From the category archives:


Visual Form and Memory 3

by Dr Davis on November 28, 2014

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0Vivian, Bradford and Anne Teresa Demo. “Introduction.” Rhetoric, Remembrance, and Visual Form. Eds. Anne Teresa Demo and Bradford Vivian. New York: Routledge, 2012. eBook.

“inherently susceptible to distortion, such that they deprive us of sight and memory precisely in appearing to furnish them” (Vivian and Demo)

“acute sensitivity to this interplay of presence and absence, of constant conjunction and disjunction among visual and memorial forms” (Vivian and Demo)

“The notion that visual forms and forms of memory share the same ostensible substance is one of the most deeply engrained structures of feeling in late modernity” (Vivian and Demo)

“rhetorical form and function of the materiality that inheres between images and memory” (Vivian and Demo)

“memory is profoundly informed by visual media, through rhetorical dynamics: visual and memorial forms coalesce according to the ways in which practices of interpretation, argumentation, or communication assign shared meaning” (Vivian and Demo)

“the past is not preserved but is reconstructed on the basis of the present” (Halbwach quoted in Vivian and Demo)

“interpretive, argumentative, or communicative content of images as well as memories” (Vivian and Demo)

“rhetorical confluences of visual and memorial forms” (Vivian and Demo)

“how images may express seemingly permanent and transient impressions of the past” (Vivian and Demo)

“images may provide material sites of memory” (Vivian and Demo)

“The relevant rhetorical question is why material intersections among images and memory sometimes succeed and sometimes fail as persuasively wrought depictions—or sightings—of the past” (Vivian and Demo)



Visual Form and Memory 2

by Dr Davis on November 27, 2014

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0Vivian, Bradford and Anne Teresa Demo. “Introduction.” Rhetoric, Remembrance, and Visual Form. Eds. Anne Teresa Demo and Bradford Vivian. New York: Routledge, 2012. eBook.

“examining the simultaneously authentic yet manipulated qualities of memory as conjured through visual modes” (Vivian and Demo)

“visual representations in general acquire historical or memorial meaning as a result of their cultural and technological circulation” (Vivian and Demo)

“contemporary artists routinely demonstrate the power of visual forms to evoke compelling senses of memory… dramatizing its personal, cultural, and technological variability” (Vivian and Demo)

“academic study and cultural activity, concerning either memory or visual form, draw from scattered sources and exemplars among their counterparts; yet they remain substantially separate domains of inquiry or endeavor” (Vivian and Demo)

“individual studies of memory grounded in visual representations” (Vivian and Demo)

“Artists whose work explores questions of memory and vision and scholars of visual culture or public memory” (Vivian and Demo)

I wonder why academics who are studying something that is studied in other disciplines tend to only look within their own disciplines. Recently a student applied communication theories to literature and folks realized it was revolutionary. We SHOULD be reading in related areas outside our fields. That’s one thing I learned from this RCMF project.



Texas in Speculative Fiction

by Dr Davis on November 26, 2014

Looking at Texas as a setting in science fiction and fantasy for a possible presentation. I found a site the other day that had a lot of good information, but then when I went trying to find it again, I had trouble. Just found it. Apparently I thought that an Amazon link couldn’t possibly be the page I was looking for, but it was. For future reference, when I need this link again, it is here.

I should also remember, as I am thinking about this, that I bought two sf books from a Texas author at Lone Star WorldCon in 2013. Those are on the bottom shelf in the living room bookcase on the far right.

When I was thinking about this project, I had seriously considered focusing on the work of Robert E. Howard, but I decided that I would rather go in a more general direction, at least right now.

Presentations of Texas in sff… That is very similar to the work I did for WorldCon 2014–and that I am working on for possible publication now.

If I’m doing that now, why am I working on this? Because the abstract is due soon, of course!

I had given up on the conference when the CFP came out because I didn’t have any ideas. Then the theory for my WorldCon paper came together and it is relevant to this idea for Texas as a setting. Now it will work and so I need to get the abstract done.


Travel and Memory

by Dr Davis on November 26, 2014

Duro, Paul. “’A Disturbance of Memory’: Travel, Recollection, and the Experience of Place.” Rhetoric, Remembrance, and Visual Form. Eds. Anne Teresa Demo and Bradford Vivian. New York: Routledge, 2012. eBook.

