Archive | September, 2012

Analyzing Images

30 Sep

This week in class we analyzed and talked in detail about a range of images.  We looked at pictures of President Obama, natural habitats, historical events, and more.  We learned how to analyze images by looking for certain aspects of the picture.  First, we looked at what stood out in the forefront of the image and what was considered to be the primary theme of the image.  By discovering this, we could more easily determine what the creator of the image was trying to portray with his work.  The angle at which the image was taken affected the orientation of the image as well.  If the focus of the image, such as a person, is large and above the middle of the image, this suggests a powerful, strong figure that we look up to.  If the man is eye level, this suggests a person who is approachable and equal to the viewers.  In the images of President Obama, he is front and center in the image and the emphasis is on him and his body language.  In one image, he is lounged back in a chair at his desk.  His body language and the pictures of his family on the desk attempt to portray Obama as an approachable, kind, and humble leader.  On the other hand, we analyzed another image of Obama where he has a stern facial expression and isn’t looking directly at the camera, portraying him as a serious, powerful, and stern leader.

Another type of image we discussed in class this week was the advertisement.  Similarly to the images before, we looked to see what was the focus of the image to discover what the purpose of the advertisement was.  Some advertisements use large words with bright colors to emphasize the name of the product being advertised while others may use a recognizable person in the foreground to grab the viewer’s attention. There are two main strategies that all advertisements use: the mirror effect and window effect.  The mirror effect refers to way advertisements mirror the self image of the audience where they feel they are part of the crowd the advertisement relates to.  The window effect provides visions of the future of what what will happen if you buy the product being advertised.  Effect use of these strategies can really lure customers in to buying a product.





I chose the image above because it is simple but straight to the point and effective.  Nike uses the slogan “Just Do It” in a lot of their commercials to emphasize hard work and no excuses.  In this image, the emphasis on a poor Indian boy in the slums represents the idea that if the boy in India “can do it”, than anyone can.  I chose the video because it uses the strategy of using two celebrities to promote the company, and it also is the funniest commercial on television.



29 Sep

This past week in class, we have discussed analyzing photographs and advertisements.  We have learned techniques to use to know what the creator of the photograph or advertisement was trying to say.  They may not always be easy to figure out, but there is always a reason to them.  Learning how to do this has become very helpful because as a writer, it is good to see how other photographers, writers, or advertisers are targeting their audience. We have seen that many of them target certain groups of people, whether that be race, gender, or age.  There is almost always a specific group that the writer, or creator, is targeting.  That is helpful to writers in training, like students, because that helps us to target our own type of audience during our writing process.  The process may not always be easy, you have learn to grab the audiences’ attention and keep it as you try to get your point across to them.  Having a good hook is really what keeps the audience interested and forces them to focus on the product, or reason you are trying to sell to them.  Learning how professionals do it helps young writers learn because the need to be able to see how they react as an audience and they need to realize what types of advertisements or persuasions reel them in and make them want to continue reading or watching that advertisement.  Being able to analyze and view how other professionals do it helps us to understand why they chose to persuade someone using certain techniques and how they were able to keep their audience interested.  Being able to understand what was going on in their heads when they planned it helps because it helps us to see how they think about the writing or advertising process which makes it clearer for us to understand.


Analyzing Photographs

29 Sep

Branching off of persuasive rhetoric is a another very interesting topic of discussion – the photograph. Pictures and images we see in our daily life make us predisposed to certain judgments and reactions. In class, we analyzed various pictures of President Obama in his element: wearing some concoction of red, white, and blue, and conveying a powerful message through his speech. It gave us a sense of patriotism, a sense of relief – to know that our nation is in the hands of a man who is serious about his work. Soon after, we saw an image of the President in a reclined, laid-back pose in his office. It offered us another facet of Obama’s personality – casual, carefree, and loving. His family pictures were sitting on his desk and he was flashing a million-dollar smile. In the job of politicians, and amidst all the legal, social, and corporate work, there seems to be a fine line between the professional character and real character of a person. This picture suggests Obama’s real personality – how he acts in his off-time.

We came to these conclusions after closely examining every aspect of the images. The distance from subject, angle, framing, light, focus, lines, and color all affect the way we perceive images. For example, the vantage point from which the photograph was taken loosely tells us the status of the person in relation to us. A low angle makes the subject look much larger, proposing that we are looking up at the subject. Likewise, a high angle implies that the subject is smaller. An angle that is on the same level as ours implies equality, as many of Obama’s pictures do.

Images can be used for a wide range of reasons. Advertisements – ones that contain some sort of written and visual material – are used to promote a product. Ads are there to sell an idea (to a certain demographic), and they have to be very efficient in doing so. Using the same examining techniques, we can look at movie posters and how they affect us.

