Visual/Verbal Integration #3: Visual Structure and the Online Journal

he text entitled, "Monitoring Order: Visual Desire, The Organization of Web Pages, and Teaching the Rules of Design" by Ann Frances Wysocki was originally a presentation at the same Computers and Writing conference in which the Vielstimmig performance occurred. Wysocki's webtext is an examination of two bodies of literature on design­the literature on book design, and the literature on composition in art theory. Wysocki speculates on how this material might assist us in teaching students the visual knowledge necessary for designing multimedia.

Wysocki's webtext is clearly designed for the screen. Unlike the typical online academic journal article, this piece carefully follows guidelines for making text on screen visible and readable.

The webtext is broken down into about 10 pages, each of which is one to three screens long and therefore requires much less scrolling than the typical Online journal web page. The column is about five inches wide, and the type is large enough to read with ease. Another unusual visual feature is that Wysocki doesn't simply quote the book designers she cites, but she reproduces their texts on the screen.
This unusual move caught me by surprise. It makes sense, of course, that we would want to see the printed text of these book design theorists because how their words are printed may be relevant to what they have to say about book design. Although it makes perfect sense, we rarely see this kind of innovative use of visual communication in academic writing.

My favorite visual feature of Wysocki's webtext, however, is her use of color to indicate the progression of pages in the document. There are four sections of the webtext: the introduction, the discussion of book design, the discussion of art theory, and the bibliography. Each section is indicated by a different color at the top of the outside frame. So we see an opening page, followed by several pages on book design, etc. As you move through the text, the inner frame indicates where you are in the document as a whole through the use of these squares of color. Again, I found Wysocki's incorporation of a visual device surprising and delightful. The simple act of coloring rather than numbering pages forced me to wrench myself away from the tyranny of a textual convention. I also found it sensually appealing. It was evidence to me of a document that was not simply written but designed. It is perhaps the only one of the three we've looked at today that retains some of the looked THROUGH quality of traditional word-centered journals, but also embraces the looked AT quality Journal
Richard Lanham says that the electronic text is "always inviting us to play with ordinary experience rather than exploit it, to tickle a text or an image a little while using it, to defamiliarize it into art" (50). We might say that pop-up video is a show that tickles the conventional music video, that defamiliarizes it into something else. We can hope that the Web will do something similar for the discourse of academic journals, that this electronic medium will tickle the most ponderous places of our discourse, will defamiliarize it into something approaching the artful.
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