In the last edition of Emerging, we were able to include some visual texts as well as some material in the introduction on thinking and writing about visuals. I really enjoyed the visual texts we chose: a collection of PostSecret postcards, some moving watercolors about war by artist Steve Mumford, and a collection of infographics. The problem is that it’s really hard to use visual texts in a course that’s not entirely devoted to visual texts, and especially to use them instead in a course that’s about working closely with textual sources in support of academic argument. We’ve taken all of those readings out of the third edition but we’re still thinking about the role of the photographic and the visual on our world today. So, we’ve added three great new essays that speak to and/or include visual elements BUT also have the kind of textual elements that work well in the kind of FYC classroom we imagine for Emerging.
I think Torie Rose DeGhett’s “The War Photo No One Would Publish” is particularly powerful. DeGhett is writing about a disturbing image taken during the Gulf War by Kenneth Jarecke, one so disturbing that many venues refused to publish it (we did manage to get the rights to include it in Emerging and, yes, it is quite graphic). DeGhett’s essay speaks to the power of the image as well as the politics of censorship in the press. But what I love about this essay (as with so many essays in Emerging) is that it’s also about war and our ability to see and respond to it. So while it’s great in a series of assignments about photography or media, it’s also great in a series about censorship or war.
Tomas van Houtryve is also thinking about imaging technologies and war in “From the Eyes of a Drone.” The essay is composed primarily of a series of images van Houtryve took with a commercially available drone, inspired by and reflective of images taken by drones used in areas of war and conflict. Van Houtryve thus goes one step further than DeGhett but, looking directly at the weaponization of photography and so similarly works across a range of sequenced assignments, including anything on visuals/images of war, with sequences on technology as well.
Finally, Nick Paumgarten’s “We Are a Camera” examines the GoPro phenomenon and the implications of point-of-view video. Paumgarten is driven by the story of the GoPro but his essay also has the most philosophical overtones as he muses on the impact that video mediation has on our experience and memory of events. There’s also a great bit near the very end that hints at the kind of surveillance culture that Peter Singer discusses in “Visible Man: Ethics in a World Without Secrets.”
All of these essays include or reference visual texts (Paumgarten points to several famous GoPro videos on YouTube) but they also offer students context for reading and understanding the visuals as well as ideas for thinking about how visual texts impact our world today. I love them all and think they’re all fine additions to Emerging.
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