Online Journals: Making the Visual Visible in Academic Writing
  An Introduction
By Anne Aronson
I am alternately amazed, intrigued, and entertained by the ever-expanding interplay of word and image around me. My favorite example of this interplay is the show "Pop-Up Video" on VH1, the music video alternative to MTV. The show, which has become increasingly popular, is similar in format to other music video shows, except that the visual / musical presentation is interrupted by as many as 25 bubbles of text which "pop up" on the screen. The text bubbles provide a kind of "reading" of the video, offering interpretations of themes and artifacts in the video, fragments of musical history, and morsels of music world gossip. In the pop-up version of "Closing Time," for example, we learn where the video was shot, who is dating whom in the video, and how the writer got the idea for the song. The bubbles are interesting in that they disrupt the familiar genre of the music video, creating an odd hybrid of comic strip, celebrity gossip column, trade magazine, and pop culture criticism. Pop-up videos bracket the video, denaturalize it, force us to think about it as a medium. They are striking examples of how music, image, spoken language, and writing can converge.

Although the kind of merging of word and image apparent in pop-up videos is common in popular culture, such a blending of media is rare in some discourses, including the one I am using now, academic discourse. Traditionally, academic writing is restricted to a very limited range of visual accoutrements: charts, graphs, tables, and subheads. One possible reason for the gulf between the academic and the visual could be an aversion to the image on the part of academics who fear that the visual is tainted by commercialism and commodification. Some share with media critic Neil Postman a distaste for anything other than the printed word. Postman tries to demonstrate in his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death "how, under the governance of the printing press, discourse in America was different from what it is now­generally coherent, serious and rational ; and then how, under the governance of television, it has become shriveled and absurd" (16, qtd in Lanham, 237). Other academics with less pretense about the superiority of print may avoid the visual because they lack confidence in their abilities to manipulate images. Most of us have been immersed in a language-based literacy curriculum that simply doesn't teach us the syntax of line and shadow, the grammar of color, or the structure of the page or screen.
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