Barton and Barton Post

Barton and Barton write about the use of maps.  It is kind of interesting because who knew that maps were so philosophically deep, but on the other hand it is kind of boring because who could write so much useless information on maps.  Barton and Barton consider two major rules on how maps are created.  The first is the Rule of Inclusion.  It is basically considering who will be using the map and who won’t, or in the case of the Dutch cartographers, who is not allowed to use the map.  Basically, the rule of inclusion is that maps are made for the dominant.  Of course, the opposite is the Rule of Exclusion and Repression.  This rule is based on how maps are not given to groups of people, what land is not drawn on a map, and what geological things are not drawn on the map, like the example of the nuclear waste dumps being kept from the USA geological survey maps.

Hurricane Frequency Map

This map of the United States actually uses the rule of exclusion to show good information.  It keeps state border lines, but it removes rivers, landmarks, and anything outside of county lines to show which counties are most affected by hurricane landings.  Removing any unnecessary information helps people see better where exactly hurricanes do the most damage.  The rule of exclusion seems to be a negative rule because it seems to be applied to keeping people from using maps, but this example does not seem bad.

Question:  What do you all think of Barton and Barton’s belief that the rule of exclusion is inherently a bad rule?  The conclusion of the piece clearly thinks that considering what they say about the unity of inclusion rather than exclusion, but is the rule of exclusion inherently bad, even when considering the above example?


Ethical Ad Work

The article by Dombrowski was very interesting just because it was interesting to see how far a company would go just to make sure the more unseemly parts of their drug were never fully shown or understood.  The idea that the outlines for all of the images onscreen were all the warning text is darkly genius, quite honestly.  It’s completely horrible, yes, but I actually laughed when I read that because it is just such a bad thing, that it’s funny.  The video, as described in the article, is built completely to do all the right things while at the same time not do them.  It’s impressive work, but it is also everything that is wrong with advertising.  An even more interesting little piece of information is that Pfizer has had other advertising problems.

Listerine lied to you.

Yes, the famous product, Listerine, known for its intense, teeth-healing burn, is another Pfizer product that had some false information handed out as the truth.  The first little thing that was just a little not true was that Listerine could prevent and heal colds and sore throats.  Yeah, not only did that pass any restrictions, it was around for years.  From 1914 to 1976, to be exact.  The FTC eventually forced Listerine to run ads saying that was all bogus.  More recently than 1976, however, (like in 2005) Pfizer was ordered by a judge to stop claiming that Listerine was just as effective as regularly flossing.  That claim lasted from 1914 to 2005.  Almost one hundred years.  It would be impressive if it wasn’t so disappointing.

Manning and Amare

In this article, Manning and Amare suggest that visual rhetoric should definitely be designed in an ethical manner.  It seems they do not go as far as Dragga and Voss, however.  Dragga and Voss are referenced because they also push for ethical design, but it seems that Manning and Amare don’t want to do exactly the same.  They believe that ethical design is based in designing a product so the user understands completely what that piece of visual rhetoric is saying, and the believe in designing each piece of visual rhetoric with a specific audience in mind instead of a general idea of an audience.  This second part is to make sure that unnecessary offense is not caused to the audience viewing the material.  Their idea of ethical design seems pretty sound to me.  The reason I think it is a good idea is because when learning to speak publicly, you are taught to have research done on your audience to make sure you do not step on their toes.  Making generalities is not acceptable anymore.  People want to feel like you understand their problems, and this guide on visual rhetoric seems to understand that idea really well.  If it works for oratory rhetoric, it should work for visual rhetoric, too.


I found this image on Google.  The image is trying to show what bad habits do to your body, but the image is mostly bad at doing that.  The person who created the image was clearly trying to be really artistic at showing effects of bad habits, but it just muddles the message.  My first reaction was disgust because it’s a gross picture.  I did not even notice the lungs of the smoker or the liver of the drinker.  Honestly, with how gross internal organs look anyway, I did not notice the liver was messed up for quite awhile.  It was only by finally comparing the fruit eater’s liver to the drinker’s that the difference was apparent.  I think this would not pass Manning and Amare’s view on ethical design because the image inhibits the message from getting across.

Do you all agree with Manning and Amare’s idea of ethical design?  If it is a good idea, what parts make it work better than Dragga and Voss, or, if it is not a good idea, why does their idea fail?

Kostelnick v. Tufte

Kostelnick has a lot to say about his visual rhetoric and design, and most of it does not align with Tufte.  The beginning of the article is hilarious to read because Kostelnick poses the question of who could ever challenge the precepts put forward by Tufte on visual design.  He, of course, then proceeds to do so.  One of the things I did like was that Kostelnick admits that sometimes charts can be boring.  He writes about Tufte’s “chart junk,” but Kostelnick says sometimes a visual designer will have to use such tricks to get the reader to be interested in the chart in the first place.  Then Kostelnick says something that I think is really brilliant.  He says that this gives the chart clarity from a pathos point of view.  Tufte would just condemn a chart with “chart junk” as being frivolous and a waste of time, but Kostelnick uses ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos to show how charts can appeal in different ways to different audiences.  I thought that part specifically was masterfully done.  I think Kostelnick’s right.  A chart can have “chart junk” but still be effective in its presentation.

For example...
For example…

The above chart, for instance, could be shown in a simple bar graph.  It would be much simpler to read, and people like Tufte would swoon over the simplicity.  However, the injuries being placed on the body of the football player are much more interesting to view.  I want to see how many players injured their knee.  I’m curious to know how many players have injured their hands.  Using this chart makes me interested in the statistics.  Would I present this to an NFL Board of Health?  …Maybe.  It is honestly interesting to look at, and it seems to disagree with Tufte’s rules quite a bit.

Do you all think that graphs should be as strict as Tufte writes, or is there leeway?  Or do you think that Kostelnick finds a way out of Tufte’s rules using ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos, or does he not?

Tufte and Visual Explanation

In this writing, Tufte shows two example of visual explanation (charts and graphs) that tried to tell stories.  One tried to explain cholera spreading, and one tried to warn that if the Challenger launched, it would not work.  Tufte believes that the cholera explanations worked, and he believes that the Challenger explanations do not.  He says they do not work because they did not show a causal relationship between the O-ring erosion and the temperature because they focused on blow-by damage to the O-rings.  Ultimately, I don’t really think Tufte’s argument is that strong.  He thinks there was no causal explanation, but it seems illogical for people to completely ignore a recommendation to not launch when that business had never, ever recommended a no-launch in his 12 years working with NASA.  Tufte ignores this aspect.  It seems to me that there were monetary and social reasons to keep the launch a go, but Tufte really does not consider this in favor of picking apart the charts.  It seems that it would be probably expensive to cancel a launch so close to the launch day, and it would ruin the event.  All the people who came to watch and watched on TV would be so disappointed to not get a launch show.  Of course, they got a show.  It just wasn’t what they expected.  It’s weird that Tufte would just ignore these aspects of what probably happened, given the way he writes the situation.

Allen McDonald, one of the people at Morton Thiokol who recommended not launching
Allen McDonald, one of the people at Morton Thiokol who recommended not launching
NASA, who asked the Morton Thiokol people to reconsider their recommendation
NASA, who asked the Morton Thiokol people to reconsider their recommendation

Ignoring social factors is a bad way to make an argument, and I think Tufte does this when ignoring the higher-ups decision to have Morton Thiokol reconsider their only no-go recommendation.  He tries to show it was the charts fault, but I think there were other reasons behind this decision.  Thiokol saw the connection, and their bosses, for whatever reason, did not side with them.  It seems there would be more at play here than faulty charts, and it also seemed like Thiokol believed their point fairly strongly even though Tufte seems to think there was not causal proof.


Question: do you all think that the charts were as bad as Tufte says?

A Conundrum

Fahnestock introduces an interesting problem in this essay.  What happens when you introduce a huge and deep subject to an audience who does not have the wherewithal to understand completely the idea’s intent, meaning, and impact?  This is very interesting to consider because there almost certainly have to be huge moral and ethical implications of trying to make this change, as Fahnestock recognizes at the end of the piece.  I think another question that could be asked is the following: is it even possible to make that kind of a switch in an ethically and morally correct way?  An easy way to start is that morally and ethically, this information cannot and should not be withheld from the public, whether it’s about a bee who eats carrion or the name of a shooter.

Bees eating meat!
Bees eating meat!

That information should go to the public.  How is it done in a way that an audience can understand?  Does dumbing it down make it better for them even though information that could be extremely important is lost?  I don’t even know if it is right to dumb it down, but the implications of that statement are that people would have to start reading scientific reports all of the time to learn about new advances, and scientific reports are not the most interesting things to read.  It would seem there is no answer here, but it’s a good idea to consider from Fahnestock.

Do you all think that there is certainly a moral and ethical way to dumb down information?

Tufte’s Obsession with “Less is More”

At first, what Tufte was saying did not bother me.  He was making an interesting case for removing any unnecessary ink from a graph if the ink did not help the graph convey information.  I think this is a good idea for any sort of work.  Making sure all of the work is doing a job cleans the piece and keeps it from deviating from its objective.  “Quality over quantity.”  Austin Kleon, a modern poet and writer, has a book that is called, “Creativity is Subtraction.”  He goes through newspapers and edits out words to create poems, and in his book, “Steal Like an Artist,” he reiterates this point.  Subtracting the detritus is creativity.

Excerpt from Kleon's book, "Creativity is Subtraction"
Excerpt from Kleon’s book, “Creativity is Subtraction”

The point is, Tufte has a point, even by modern writers’ standards, but he takes it way too far.  When I came across the faces, I was a little worried by seeing half-face pictures.  Then Tufte actually said that only drawing half of a face is how someone should draw a face because the other half is going to be fairly similar, so it’s just unnecessary extra.  That struck me as strange, but I continued until the bar graphs that are made to only illustrate which bar is taller.  Tufte cuts it down to two lines connected at the base to show which is taller, and he says this is better.  At that point, I no longer agreed with him because the nature of the bar graph had fundamentally changed once he made it into lines.  it was, by definition, no longer a bar graph.  The graphs don’t even look related when he compares them side by side on page 102.  To add to the confusion, Tufte had just said the train graph and the ocean current graphs on pages 98 and 99, respectively, were completely okay, but I couldn’t tell what either was trying to say because of how much ink was on each picture.  It doesn’t make sense.

Do you guys think that cutting down complete bars to lines works better than a full graph?