audience. For better or worse, a static image is a synecdochic image.
Dynamic imagery, too, affords and constrains identity at the same time. Dynamic imagery affords a whole lotta representation. It emphasizes variety and suggests THE, THE, THE, and THE pictures or representations to an audience. At the same time, though, it constrains representation; THE, THE, THE, and THE may take away from the main THE an author is trying to reach, promote, or argue about and for. For better or worse, a dynamic image is a synecdochics image.
In more, other, and our words, we ask you to remember that when it comes to representational opportunities one person's constraint may be another person's affordance/treasure/lemonade. And we hope that we’ve given you the tools to make your own (and to help students make their own) affordances/treasures/lemonades OR affordance/treasure/lemonade.