OBJECTIVE: Critical Analysis of Visual Rhetoric (Persuasion) in ArchitectureRead Bello & Brandau-Browns article prior to completing this Discussion Board post. This should help frame your analysis and write your Analysis & Reflection. (In other wordsIm asking you to write an
analysis of a visual artifact on a much smaller scale than this article,
but the inclusion of terminology, critical analysis of the persuasive
messages of the artifact, can be inspired by how Bello & Brandau-Brown approach their article. I
expect youll cite this article, along with the PLE and class text, in
your Analysis & Reflection to add depth to your claims and
substantiate your critical arguments about your chosen artifact).Article citation:Bello, R., & Brandau-Brown, F. (2011). City as message: A case study of visual persuasion in Washington, D.C. International Journal Of The Arts In Society, 5(5), 315-322.1. Artifact Choice & Description: Choose a
structure, building, piece of art, or otherwise persuasive artifact to
analyze. Give a brief description (1-2 paragraphs) of your chosen
artifact. Use Bello & Brandau-Brown (as well as your course
documents) to inform your succinct description of the artifact (i.e. why
is it persuasive? What is compelling about the artifact?
Historical/cultural or other relevant context, etc).Be creative! Think beyond the obvious (Great Wall of China, Empire
State Building), and look for something unique to review! Think about
your local buildings or monuments, or based on your life experiences or
travel experiences. Be sure to include a link to the image you are analyzing in your citations. Examples with prompting considerations:http://retaildesignblog.net/2011/12/20/the-market-by-design-services-group-plymouth-massachusetts/
(How does the market indicate movement, flow or purchasing decisions?)
(How does the space shape the experience?)
(How does this entice people to travel to a city for a mall? Is it different than other mall experiences?)
(What are the visual persuasive messages within this resort?)
2. Analysis & Reflection: Utilize course theory, terminology, (along with readings: Bello & Brandau-Brown, Chapter 14, and PLE topic information)– write 400-500 word analytical post (that is a minimum requirement, please no more than 750-1000 words maximum) critically
assessing the persuasive influence of your chosen artifact has on the
public, the culture in which it resides, you personally, etc.
Consider how visual persuasion works to create a feeling, movement, use
of space, etc. What about the artifact is persuasive and how so? First
person narrative is appropriate for this assignment. Be descriptive,
critical and specifically apply course terminology throughout your
writing assignment (defining as needed). You should include an APA
formatted reference list at the bottom of your work.HERE IS THE BELLO & BROWN ARTICLE:City as Message: A Case Study of Visual Persuasion inWashington, D.CRichard Bello, Sam Houston State University, Texas, USAFrances Brandau-Brown, Sam Houston State University, Texas, USAAbstract: We report on a research study that is based, in part, on an edited volume of work to whichwe contributed (Ragsdale, 2007). In this work, we argued that artistic structures such as museumsand places of worship are visually persuasive, that is, that they communicate a persuasive messagein the way they are designed, built, and structured. In the present case, we have extended this analysisto include the places in which structures reside. Based on the work of Messaris (1997) dealing withhow visual images can be persuasive, we apply the concepts of iconicity, indexicality, and syntacticindeterminacy to demonstrate influence messages communicated by and within the city of Washington,D.C. We discuss Messariss concepts of visual persuasion, examine the history of Washington, D.C.as carefully planned and designed in part for persuasive purposes, and then apply the concepts toparticular aspects of the citys design, layout, memorials, and other structures.Keywords: Semiotics, Iconicity, Indexicality, Syntactical Indeterminancy, Visual Persuasion, WashingtonD.C.CAN AN OBJECT, a building, or a park communicate a message? Although elementsincluded in the layout and the design of a building, park, or city are chosen with theintent of satisfying the construction needs, the materials also communicate a message.Through the use of visual persuasion, designers, architects, and city engineers senda message to those who visit their designs. Although persuasion has traditionally been thoughtof in terms of oral argument, there is a growing recognition of the impact of visual imageryin everything from advertising to architecture. Gass and Seiter (2007) noted that imageshave the ability to move us in ways that argument alone cannot. The validity of their assertionis undeniable when one visits Washington, D.C. The city is the seat of American democracyand the many monuments, museums, and government buildings in the capital all communicatea message about important historical figures and events.In order to fully understand the impact of the citys design and architecture, first we mustunderstand the three key components in visual persuasion. According to Messaris (1997)images persuade through iconicity, indexicality, and syntactic indeterminancy. In its mostbasic form something is considered an icon when it is similar to the thing it represents. Sklair(2006) says for a building or structure to be considered iconic