Analyzing the Rhetoric of Visual Arguments Your Goal: As we’ve discussed, just about everything can be opened up rhetorically—even visuals like advertisements, political cartoons, and photographs. Today, we are analyzing how well the components of an argument work together to persuade or move forward a visual argument.
Deconstructing a Visual Argument The small text reads: “Jacqueline Saburido was 20 years old when the car she was riding in was hit by a drunk driver. Today, at 24, she is still working to put her life back together. Learn more at www.texas.DWI.org, Texas Department of Public Safety, 2003.”
Thinking Out Loud… • What is the purpose of this argument? Persuading people not to drink and drive by making them fear death, injury, or arrest. • Who is the audience for this argument? Anyone who drives (or rides in a car). • What appeals or techniques does the argument use? Emotional appeals (fear, sadness, vanity, shame). • Who is making the argument? The Texas Department of Transportation. • What facts are used in the argument? The experience of the young woman, and the effect of her accident (how she looks now vs. how she looked before). • What cultural values or ideals does the visual evoke or suggest? Drunk driving is detrimental, beauty is important, no one should have to suffer at the hands of another…
Thinking Out Loud… • What is the dominant image: a picture of the young woman after the accident. • What colors are most prominent? Black, gray, and pink • How is the composition framed or cropped? It is a close up of her face • What issues are raised and which ones are ignored? Her appearance and the assumption that her life is over because of the way she looks. • How does the language or style of the argument work to persuade an audience? The headline “not everyone dies…” implies that being scarred and disfigured is worth than death. • How are you directed to move within the argument? There is a link to the Texas Department of Transportation “Save a Life” web site.
The small text begins: “Our little car isn’t much of a novelty anymore. A couple of dozen college kids don’t try to squeeze into it. The guy at the gas station doesn’t ask where the gas goes…”
The small text reads: “Milk makes bones strong. Bones no break when Hulk drink milk.”
The small text begins: “Official prayer sessions in public school seem like a good idea to many Americans provided they get to choose the prayer. But in such a diverse society, how can one prayer satisfy every religious belief? How would you feel if your child were required to say a Catholic prayer in school every day?”
The small text reads: “Physicians Against Land Mines. Member of the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines. www.banmines.org.”
Now it’s Your Turn… In small groups: Analyze the effectiveness of the visual text by considering the key elements involved in the creation and display of the visual and answer the questions on the worksheet provided. Remember—it doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with the argument being presented. You are analyzing its effectiveness, not defending or challenging its argument.
Kevin Carter’s Visual Argument As we look at the following visual argument on the screen, consider some of the questions on your handout by “thinking out loud” with me. Remember—in the final written analysis, I don’t want you to simply make a list of answers to these questions, instead you will show how key elements in a visual argument actually make it succeed or fail. Think of this as a “close reading” of a visual to analyze whether it works to persuade, and how, or by what elements, it does so.
Draw a modified rhetorical triangle of this visual argument with the photographer, Kevin Carter, as the rhetor. You will supply the subject, audience, context, and intention.