19.112 words and pictures

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Sat, 2 Jul 2005 10:33:58 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 112.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: "Douglas Galbi" <Douglas.Galbi_at_fcc.gov> (12)
         Subject: words and pictures

   [2] From: lachance_at_origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois (156)
         Subject: Re: 19.102 visualization and narrative

         Date: Sat, 02 Jul 2005 10:22:52 +0100
         From: "Douglas Galbi" <Douglas.Galbi_at_fcc.gov>
         Subject: words and pictures

>From: Jan Christoph Meister <jan-c-meister_at_uni-hamburg.de>
> Date: Sun, 12 Jun 2005 15:25:55 +0200

>Personally, I tend to agree with the sentiment expressed by Gerda and
>Eric: a word says more than thousand pictures.

I've actually collected real behavioral data on this issue. From about
1890 to 1995 in personal use, persons in the U.S. have spoken about
12,000 words on the telephone for each photograph they have made. See

Biologically, sound and sight are closely integrated in the living body
from the earliest stages of making sense. See "Sense in Communication"
at http://www.galbithink.org/lessmore.htm

Douglas Galbi

         Date: Sat, 02 Jul 2005 10:27:02 +0100
         From: lachance_at_origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
         Subject: Re: 19.102 visualization and narrative

David (for Willard) and Adrian,

I have long been wondering about the prestige of vocabully [sic] or the
shape of the sign in the image/word debates and discources. It is an
interest that received a particular poke upon reading via ELM the latest
of recent contributions to the thread on visualization and narrative.
Adrian's point comes home when one rereads the previous sentence and finds
a plural (contributionS) -- easy to miss while reading quickly and there
is no typographical indication to emphasize the plurality whereas
difficult to miss in the context of a discourse where a list of message
header info associated with the messages connected to the thread are

Adrian has given me, at least, a way of returning to the terms I favour:
text, verbal and non-verbal. That is, a semiotic notion of text as a
modular and rule-connected artefact that is accessed through a work or
given instance. The adjectives "verbal" and "non-verbal" modify the noun
"text". There is of course at play here a phenomenology as well as a
taxonomy. There is not so obviously no guarantee that the use of these
terms will create discursive interventions that reflect and model a
non-hierarchal approach to the relations between the verbal and the
non-verbal, i.e. there is no guarantee that the stories told will travel
in both directions, no guarantee that there will not be a reduction of
the notion of text to a concrete entity.

Sometimes when I contemplate why for example the work of Yuri Lotman on
secondary modeling systems has not had the uptake I believe it should in
certain discursive formations, I turn to the history of the notion of
"natural languague" and wonder how it is that "natural language" became
equative with "verbal language". And I recall that the ~competition~
between word and image is often a screen for ideological contention.

Ironically, I conducted a search of the Humanist archives for the string
"non-vebal text" and got a 404... The machine-generated message looks and
reads differently based on which browser one is using and what HTML the
server sends back to the browser. [I accessed the site via Lynx and got
the "404 Not Found" string as a title in the right hand corner, the "Not
Found" string centred, the sentence-like string "The requested URL
/Architext/AT-Humanistquery.html was not found on this server." situated
like a paragraph, and white space appropriately displayed.] Good looking
like good reading involves parsing: one looks for what one sees and does
not see; reads for unseeable which is neither the seen nor the unseen
just as the unreadable is neither the read nor the unread. The
untranslated, the translated and the untranslatable.

Often some folks will place the non-verbal in the position of the
untranslatable, the ineffable. This could be diagrammed as a pyramid or a
sink hole:

   verbal ---> non-verbal <--- verbal

Adjust the arrows and a different set of stories emerges:

   verbal <--> non-verbal <--> verbal

And some tiling can be envisaged or imagined

   <--> verbal <--> non-verbal <--> verbal <--> non-verbal <--> verbal <-->

where all the granularity can blur depending upon the perspective one
choose to occupy. And it is indeed the very moral question of choice of
position that resurfaces whether explicitly or not in the word-and-image
texts. Willy nilly what emerge are stances vis-a-vis the materiality of
the body, vectors oriented vis-a-vis the embodiedness of cognition. Slight
my sight and you damage my hearing.

> Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 102.
> Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
> www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/
> www.princeton.edu/humanist/
> Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu
> Date: Fri, 17 Jun 2005 20:50:44 -0300
> From: "Humanist Discussion List (D. Gants for W. McCarty)"
> <dgants_at_rogers.com>
> > In-Reply-To: <a06210203bed4e8049bc8@[]>
> From: Adrian Miles <adrian.miles_at_rmit.edu.au>
> Date: Wed, 15 Jun 2005 06:17:59 +1000
> Around the 14/6/05 Humanist Discussion List (D. Gants for W. McCarty)
> mentioned about 19.098 visualization and narrative that:
> > Personally, I tend to agree with the sentiment expressed by
Gerda and Eric: a
> > word says more than thousand pictures. 'More' meaning that the
successful use
> > of a word - be it as a command uttered, be it as an instruction
or information
> > received - demands conceptual clarity and explicitness (in an
ideal world,
> > admitted ...). By contrast, visual and spatial metaphors tend to obscure
> > complexity and disguise their philosophical frame of reference because we
> > perceive them as an absolute given and seldomly for what they
are: ana-logical
> > constructs.
> I mean this in the friendlist possible way, and while I take the
> above as the beginning point my comments are very general.
> I am always struck, and I guess bemused, by the textual
> concentrations found on this list. As any designer can describe (or
> any decent architect detail through their reflective iterative design
> process) it is a nonsense to think that a word says more than a
> picture, or vice versa.
> The terms validated above, such as "clarity" and "explicitness"
> presume an enormous amount about knowledge, experience, and the
> intersection of both. Many people are able to read visual arguments
> as analogical structures, they've been trained in such traditions and
> practices. What gets obscured (regularly) is the misunderstandings
> between visual and a textual frames of reference. This happens at
> what could be described as different levels of granularity -
> designers I work with are shocked when they realise that the writers
> they work with don't actually know how to read typography (that that
> ascender there expresses ideas about weight and flight that really
> doesn't go with what you want your words to do). Similarly the
> writers are shocked that the designers will spend an eternity
> worrying over leading, kerning and faces, when really it is just some
> words on a white page and it is the 'meaning' of the words that
> matters.
> At larger scales the same errors or epistemological arguments beset
> discussions about arguments that images might make (for example in
> documentary or graphic narratives) versus the 'rigour' or 'clarity'
> of text. It is trivial for a picture to have clarity. It is trivial
> for text to have clarity. Luckily though we have poetry and song, and
> painting and cinema. Now many seem to think that when we 'write'
> poetry is absent. Nonsense, though I guess if you've *never* used a
> pun in your writing, or alliteration, I guess it might be the case :-)
> (An aside, I ask my students to complete the following rhyme:
> "What rhymes with shop and you buy at the butchers?"
> they all reply "chop" (i usually repeat this to get the rhythm happening)
> "What do you do at a green light"
> "Stop" is the automatic reply. Most don't realise they would have
> just lost their driving licence exam. :-))
> The point is simply that there is a material substrate to language
> which is analogical and which overrides reason and the rational
> ("clarity" ). It is trivial to demonstrate. It is an error to assume
> that text is 'safe' from this while images are 'fraught' by this,
> this reveals an anxiety about images that really should have no place
> in computing humanities but in my experience tends to dominate.
> As Paul Carter explores in his recent "Materialist Thinking", both
> text and image (and other materialist practices) are active
> legitimate knowledge practices and it is a tragedy (as Barbara
> Maria-Stafford partially describes - references below) that the
> distance between them is as large as it is.
> Stafford, Barbara Maria. Good Looking: Essays on the Virtue of
> Images. Cambridge (MA): The MIT Press, 1998
> Stafford, Barbara Maria. Visual Analogy: Consciousness as the Art of
> Connecting. Cambridge (MA): The MIT Press, 1999.
> --
> cheers
> Adrian Miles
> ____________
> hypertext.RMIT
> http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/vlog

Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
Skill may be the capacity to manipulate perceptions of knowledge.
Magic is.
Received on Sat Jul 02 2005 - 05:47:54 EDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0 : Sat Jul 02 2005 - 05:47:54 EDT