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0“experience cannot be separated from recollection, rendering the actual event an always already memory that frames the way we experience the sense of place” (Duro)

“expectations confounded by the peculiarly alienating effect that opposed anticipation and arrival” (Duro)

“stabilizing persistence of place as a container of experience that contributes so powerfully to its intrinsic memorability” (Duro)

“memory may antedate the actual experience of place” (Duro)

“the visit offered itself as a mediation through which notions of reality and truth, of rightness, and a sense of place, to say nothing of his anticipatory memories, were given a seeming coherence” (Duro)

Though this chapter is specifically about travel and travel journals, I think there are a few things that relate to conventions and the experience of a con.



Memory and Installations

by Dr Davis on November 25, 2014

Ewing, Margaret. “The Unexpected Encounter: Confronting Holocaust Memory in the Streets of Post-Wall Berlin.” Rhetoric, Remembrance, and Visual Form. Eds. Anne Teresa Demo and Bradford Vivian. New York: Routledge, 2012. eBook.

“visual cues offer the first indication of a site’s significance” (Ewing)

“the installations trigger memorial operations in the mind, thereby facilitating a personal assimilation of history” (Ewing)

“perception of the site shifts in the experience of the artists’ interventions” (Ewing)

These three quotes seem to offer implications for conventions, though the author is specifically talking about transitory art installations.



Landscape and Memory

by Dr Davis on November 24, 2014

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0Hammer, Andrea. “Memory Lines: The Plotting of New York’s New Military Track.”
Rhetoric, Remembrance, and Visual Form. Eds. Anne Teresa Demo and Bradford Vivian. New York: Routledge, 2012. eBook.

“any landscape—as a continually unfolding story and vast mnemonic device, a living, shifting repository of marks, lines, and erasures that “speak” of past lives, past events, past cultural myths and meanings”
This applies, I think, to the experience of a convention.

To understand landscape = “to carry out an act of remembrance” (Tim Ingold qtd. in Hammer)



Visual Form and Memory

by Dr Davis on November 23, 2014

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0Vivian, Bradford and Anne Teresa Demo. “Introduction.” Rhetoric, Remembrance, and Visual Form. Eds. Anne Teresa Demo and Bradford Vivian. New York: Routledge, 2012. eBook.

“To remember in late modernity is to store, send, or retrieve content” (Vivian and Demo)

“resources of personal memory training represent contemporary self-help equivalents to the classical ars memoriae” (Vivian and Demo)

“internet search thus provides a suggestive juxtaposition between contemporary technologies of memory and the classical art of memory” (Vivian and Demo)

“Associations between memory and visual phenomena supply the common denominator between these apparently antithetical paradigms of memory” (Vivian and Demo)

“the ancient memories were trained by an art which reflected the art and architecture of the ancient world” (Frances Yates qtd in Vivian and Demo).

“To remember, then as now, is to see.” (Vivian and Demo)

“generate valuable insights concerning not only how memories may be seen in visual form but also how visual forms constitute noteworthy material sites of memory” (Vivian and Demo)

“visual media can efficiently and reliably hypostasize the putative contents of memory” (Vivian and Demo)

“we presume an ability to mechanistically retrieve either part or all of our memories through some form of sight” (Vivian and Demo)

“visual artifacts materially facilitate practices of remembrance” (Vivian and Demo)

“contemporary artists routinely demonstrate the power of visual forms to evoke compelling senses of memory… dramatizing its personal, cultural, and technological variability” (Vivian and Demo)

“memory is profoundly informed by visual media, through rhetorical dynamics: visual and memorial forms coalesce according to the ways in which practices of interpretation, argumentation, or communication assign shared meaning” (Vivian and Demo)

“The relevant rhetorical question is why material intersections among images and memory sometimes succeed and sometimes fail as persuasively wrought depictions—or sightings—of the past” (Vivian and Demo)

“visual memory can ironically precede corporeal experience” (Vivian and Demo)



