Thinking about Visual images in a Writing Course

Link to: bgblogging: Thinking about images in a Writing Course

Barbara Ganley, Lecturer in the Writing Program and English, and the Director of The Project for Integrated Expressionat Middlebury College, is one of the most experienced faculty members of the blogosphere, having used blogs as a writing tool since 2001. In this post, she explores some thoughts about requiring students to use images as tools within her writing course.

Reflecting on her own experience, she notes how having her digital camera with her changes the way she relates to her environment.

With the camera I am more alert to the individual details of the scene–and it is more a scene–than when I’m just walking. I am more attentive to everything going on in the visual plane rather than to the full experience.

In an earlier post, she reflects on how different her own perceptions of photographs are from that of her own children. For most of recent history, pictures were expensive and cumbersome to acquire. After the initial viewing were relegated to shoeboxes to be pulled out only at funerals or other special family occasions.

To my children, images are a part of the natural flow of communication. As are sound files. And text. It’s all part of the conversation. But a separate part of the conversation–a quick, visceral part often.

This shift was powerfully chronicled in Susan Sontag’s New York Times Magazine article on the power of the photographs of Abu Ghraib in which she noted that “a shift in the use made of pictures–less objects to be saved than messages to be disseminated, circulated.”

The integration of images and text hasn’t found its way to most academic writing–even that on the web. Professor Ganley’s current writing course looks like it will move another step toward that integration by using photographs to explore how understanding the place you find students find themselves enhances the ability to understand themselves.

What do we mean when we talk about where we’re from, about the important places in our lives and their impact on who we are? What are the stories embedded in those places? During the opening two weeks of the semester, we will be looking carefully at how a range of writers have understood the significance of place in the development of a person’s sense of self: Harriet Doerr, John Elder, Seamus Heaney, Annie Dillard. As we consider these works, we’ll explore our own places and how they figure in memory, in our awareness of the world, in our definition of self.

I’m heading over to the library to pick up Ron Burnett’s book How Images Think that’s mentioned in the post.

One thought on “Thinking about Visual images in a Writing Course”

  1. This is very interesting and as someone that tinkers with technology I wonder immediately how this could be done on a blog. I am not an expert at blogging but do see the value it possess to tell story. It is an engaging way to discover information that would normally take hours and days to collect. As I do my own blogging I ran across a new term for me on vblogging. This is the use of video to tell a story. The article I read was talking about how a video blogger in Norway was changing the political scene by blogging about his party’s activities. It was definitely simple reporting (not showing the downside of the party) but it does demonstrate our need to have more than the written word. Somehow if we can see it then we can interact with it on a deeper level.

    I will be interested to see what you have to say after you read the book!

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