Since the crisp autumn day when I read Scott McCloud, I’ve been hooked on using visuals in rhetoric and professional communication. From my first multimodal publication in Kairos to my comics-infused dissertation, visuals fuel my research. Visual literacy manifests my research passion: to present the complex in the most accessible fashion. This desire can be found in all my current research, which I divide into:
- Comics and visual literacy pedagogy
- Visual analysis
- Overlooked rhetoric
Comics and Visual Literacy Pedagogy
My dissertation looks at comics as a mode of introducing students to visual literacy by having them both read and create comics. Relying on progymnasmata—an ancient rhetorical practice dedicated to presenting the complex in a step-by-step, accessible fashion—I teach students to create visuals as arguments and technical instructions. A spinoff theme is challenging the alphabetic text’s inherited superiority to the visual verbal. These themes appear in many of my past conference presentations.
I also focus on designing research through visual means. I am in the process of creating a simplified comics version of my dissertation for Digital Humanities Quarterly. It will be part of the first peer-reviewed journals entirely about comics and entirely composed in comics. Similarly, I published a digital media piece in Karios entitled “Words Are the Ultimate Abstraction: Towards Using Scott McCloud to Teach Visual Rhetoric” in 2008. The topic related Scott McCloud’s visual approach with Geoffrey Sirc’s happenings scholarship as a method of approaching visual rhetoric through underground means.
Visual analysis of non-fiction comics and digital data representation forms another scholarship core. I collaborated with Tim Elliot to discuss the highest-selling comic book of all time’s failure to create collectable status in a book chapter titled “Sexy Art, Speculative Commerce, and the X-Men #1 Launch Extravaganza.” It is part of the compilation Ages of X-Men edited by Joseph Darowski and will be published by McFarland in 2014. I’m equally interested in all visual data presentation, such as David McCandless’ work in infographics or the interactive online documentary styles such as Pine Point Revisited by Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons. I have also presented at various conferences on these themes. All of these visual approaches to professional communication and rhetoric will continue to show up in my research.
One of the most fascinating things of rhetoric to me is the canonization of some rhetors and those forgotten to history. I analyze less-represented public figures in the rhetorical cannon, such as Tecumseh, about whom I’ve written papers and presented on at National Association of Native American Studies Conference. I hope to expand my discussion of Tecumseh to argue for a wider acceptance of his rhetorical exigency in future work as well as and other American Indian rhetoric.
I also focus on practical applications of overlooked rhetoric in professional communication. Copywriting has often been under the domain of marketing departments, yet studying it in professional communication courses could broaden students’ opportunities in the marketplace. Considering overlooked pedagogical tools frequents my research as well.