it must meet two criteria. First,the structure must be famous to at least some constituencies (p. 25). Second, the structuremust have some symbolic/aesthetic judgment. This means that an architectural icon is imbuedwith a special meaning that is symbolic for a culture and/or a time, and that this specialmeaning has an aesthetic component (p. 25).Messaris and Abraham (2001) stated that the indexicality of images refers to a certaintrue-to-life quality that demonstrates the authenticity of the image. They claimed that becauseThe International Journal of the Arts in SocietyVolume 5, Number 5, 2011, http://www.arts-journal.com, ISSN 1833-1866© Common Ground, Richard Bello, Frances Brandau-Brown, All Rights Reserved, Permissions:email@example.com their indexicality, photographs come with an implicit guarantee of being closer to thetruth than other forms of communication are (p. 217). Messaris and Abraham go on to notethat the way images are shot, selected, cropped and edited all influence the perspective ofthe viewer. Whether the influence is unintentional or intentional, such as where a casualphotographer stood to take a picture or the deliberate manipulation of images through editingand digital enhancement, the impact is to shape the viewers perceptions. In some cases imagesmay be subject to the most direct and overt manipulation, staging. The famous image of theMarines raising the American flag at Iwo Jima is that of the second flag to be raised thatday. Although calling the image staged is a bit of an overstatement, it illustrates how photographersgave a second chance to capture what has turned out to be an iconic and indexicalimage. Despite even the best attempt to avoid any shaping of perceptions, the impact of imageselection is inevitable (Messaris & Abraham, 2001). Though many images make be takenof an event, it is common for one image to become indexical. For example, the image of theOklahoma City fire fighter cradling a child as he walks toward the paramedics serve as atrue and powerful indexical photograph of that event. Hundreds of images of that terroristevent were taken, but that one image came to represent the true horror of the event.The final concept Messaris discussed was syntactic indeterminacy. This concept dealswith how images are juxtaposed against one another. Ragsdale (2007) explained that whenwords are juxtaposed in a sentence, verbs make it clear how the connections are to be understood(p. 3). However, when viewing visual images the connections between those imagesis not overtly stated. Rather, the viewer is required to interpret the images and make decisionsabout the relationships among them. The significance of syntactic indeterminacy can be seenin any advertisement for quick and easy weight loss. The ads feature beautiful people withsculpted bodies next to a pill or potion that promises weight loss. This juxtaposition leadsthe viewer to the conclusion that taking the product results in a lean and fit body. Unfortunately,this conclusion is flawed and a fit body is the result of diet and exercise. The juxtapositionof images is significant in everything from advertising to architecture. For example,the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur combine elements of both the archaic and the modern.The buildings demonstrate elements of modernity by being constructed of steel, glass, andconcrete. Yet, their design contains ancient elements from the Muslim faith such as the Rubel Hizb or the two overlapping squares that form an 8-pointed star. The combination of historical,modern, religious, and secular can be seen in buildings and cities around the world.Washington, D.C. is a city that embodies all of these elements within its 10 square miles.The city was planned to serve as the symbol of American democracy. Since its original inceptionthe citys design and layout have been changed and modified. The city continues togrow and change over time as renovations and modifications are made to existing buildingsand thoroughfares. In addition, new monuments have been added over the course of thetwentieth century. The location of the buildings and monuments in the city have been carefullychosen and the juxtaposition of each in relation to the other has been considered, sometimesat great length.Washington, D.C. is a city that exemplifies visual persuasion. It is with the three elementsof iconicity, indexicality, and syntactic indeterminancy proposed by Messaris (1997) thatwe will examine the design, buildings, monuments, and green spaces of Washington, D.C.316THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF THE ARTS IN SOCIETYInfluence of Historical PlanningThe history of the planning and construction of the city of Washington, D.C. is one that canlargely be embodied in a single term: symbolism (Abbot, 2002; Sorkin, 2005). Washingtoncan be thought of as, in many ways, the symbolic city, and it is this symbolism that givesrise to an examination of the processes in which the layout, monuments, and architecture ofthe city act as devices of social influence.All the way back to the origins of LEnfants 1791 plan itself, including its modificationand completion in the work of MacMillan and others almost a hundred years later, we seethe focus on civic and political symbolism at the heart of the citys design (Davidson &Brooke, 2006). The core of the city still reflects the original master plan and was mandatedby government decree, as well as purposefully designed and created (Davidson & