Looking AT and Looking THROUGH
 
 
 
One site where we might expect a challenge to the non-visual nature of academic writing is, of course, the Web. Academic journals are now proliferating on the web; as of February 1999, for example, 77 refereed electronic journals in the humanities were listed by e-journal, a site that indexes electronic web publications. The Web provides these journals with an enormous opportunity to use images and other visual design elements because the cost is negligible compared to the cost of high-end graphics in print form.

In order to have some terms in which to discuss visual design in academic journal web-sites, I want to introduce a concept from Richard Lanham's The Electronic Word. Lanham argues that there are two ways to experience a text­to look AT it, and to look THROUGH it. To look THROUGH a text, says Lanham, is to read the text as a transparent vehicle for thought. The texts we look THROUGH are written in a style that goes unnoticed, that draws little or no attention to itself, that is "unselfconscious" (14). These are texts that do little or nothing with visual design; they are the traditional print journals which downplay if not scorn the possibilities of visual communication. In contrast, to look AT a text is to look at the surface, to pay attention to style, to recognize, finally that even printed prose is "an act of extraordinary stylization" (9). These are texts with strong visual features. Electronic media, says Lanham, introduce an element of opacity, of looking AT a text. Lanham says, "The graphical and typographical tricks to which the electronic surface lends itself make us self-conscious again about our own apparatus of vision" (73). Electronic texts create what Lanham calls a bi-stable "decorum" in which readers, writers, producers, users experience the text as something that oscillates from the transparent to the opaque, from that which is looked THROUGH, to that which is looked AT.

 
  Introduction
Looking AT and looking THROUGH
The Visual as Invisible in Online Journals
Visual/Verbal Integration #1: Webtext as Visual Text
Visual/Verbal Integration #2: Academic Writing as Grunge
Visual/Verbal Integration #3: Visual Structure and the Online Journal
  Works Cited