Showing posts from July, 2011

Visualizing Debt

Visuals are the way most of us receive information and good visuals can be very powerful.

U.S. Debt Problem Visualized

That's $100,000,000, yep, One Hundred Million Dollars in $100 dollar bills (the most counterfeited currency in the world) and it fits nicely on a pallet.

That's One Trillion Dollars and the caption partly reads: "If you spent $1 million a day since Jesus was born, you would have not spent $1 trillion by now...but ~$700 billion- same amount the banks got during bailout." Those double stacked pallets would cover an entire football field.

That's 15 Trillion dollars . . . the amount of projected U.S. Debt by December 2011 at current rates.

"If you live in USA this is also your personal credit card bill; you are responsible along with everyone else to pay this back."

Visit to see even more debt visuals including one of the U.S.'s unfunded liabilities.

U.S. National Debt Clock

Tables are a very common way to visuali…

Plagiarism and the College Classroom

Cheating is rampant and not just in the college classroom.

Recent scandals include the Atlanta school district where hundreds (yes, hundreds) of teachers and administrators, NOT STUDENTS, changed answers on state wide tests in order for the district to look good (meaning get more money) on standardized tests.

You can blame "No Child Left Behind," for pushing up standards, but my response to those teachers who say the standardized test drove them to it: Didn't you always give tests in your classes? Of course, you did.

But I digress . . .

Great Neck, New York high school students paid to have their SAT tests taken by others with fake IDs and handwriting samples - tests that cost high schoolers $1 a point, meaning some paid more than $2000 for a good SAT score.

David Wangaard and Jason Stephens in the Winter 2011 edition of Excellence and Ethics posted the results of a three-year study of academic motivation and integrity. The two researchers "surveyed over 3,60…

Envisioning Information

It's much easier to read large collections of data in a visual format and this type of graphic data presentation is a modern phenomenon (relatively speaking). Can you imagine reading all these data points as lists of numbers? Talk about information overload . . . but like all other information you receive visually, everything is done for a reason.
Read the above data points. What has been the trend for winter temperatures in England for the last 350 years? What projections can you make from this trend?

Here's another graph of 10,000 years of global temperatures from the Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2.

What has been the trend for worldwide temperatures in the last 10,000 years? What projections can you make from this trend?

Here's a different presentation of the same information:

Why do you think the author highlighted certain segments of the data line? The green bars are labelled using periods of human civilization: Minoan warm period, Roman warm period, Medieval warm …

Dance + Comics = Personal Mythologies

Art Speigelman, author of Maus a comic book about the Holocaust, collaborated with the Philobolus dance company on a project where Sunday strip characters were animated to create dancing comics.

These dancing comics resulted in a mash up of ancient and modern mythologies; where Pan and Medusa ran head on into the Sunday funnies, noir film, detective novels, and movie classics to create a personal mythology, or dream life, that presents a slightly skewed world view, all set to the tinny tunes of early jazz.

Speigelman calls this collaboration a new language, which he termed Still Moving in a short interview he gave about his collaboration with Philobolus.

In addition, Speigelman talks about stories, characters, and movies that resonate from his childhood, stories like The Wizard of Oz and characters like the early Hapless Hooligan from the Sunday funnies. What stories or characters made an impact on your childhood?

Highlights from the Philobolus world premier of Still Moving:

What …

And the Peeps just keep on coming . . .

I went to an outdoor performance of Shakespeare's Macbeth--awesome production by the way--and it reminded me of another strangely awesome Shakespeare, or rather Shakespeep, production.

And without further ado, here's Peepeo and Juliet by Plain Jane.

>Click here for the rest of Peepeo and Juliet

A Short History of Visual Communication

In argumentation, warrants or assumptions can be a tricky concept for readers and writers to grasp.

Claims are supported by evidence and warrants – those underlying beliefs or values taken for granted by bloggers, advertisers, politicians, and writers. Assumptions can come from cultural values, biological or scientific beliefs, intellectual (logical) tenets, or idiosyncratic viewpoints. In writing and visual communication some warrants (or assumptions) are explicit, but most are implied and your understanding of texts, both visual and written, relies heavily on your beliefs.

So having said all that - What does this strip remind you of?

What are some of the underlying warrants or assumptions of this strip?

Since comics often present information in a humorous way, what do you need to know in order to get the joke about visual communication? What is the joke?

The author seems to be making a prediction, what is it? Do you agree or disagree?