CFP Rhetoric in New Zealand

by Dr Davis on November 18, 2014

Reason Plus Enjoyment Conference 2015 10-13 July
full name / name of organization:
School of Arts and Media, University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia
contact email:
[email protected]
Next year marks the ten-year anniversary of the Rhetoric, Politics, Ethics 2005 conference in Ghent, Belgium, which gathered international scholars from a variety of critical perspectives to map recent signature events in contemporary theory. Reason Plus Enjoyment 2015 marks this occasion by inviting critical and cultural theorists to Sydney, Australia to reflect on the theoretical challenges posed in the intervening years. The remit of this second RPE conference is to read the vanishing futures of to phronein (thinking) and to kharein (enjoyment) in the twilight of what Derrida called the great Western metaphysical adventure. Joan Copjec once diagnosed our critical condition in terms of the “euthanasia of pure reason”. This interdisciplinary conference draws on a wide spectrum of interests to explore the endgames of Reason. What new, ‘bastard’ forms of aesthetic, political, rhetorical, sexual and technical rationality (and their enjoying subjects) are emerging in the 21st century?

Conference organisers: Kate Montague, Sigi Jöttkandt, Mark Steven

Please submit abstracts by February 15th, 2015 to Kate Montague kateamontague[at]

From UPenn.


How Essential are the Tangentials?

by Dr Davis on October 29, 2014

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0In research, particularly when I either do not know what I should be looking for (because it is relatively new to me or I am taking a different approach) or when I do not want to be doing the research I know I should be doing, I am likely to follow rabbit trails. It’s not an ADD thing, though I have that, but it is a feature or bug of the way that I do research. When I do not follow rabbit trails, my research seems to me to be staid and boring, whether it is or not. I like rabbit trails; it offers me a chance to learn something unexpected.

In this project on cosplay and memory I found a reference to Susan B. Kaiser’s The Social Psychology of Clothing: Symbolic Appearances in Context and put the book on my list of things to read. It’s a textbook, so very dense. It took me several days of reading, spread out over two weeks, to get through it.

I ended up with ten pages of notes, which, you will be happy to hear, I do not plan to reproduce on the blog.

Instead I will just put a few up and write what sparked my thinking in those quotations. Based on these notes (and a few others), this rabbit trail appears to have been very useful.

9Worlds 2014 steampunk moustachio-6232“Clothing and appearance symbols may be concrete or material objects, or they may be stored in memory as an image that evokes meaningful responses” (Kaiser 42).

Obviously this was included because it specifically references memory, which I am working with. Plus it is this idea of image evoking meaningful responses that is so important in cosplay. It’s no fun to play a character no one recognizes, so the image has to be relevant and memorable so that you can call up the associations in your audience.

“cultural messages are created through the process of representation. This process may involve selecting, presenting, structuring, and shaping elements of reality, by either reinforcing the status quo or creating new meanings (Hall, 1982, p. 64)” (Kaiser 51)
“cultural conventions may be applied in new ways or may be broken or bent” (Kaiser 51)

These specifically relate for my paper to cosplay mash-ups, where a cosplayer takes a character like Wonder Woman and makes her steampunk.

“clothes are more a factor in behavior displayed in specially defined contexts, as compared with routine or everyday contexts” (Kaiser 195)

This is significant as the cons where we cosplay are specially defined contexts and are not routine.

9Worlds 2014 Lady Elsie-6237“it is important to stress that the meaning of signs is not intrinsically linked to the signs themselves, but rather that signs acquire their meanings through process of interpretation” (Kaiser 219).

A yellow shirt and black pants are not inherently symbolic, but as a stealth costume, they evoke memories of Batman. Cosplaying itself is also a sign whose meaning is interpreted. Hall costume or masquerade? What kind of cosplay is the person doing? Is it relevant to the con or out of place?

“The concept of semanticity refers to the degree of associative “fit,” or the correlation or close connection between an appearance sign and its referent (Harrison, 1985). A code that is high in semanticity is likely to be linked to conventional attire and to clothes that function as signals. On the other hand, a “fuzzy” connection between signifier and signified, or a lack of specific rules for interpretation, is likely to promote the functioning of clothing as a symbol—arousing emotion and referring to values but not neatly pigeonholed” (Kaiser 228).

I think that cosplay fits in this fuzzy connection section. There is not a set dress (aside from the non-costume jeans and tee) and thus the connection has to be made by both the audience and the cosplayer through memory and connections in memory.