Take, for example, Little Miss Sunshine. It was a relatively small, independent movie, so it wasn’t fated to receive global recognition. However, its advertisement is a simplistic, appealing, and persuasive. Besides offering a wide range of actors (Greg Kinnear, Steve Carrell, Alan Arkin), this movie poster is an artistic rendering of simple comedy – the kind that makes you want to know more. If we examine the distance from the subjects, we are not very close. This implies that the overall concept is perhaps not very serious. The angle of the picture is leveled, showing that these characters are running to catch up to a van. The quirkiness of the characters and framing devices reveal that this film has an eccentric vibe. The light and colors of this are bright, wholesome, and inviting.

You get the point.

There are a variety of spaces, shapes, words, and lines that we can examine – things that will always imply something about the advertisment. At a certain point, when we get the general idea, we can deem the advertisement successful, and succumb ourselves to the powerful visual rhetoric that is before us. In other words, go watch the movie.


26 Sep

Writing essays can be the most exhausting thing.  Sometimes it is hard to find ideas, other times you cannot find the right words.  Writing essays is something that we all have to practice and in order to become better at it, it takes much time and concentration.  It is never easy writing essays, even once you have learned how to write a great, thorough essay, it does not always “feel” better when you write them.

In class, we have gone over many ways to help make the writing process easier and more effective.  The 7-10 minute free writes we do are helpful when trying to train your brain to keep your hand moving at all times, even when you are out of words.  This is helpful because when you are writing essays, the more you keep your hand moving, the more that comes to your mind and the faster the process goes.

Another helpful tool I have learned and we have practiced in class is to come up with a topic and draw arrows around the topic that come to mind when you hear the word or words.  This is helpful because it allows you to see all of the possibilities that you can write about in your essay or paper.  It allows the topic to move through your head while adding details to the topic as you think about it.

These drills can be very helpful to writing a paper, if prosecuted correctly.  As Mr. Casey says in class when we do the free writing, always keep your hand moving.  If you do not, your brain will not train the correct way that makes it effective in helping writing skills.  When we do the topic and think about all the things that come to mind, we must keep our minds open to everything that pops up, otherwise, that drill will not be as effective either.  All of these tools are supposed to be helpful, and using them in the correct ways will allow them to be very effective on our writing skills.


The Writing Process

24 Sep

When we are in the process of writing, we find ourselves deleting, adding, editing – routinely changing our words and ideas. When we start writing an essay, we can never surely know what the outcome will be. Writing is somewhat comparable to a problem-solving process, in that it requires a myriad of drafts and steps to achieve a finished product. To me, writing is a very complex thing. It requires a lot of thinking on the writer’s part, in order to present a thesis and ideas in a coherent manner. Therefore, it is virtually impossible to perfect an essay in just an hour or two. It requires hours of patience and step-by-step analysis.

In schools and universities, teachers often enforce peer editing skills, in which we garner others’ opinions about our paper. We get secondhand advice concerning global issues, local issues, as well as constructive criticism. It’s always best to have someone else read the rough draft. They can look at it from a reader’s perspective and tell us exactly what we’re missing in our writing. Local revision is when we make changes to a text affecting only one or two sentences that we are in the middle of writing. On the other hand, global revision is when a change in one part of our draft drives changes in the other parts of the draft. We should always start out with global and end with local – just to keep things from becoming too convoluted. There are many other habits which are important to adapt, such as scheduling a good time, discovering which specific methods of drafting work best, thinking about audience and purpose from the start, etc.

Sometimes, we may feel utterly dumbfounded and frustrated when we are in the middle of the writing process. It’s safe to say that all famous and renown writers went through the same situation – a perpetual cycle of drafts before creating a final masterpiece. Sylvia Plath, one of my favorite authors/poets, was known for her constant scribbling and writing and editing. Many of her handwritten drafts and typescripts are on the web, and you can see that she was always trying to find a way to improve her writing. This specific draft is from her femist poem, “Stings,” which about the unbalanced relationship between men and women, husbands and wives, and Plath’s overall resentment between the role of women in society.


Ethos, Pathos, Logos: Aristotle’s Art of Rhetoric

22 Sep

When we analyze different pieces of rhetorical literature, it is vital for us as readers to discover  the author’s purpose for writing the piece and what type of message is he trying to portray.  In most rhetorical pieces, the author is trying to either persuade or  present something he believes in or considers important to his readers.  In order to connect with readers, the classical philosopher Aristotle said speakers and writers use three appeals called ethos, pathos, and logos.

Ethos is the first appeal that deals with the audience’s view and appeal to the the reader and his character.  Before a reader is ready to consider or agree with the author’s ideas, many readers may ask questions like, “Who is the author?”, “What type of experience or education has he received in order to be knowledgeable enough to be making these claims?”, or “What level of credibility does the author have and is he trustworthy?”  If an author or speaker has good credibility and is passionate about his work by taking pride in having good grammar and organization of his thoughts, it makes him more attractive and influential to readers.