Is there anything, or any step, missing…

We'll be right back, after these messages . . .

When your ethos is about to be destroyed, and you can only rely on your logic to avoid the pathos of your audience, it's time to retreat - or at least that seems to be the implication here.

SPOILER ALERT: In other words, when you admit that everything you've told your fiance is a lie, the only logical thing to do to avoid his or her emotional reaction is to climb into your Range Rover and cower behind the wheel.

Message: "You'll feel safe inside."

Hmmm, I always knew there was something wrong with people who drive Range Rovers. On the other hand, it is a pretty funny commercial and the advertisers were looking for the audience to laugh.

Look at other rhetorical clues, what else were the advertisers trying to tell the audience or saying about people who drive, or would purchase, Range Rovers?

Why I Shouldn't Blog About Politics . . .

Political ideologues can whip trivial episodes and misstatements into a frenzy faster than a washing machine during a heavy duty spin cycle. They engage in all the fallacies we're told to avoid: false analogy (comparing health insurance to car insurance), circular arguments (terrorists don't want TSA screenings, so if you complain about airport screenings you're a terrorist), ad hominem attacks (President Obama is a fascist, socialist, etc.)--you get the idea.

Political pundits usually get everything half-right, or half-wrong, depending on which side of the aisle you sit . . . and just when you think someone is getting unduly chastised by a rabid politico along comes a politician who does something so incredibly idiotic that you just can't help wondering how they got elected in the first place.

Enter Michele Bachmann.

No, it wasn't something she said at a political rally, some over the top promise made to supporters, it was something she signed called The Marriag…

Alice in Peepland

Alice in Peepland is the Chicago Tribune's 2011 (People's choice) winner. What a misnomer! Of course, this is the Peeple's choice winner!

This is the Dispeep version, there's no Johnny Peep as the Mallow Hatter to scare the goo out of you. We can clearly see Alice as she waits for the Queen of Carnuba to wax the groundpeep through the Jackrabbit of Spades.

Advertising and Visual Rhetoric

These days we get most of our information via visuals--television media, magazines, the internet--even newspapers have gone cyber. Go to your local newsstand and you'll find papers featuring huge photographs above the fold. Tucked inside are various pics, graphics, and charts serving up information in a visual way that can be read just like any other text.

But the best servers of visual information (or at least the most creative) are advertisers.

There's a lot to learn about rhetoric by examining how advertisers are manipulating purchasers to buy a myriad of products we may or may not need. Recently, this ad found its way to my mailbox with the caption, "Can you guess the product before the end of the commercial?"

At first I thought it was some weird take on a new HGTV home redecorating show, but since YouTube so graciously provides the product in the header it's a bit of a giveaway.

Marketers know that when the audience feels familiar with something, …

Celebrate the Fourth with Another History Lesson

Or Conservative Women – The Best Thing to Happen to American History?

Forget Sarah Palin.

Thank you Michele Bachmann.

Congresswoman Bachmann recently said John Quincy Adams and our other founding fathers “worked tirelessly” to end slavery. George Stephanopoulos reminded Bachman, and all of us, that slavery didn’t end until the Civil War, so the founding fathers couldn’t have been doing much to end that peculiar institution. Stephanopoulos also schooled Bachmann on the cast of founding fathers. John Adams, yes; John Quincy Adams, no.

John Quincy Adams was the son of a founding father and the sixth president of the United States, who, after his term as president was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He railed against slavery and successfully upheld the release of a group of slaves who mutinied on the Spanish slave ship, Amistad, arguing that the Africans had been illegally detained. But he was not a founding father.

When Bachmann asserted that once immigrants arri…

Sarah Palin: The Best Thing to Happen to American History?

During the 2008 presidential election, I taught English at an institute of higher learning where the class focused on politics. What a great way for students to learn something about the presidential candidates, American history, and critical thinking. Throughout the quarter, we had lively and spirited conversations about the limitations on free speech and the press.

For the final, I asked students to analyze a political cartoon that spoofed The New York Times for releasing sensitive material. This Times was dated April 17, 1775 and displayed a drawing of the old north church with headlines that read “One if by land; two if by sea. Secret Lantern Signals of American Colonists Revealed.” The first couple of paragraphs stated that an anonymous source had revealed the “secret plan for tomorrow to warn Patriot Colonist Militia Forces of the route the English Regular Soldiers plan to take as they move their forces to Lexington and Concord.” Student essays were to focus on how politi…