Amy Araiza
Writ 303
George Boone
20 March 2014

Visual – Space Project

Throughout this semester, we have looked at different forms of rhetoric and ways of getting information across to an audience. For this image project, I have chosen to respond to a social problem through creative placement of text and through mapping, two of the visual tools that we read about and discussed in class. Originally, I had chosen water privatization as my topic, but after listening to a guest lecturer in my anthropology class talk about the problems with mass incarceration within the United States, I decided to change my topic to this. By providing a world map displaying the prison populations per 100,000 people in countries all over the world, along with a map displaying the incarcerated population per 100,000 in each of the 50 states, I hope to prove that mass incarceration is ineffective and detrimental to United States. Providing the audience with a visual representation of the prison populations in countries around the world through maps, tied in with other graphs and strategically placed text explaining the problems with the United States’ prison population today, will hopefully allow them make a local, personal connection and understand the importance of this social issue. By placing this project around campus in areas of high traffic, I hope to gain the attention of students, who may be able to band together and demand change within the system.

In Anne Frances Wysocki’s article “The Multiple Media of Texts: How Onscreen and Paper Texts Incorporate Words, Images, and Other Media,” she uses six different assumptions to explain how the visual components of media, including words, colors, drawings, charts, photographs, and diagrams, work together in a way that allows the reader to contextualize and analyze the text in their own way (123). There were a few assumptions that I was able to directly apply to my project, including visual presentation, spacial arrangement, social context, and strategic shaping of a visual text.

For her first assumption, Wysocki stated that “the visual presentation of a page or screen gives you an immediate sense of its genre” (123). This means that when a reader looks at a visual text, no matter the time, location, or occasion, they have automatic and immediate assumptions about the function and purpose of what they are seeing. In this particular instance, because my visual text is a poster, the reader should know that it is meant to convey a message, something I kept in mind when designing and formatting the project. By alternating between different maps, charts, and paragraphs across a poster board, I wanted the reader to immediately recognize that the purpose of this visual presentation was to convey a message and state facts.

Another assumption that Wysocki makes in her article is that all texts, whether page-based or screen-based, are visual and, therefore, their visual elements and arrangements can be analyzed (124). This was another assumption that I used to help craft my project. I wanted to be sure that the reader analyzed the project for what it was: an attempt to convey a social issue and the reasons why it was important. In order to do so, it was crucial to successfully communicate the visual arrangements in a way that the reader could easily interpret the intended message. In order to do so, I carefully structured the paragraphs in ways that were fluid and easily interpreted by the reader. These paragraphs were then tied in with the charts and maps in a way that the reader was able to use all of the elements together to understand the underlying message given by each individual element and then analyze the presentation as a whole.

This ties in with my interpretation of Wysocki’s next assumption, which explains that the arrangement of elements on a page perform persuasive work (124). By arranging the all of the different elements in a specific pattern, and then using arrows to direct the reader’s attention, I am able to direct the reader’s attention and get the reader to actually do something and participate with the presentation. The use of arrows directly responds to another assumption Wysocki made in her article, which says that “composing a visual text involves choosing strategies for shaping what is on a page or screen to direct a reader/viewer/browser’s attentions, within the context of other texts” (126). In my case, I used not only arrows to direct attention, but also different sized fonts, different colors on the maps, and a unique spacial arrangement. All of these strategies, combined with the elements used to convey the message, work together to form one cohesive visual presentation.

In Katharine Harmon’s book You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps on Imagination, she states, “Maps act as backdrops for statements about politically imposed boundaries, territoriality, and other notions of power and projection” (10). On the same page, she also stated that “maps are selective about what they represent, and call out differences between collective knowledge and individual experience.” Guided by these ideas, I knew that the use of maps was a crucial element in the visual presentation, as these points were very applicable, valid, and helpful in discussing this particular social issue. When deciding how to incorporate a map into the presentation, I thought that it was important to use maps that would allow the reader to make a personal connection, but also be allow the reader to relate their own understanding of the world in relation what Harmon mentioned.

The maps chosen depict two different sets of data. The first map is color-coded to depict the prison populations per 100,000 people in countries all over the world. Based on the information presented in the map, the reader can easily see that the United States surpasses every other country in the world in respect to the ratio of incarcerated persons to population size. This helps to solidify the point I am trying to make about the ineffectiveness of mass incarceration in the United States by giving the reader a visual interpretation that accurately depicts the information they have already been presented.

The second color-coded map displays the incarcerated population per 100,000 in each of the 50 states. After displaying the world map, I thought that it would impact the reader even more to see a map that more closely depicted the problems within the country that the problem is happening, as well as the country in which the intended audience resides. While all of the words used to describe mass incarceration within the United States are useful, this map allows the reader to make a visual connection with the facts, figures, and data presented and thus draw a more informed, holistic conclusion.

The power of words is immense, but there is something magical about the power of visual representations. The goal of this project was to address a social issue and create and place text to alleviate the problem. By creating a poster that depicts the ineffectiveness and detrimental nature of mass incarceration, I was striving to do just that. Using examples from the readings, I was able to construct a visual presentation that allows for interaction with the reader, directs the reader’s attention, and conveys an immediate message. Providing the audience with a visual representation of the prison populations in countries around the world and throughout our own country through maps, in addition to the strategically placed text and charts explaining the problems with the United States’ prison population today, will hopefully encourage the intended audience of young, bright students to demand change within this flawed system.

Word Count: 1253

Works Cited

Harmon, Katharine. “You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination.” New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2003. Print.

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “The Multiple Media of Texts: How Onscreen and Paper Texts Incorporate Words, Images, and Other Media.” What Writing Does and How It Does It; An Introduction to Analyzing Texts and Textual Practices (2004): 123-163. Print.

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