“…intrigued interpretation. Some appearances, due to their complexity, aesthetic appeal, novelty, incongruity with the social context or the person or unfamiliar nature, become very salient to perceivers. Such appearances may attract the perceiver’s attention, appeal to his or her sensibilities, excite or fascinate, interest or even tantalize, perplex or even confuse” (Kaiser 313).

This may be what the cosplayer is going for–intrigued interpretation.

9Worlds 2014 steampunk short skirt-6233“As Fine (1987) notes, creativity is rarely a problem in the development of a known culture. This is true because creativity reflects novel combinations of previously familiar elements and bits of information” (Kaiser 357).

However, it cannot be simply novel combinations. There must be the familiar elements as well. Familiar elements are found in memory and are sites of invention for both the cosplayer and the audience of the cosplay.

I took three different statements about uniforms (reveal and conceal status, confirm legitimacy, and suppress individuality) and wondered about them in terms of the ubiquitous jeans and tee shirts at cons. These jeans and tee shirts are not enough of a uniform to separate con-goers from others staying in the same hotel; costumes, however, clearly separate the groups.

Fashion encodes tensions between youth-age, masculine-feminine, and others (Kaiser 458). Does cosplay usurp those tensions or defuse them? How does costuming change the tensions?

“males have also participated in the symbolic struggle of gender ambivalence” (Kaiser 460)

I specifically referred in my notes to cross-dressing cosplay here. The first cosplayer I ever met was a young man cosplaying Sailor Moon, a Japanese anime magical girl.

There was a discussion in Kaiser’s book (462-67) about reactions to style. Two or three of these, I think may relate to con-goers: ego screaming (very different appearance through costuming), dandyism (elaborate historical costuming), and studied indifference (jeans and tee shirts).

DSC_4871“Ironically, stylistic reactions to mass culture—to the extent that there is one—often influence mainstream fashions and thus lose their original and ideological significance” (Kaiser 468).

I think this is particularly pertinent to steampunk, as elements have been in the mainstream of style for up to ten years. The opening credits to Doctor Who are now steampunk; I’m not sure that is mainstream, but the runways and the 5th Avenue Christmas windows have all had steampunk elements.

“Thus, any objects become fair game for appearance management in the act of bricolage [DIY fashion], and accessorizing becomes an art in itself. Hence, the strategic response of bricolage may reflect an individualistic means of personalizing what the fashion industry has to offer” (Kaiser 470).

Making (as in Maker Faire) and cosplaying have a lot in common. They are a conscious distancing from social norms and expectations, though in very different ways. Individualistic fashion through memory-invented character costumes seems to be very relevant.

ShD head steampunk blue“the interplay between individuality and conformity, or identification and differentiation, is an important aspect of participation in the fashion process” (Kaiser 488).

Cosplaying lets you be normal (through a character) and different (through a costume).

Ethnic clothes can “provide a sense of symbolic self-completion (Wicklund and Gollwitzer, 1983) to complete an aspect of one’s identity in which there may be some need for expression” (Kaiser 536).

This, I think, is particularly pertinent to adolescent cosplaying, where young people are working through identities. It may also be pertinent to adults who are attempting to co-opt a desired attribute of a favored character and cosplay as a means of practicing or performing that attribute.

“Cultural discourses are like conversations that involve working through ideas. Yet they operate both visually and verbally, involving a circulation of objects, ideas, images, and values that form a kind of underlying logic for the social meanings we assign to our identity, clothes, and communities” (Kaiser 549).

Steampunkers-2276Cosplaying would be a way of carrying on or out cultural discourse and the social meanings assigned would also be part of the cosplay. This is a dual role that memory is essential for. Interpretation depends on context and understanding.

“an appearance style that draws freely from available clothing items or media images in the marketplace” is part of identity work (Kaiser 576)

Cosplaying is a way of constructing a new/particular identity. Some folks only cosplay a single character, while others play new characters each day of a convention.

“Identity work is rarely straightforward. We are likely to experience a range of mixed emotions about what our appearances mean and why. Davis (1992, p. 24) notes that we often have ‘inner dialogues’ in our heads as we debate certain issues about how we want to present and represent ourselves” (Kaiser 578).

This is why a single costume can mean various things to the creator/wearer. It is also how it can mean multiple things to a single viewer. Where is the memory work involved here? Perhaps in identifying which parts of a costume or cosplay performance are related to what factors that we are exploring.

