WRT 205: The Rhetoric of Data Visualization

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WRT 205-SPRING 2005 | Unit 2-The Rhetoric of Data Visualization

Unit Readings
Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, Linked

Essay-project two asks you to work collaboratively to develop an information graphic as well as a way of framing or accounting for what the information graphic does and fails to do rhetorically. Following some discussion of the challenging factors enfolded in this essay-project, we'll lead off the unit by discussing group formations, the consequences of teacher-determined groups, and the various possibilities surrounding this project. Basically, your group will decide working deadlines; you will work collectively to decide what source(s) of information you will work with to develop an infographic, what kinds of emphases your graphic will reflect, and what kind of introduction, explanation and written elaboration your infographic needs to be understood rhetorically--as an instrument of persuasion.

Each group will develop a single graphic to work from (though the graphic should attempt some degree of complexity). The visualization can be original or it can imitate one of many examples available online. Furthermore, your graphic may attempt a parody or spoof a particular data presentation, thereby introducing an ironic reading of the uses to which we might put infographics. You'll have lots of options to decide among; Barabasi also invites us to think about ways of visualizing social networks, so lots of possibilities rest there, as well. Here are a few examples of infographics available online.

Paul Nixon's Apple Tipping Point for the Masses
NY Times: The Words Speakers Use
NY Times: The Derailment
Election map cartography: 2004 Presidential Election
Open: Press Tourney Thumb
*Added: Jonathan Harris' work

Keep in mind that your infographic can be hand-rendered rather than crafted digitally. You will simply have to determine the best design options from among the capabilities of your group members.

Writing Assignment
Early in the unit, you will decide--as a group--whether you prefer to work on a single, multi-authored text to accompany your infographic or whether you prefer to work individually on separate essays. Whichever the case, your work will stem from a single infographic devised by your group and signed off by each member. Likewise, if you write a collaborative essay, everyone in the group must sign off on the essay by agreeing that it is completed satisfactorily. If you decide to work together on a single text, we can talk more about how you might do that. I also have a wiki set up to assist you with collaborative authorship if you want to give it a try in that space.

What happens if a group member doesn't carry hir share of the workload? Within the first week of the unit, your group must devise a plan for such an improbable and unfortunate event. You have several options available to you, but I recommend deciding on a deadline (such as March 8 or March 10) at which point we will hold a conference to intercept any issues with the collaborative efforts. At that time, if we find that the workload isn't shared, individuals can then embark on their own projects--complete with their own infographic and essay. The conferences in early March are required for each group, but we can arrange other times to gather outside of class time if you think that would be helpful.

The essay that accompanies the infographic will be 5-7 pages typed and double-spaced. It will include a brief introduction to the infographic and it will account for the rhetorical or persuasive choices that went into devising the infographic. It may also account for problematic dimensions of the inforgraphic itself, detailings of what the graphic means, and an accounting of the method(s) you used to research the data you would work from. Guiding questions include: What is represented? How does the infographic improve, enhance or elucidate the information? What aspects of the infographic do you perceive to be most rhetorically compelling? Why? (We'll add to this list as the unit progresses.)

Note that you should spend time in your group determining responsibilities and deciding who will do what according to the strengths and proficiencies of individual members. Coordinating around specific tasks will ensure that everyone has a part to contribute and that the whole project can build toward coherence by March 24. Note that groups will also present their work in class on that day. Other details: Set margins to one inch and use a standard font such as Times New Roman 12 or Courier New 10; follow MLA style for all in-text citations and the works cited at the end of the essay.

Intermediary deadlines:
February 24: Preliminary plan due. Includes statement of group undertaking, consequences for non-involvement and commitment to individual essays or one collaborative essay.
March 8-10: Conferences w/ statements of progress.

Megan Volo
Kieran Pickering
Haram Kim
Jon Liberman
David Katz

Adam Gregorius
Kendra Brody
Sara Fleischer
Samanthe Eulette
Julie Belford

Matt Williams
Tina Edrehi
Sean Costello
Lee Williams
Jill Norton

Brad Ivler
Jackie Cerone
Lindsay Romanowski
Brandon Kraeger
Matt Stevens