Rhetoric: The Visual and the Procedural

I was out making the rounds to promote my class in Generative Art a few weeks ago and one of the advisors mentioned a class in the Writing Program called “Visual Rhetoric.” Interesting; not visual analysis or visual design or visual whatever, but “rhetoric.” I had to look it up. From the Oxford American Dictionary, rhetoric is “the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, esp. the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.” Okay, now apply that to visual information. Anyhow, I spoke with the teacher, Natalie Stillman-Webb, who also sent me a copy of her syllabus. Very cool stuff. She even invited me to come and talk about data visualization later in the semester. Excellent.

And then, yesterday, I discovered an extension of the same idea. Ian Bogost teaches videogame design, theory, and criticism at Georgia Tech and has several books on Amazon. (Here’s his personal web page: bogost.com) One of his books is called “Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames” (here’s the link at Amazon) and in it he develops the idea of “Procedural Rhetoric,” or persuasive arguments based on behaviors or interactions as one finds in video games. (You can download the first chapter of the book here or see a small wiki entry on the topic.) Anyhow, I’ve ordered the book but haven’t read it yet. It’s a fascinating concept and I look forward to learning more about it.

And with that, I’m going to go do some homework for Monday. Whee!

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