RMCF (Rhetorical Memory Cosplay Fandom)


SCMLA: PowerPoint Movies

by Dr Davis on October 26, 2014

Thomas Reynolds
“Powerful Words and PowerPoint Movies: An Exercise in Multimodal Composition”

Assistant professor and Director of First-Year Writing at Northwestern State University in Louisiana

Thomas has presented nationally on technology and first-year composition.

60% of course is traditional requirements
40% can choose

We spend more time on the 40%, because it connects.
Learn by doing.
Read and write every day.
Begin class with video or article on social media. Related to class for the day.
Try to build community in classroom.
Let students bring media, email or FB.
Share icebreakers.
After our teaching time, will return to the media as a writing comp.
Not just an academic conversation. Can be part of the online discussion.

Football, Jan 22, 2014 game winning play, talking trash, making choking image, yelling and excited—Richard Sherman football player
Led to an insane amount of online chatter where he was labeled a thug.
Stanford graduate (3.9 GPA) Richard Sherman

Watched video of press conference

“Cultural Studies and the Composition Classroom” George, Lockridge and Trimbur
moving from critic, to microethnographer, to producer/composer
–not always easy, being forced to build things in a different way
They are trained already to write. Are comfortable trying to write
“know what the expectations are and know they aren’t going to meet them”
“New Media Principles and Attitudes” Collin Gifford Brooke
more than teaching to the text
function as a writer’s lab: encourage experimentation and innovation
operate on “internet time”—entering the “other” conversations
replace expertise with exploration and engagement: student-centered and peer-directed

40% of class, where they may have discovered something new that will keep them reading and writing

National Congress of American Indians released ad week before Superbowl
Series of images with names they give for themselves
They couldn’t afford the Superbowl prices.
Native Americans call themselves many things (mother, soldier, Creek). The one thing they don’t… Redskins.
Talked about which were more effective. Which were less effective.

What kinds of conversations are happening publicly about their ethnicity?

Better if make images so they cover the whole white space

How is a ppt presentation different from a ppt movie?
Because already have experience with ppt, easier.

“make a bad ppt” for tech writing

asked them to self-select into groups

had to publish it somewhere online. But vimeo was an option so they could password protect.
All knew would be screened in class.
Negotiated in class. Had to have some image and some sound.
Voice was significant to the ad.
Negotiated about assessment. Let them decide what they are going to be graded on.
Logical fallacies, ethos, pathos

…8 video examples… (from groups)
thug, animal abuse, poverty, Trayvon Maritin, Same sex marriage…
one of stipulations they agreed on was they had to be in their videos
what makes a thug? Gun violence, gangs, tattoos, stereotypes assumed by characteristics

plenty of things they did really well and others where they fell short
worked hard negotiating images and examples
give them a space to play, a space for their own voices and ideas

critique and assessment
Students discussed and decided on these as criteria. 50% of the grade was:
clarity of topic and stance = who saying what and why?
Importance of issue = answer So what? How is context provided?
Rhetorical appeals = how does it work? Where does it not work?
Design and style = does it meet genre expectations? Is it appealing?
Audience engagement = were you moved? Why or why not? They wanted grade based on this totally. They thought it was important enough.

Students get feedback within the screening.

Took me a week to get through the videos.
They were invested in what they had to say and defending their own work, but also to holding each other accountable.

How might they transition this video to an essay? What about an academic argument?
Develop examples. Pick other kinds of examples.
Teams and their roles
They talk about their learning.

Redeveloping for definition essay… Good way to write about words they feel labeled by and offended by and deconstruct those for the class.

Question: What if have no words they feel labeled by? Or they don’t want to deal with?
Way I am beginning project, words that are offensive, and potential of language to be empowering and disempowering
My hope is that they will all find a word. Don’t know what to do if I have a resistor.

Someone else –use term and look at connotation, denotation. Misfit words instead. Not necessarily offensive.
“sweet” or “cute”
sweet in black community also refers to gay people, broken wrist, etc
pull in connotation of plays, music, etc. Where do you see this word used.

Immigration, did you make presentations on this?
Service learning on immigration
Powerful visuals… Students found the visuals. Some were personal images.
One with guys showing off guns. They go to the shooting range, but people see that in Louisiana, they think thugs.