Using image to support an argument

In approaching the second structured blog activity, I initially struggled to get my head around how to ‘support’ an argument, rather than simply ‘illustrate’. Naturally, there’s a key difference here, and I considered how this happens in the real world. The one example I could think of is in the world of advertising. As much as this is considered a ‘dirty word’ in parts – at it’s worst it can be seen as manipulative and aggressive – it’s a format where imagery is frequently used to influence, and support a notion, albeit usually a purchasing decision.

Researching in this area, I was struck by the concept of ‘Thin Premises, Thick Representations’ in Kjeldsen (2014). Kjeldsen looks at the differences between images and words in terms of communication, and one of his key observations is in the strength of the principle message being conveyed, and the context around this. In Kjeldsen’s example, “Peter is reading a book”, this shows that written language can be very direct. However, we know very little of the context around this. How old is Peter? Where is he reading the book? Is he enjoying it? However, by contrast, an image of this would provide a richness of context – we’d possibly be able to gauge answers to these questions – but the clarity of the main theme, Peter reading a book, may be lost.

One of the main themes for me through the course so far has been the highlighted inadequacies or limitations in the approach (Friesen 2013) to digital education. It seems to me that this is a growing pain and that as digital education develops and is critiqued, how we view and talk about it is uncovering some important aspects largely unconsidered, largely due to the viewpoint. Tying this into the recent theme of metaphors, I think an interesting interpretation of this theme can be made by this image:

(Source: Zimbio)

I think this represents and supports their argument on a few levels:

  • The people are looking away from the elephant, at something we’re not aware of. Whatever it is, it surely cannot be as beautiful as a male elephant! By looking in certain directions (e.g. the instrumentalist and essentialist approaches dissected by Friesen), we can miss the bigger picture, and the real beauty and opportunity.
  • The elephant can represent the constructivist approach, in the sense that it’s evolved as a species, and is as much impacted by its environment as it impacts the environment.
  • The people are obviously being guided to look into a certain direction too. Could this allude to the role of teacher and facilitator, in terms of how we guide learners? Do we need to be aware of our blind spots to ensure we don’t impart these on our learners?
  • Following on from this, who is in control of the experience? A discussion point touched on earlier in the course is about the role academics and those involved in education have in the development of digital tools and educational/learning experiences.
  • Acknowledging our own limitations here, given that we ourselves cannot see the wider context at play, are we also making the same mistake?
  • The people are being guided to look into a certain direction too. Could this allude to the role of teacher and facilitator, in terms of how we guide learners? Do we need to be aware of our blind spots to ensure we don’t impart these on our learners? For researchers within digital education, do they need to ensure they are not missing the ‘elephant’?
  • Following on from this, who is in control of the experience? A discussion point touched on earlier in the course is about the role academics and those involved in education have in the development of digital tools and educational/learning experiences.
  • Of course, there is the danger too of an elephant right behind us! By looking in a different direction, are there dystopian aspects of digital tools that we are not aware of?
  • I note that all the people are focussed on their cameras. Is there a metaphor here on being too focused on the technology, and not focussed on what we are actually trying to achieve?

I’m sure there are plenty of other tie-ins I haven’t spotted too. I thought about the format for this task and actually felt a single image may be better. Sometimes I feel with different mediums it can simply be a case of using written language in a different format, but having read Kjeldsen I wanted to try a different tact to this!

References:

  • The Rhetoric of Thick Representation: How Pictures Render the Importance and Strength of an Argument Salient, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht, Jens E. Kjeldsen 2014. DOI 10.1007/s10503-014-9342-2
  • Hamilton, E., and Friesen, N. (2013). Online education: a science and technology studies perspective. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 39(2), 1-21.