Pathos is the aspect of rhetoric that appeals to the emotions and values of the audience.  When dealing with pathos, it is very important for the speaker or author to be aware of who his audience is.  Being educated about the audience is important because a speaker or author has to create a work that his certain audience will be able to relate to, using aspects such as a certain level of vocabulary, an appropriate tone, a certain level of formality, awareness of the values or religious denominations of the audience, and images and scenery that appeals to the audience.  Being  aware and familiar with his audience shows that the speaker or author is genuinely passionate about delivering and promoting his message.

Logos deals with the actual quality and validity of the message portrayed.  A speaker can be extremely strong and influential with the delivery of his words, but in order to sway his audience to his beliefs the speaker needs an abundance of evidence and hard facts that back his claims.  Some elements that are considered legitimate evidence include facts from liable sources that are cited, statistics, scientific studies, expert opinions that back the claim, graphs and visual representations, and aspects of cause and effect.  Having a solid amount of valid and believable evidence makes the speaker more credible, which in the end makes him more influential.

I chose the picture of Aristotle because he is the father of not only ethos, pathos, and logos, but of modern day rhetoric as well.  I chose the William Wallace speech about freedom from the film Braveheart because it is an incredible speech that appeals to all three forms according to Aristotle. William Wallace is extremely credible because he is the savior of Scotland and the audience is in awe of him.  He appeals to the emotions of his army extremely well, convincing them to go into battle with him instead of fleeing.  He uses claims and paints a picture of how the Scottish would live if they did not fight for their freedom, which ultimately wins over his people and freedom for his country.

How exactly do messages persuade?

18 Sep

In the past week, we learned many ways in which messages can persuade us. Writers can convince the reader of a certain topic or idea through their angle of vision. They do this by stating their point of view directly, selecting some details while omitting others, and only choosing words and figures of speech that will be beneficial to their argument. They emphasize some points and de-emphasize others – a clever, shrewd tactic that even we use on a daily basis.

Writers also persuade through appeals to logos, ethos, and pathos – terms coined by our very own philosophical genius Aristotle. Logos is the appeal to reason: a writer makes good use of it when he asserts his thesis in a clear and concise manner, providing a good deal of evidence and reasons to support it. All the claims that a writer makes should be supported with examples, illustrations, studies, statistics, or something in between. Ethos is the appeal to the character and ethics of the writer. He should prove credibility, be familiar with the subject matter, and show integrity and self-understanding. Pathos is known as emotional appeal – directly affecting the audience/readers. Whatever sympathies, values, beliefs, and emotions that the writer personifies are meant to sway the audience. This could be through different tones, emotional descriptions, figurative language, etc.

If you look back in time and study historical events, you will find that there has always been a powerful rhetorical speaker behind every successful revolution. Martin Luther King Jr., notably regarded as the “king” of rhetoric, gave speeches that would give you chills and new level of motivation and insight. He was an extraordinary thinker – his words served a purpose – and he made sure that the audience would take with them a new outlook on life. So how did he go about doing it? Simple rhetorical strategy. In his speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” King exemplified rhetorical mastery, using logos, ethos, and pathos to unify his fellow African Americans through the nonviolent movement in Memphis, Tennessee.


In this speech, King appealed through logos in a variety of different ways. With a career of ministry under his belt, King alluded to several biblical stories (“…I would watch God’s children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through, of rather, across the Red Sea, throught wilderness, on toward the Promised Land”). He referred to the U.S. Bill of Rights in asserting that blacks were given freedom of assembly, freedom of press, and all the same freedoms as white people. He even gave examples of companies (Coca-cola and Wonder Bread) who were unfair in their hiring policies. King urged blacks to boycott these products in making a difference.

Furthermore, King used ethical appeal in his speech, in order to convince the audience that he was open-minded, trustworthy, and noble. The entire point of his speech was promoting his good character – he wanted equality for blacks. He wanted to end segregation, but without using any violence. He presented ideas of boycotting, protesting, and other forms of peaceful resistance. By his appeal through ethos, millions of people around the country were affected and craving change.


Martin Luther King used emotional appeal as the final touch in his speech. As he did in other speeches, King came up with inspirational words to live by – he used certain phrases and word choice that would directly tug at people’s heartstrings (“The masses of people are rising up. And wehrever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee, the cry is always the same: ‘We want to be free'”). King used a motivational, determined tone in which he expressed confidence in the future of blacks. He used constant parallelism. In the end, the audience was captivated – and persuaded – to take control of their lives and seek freedom together.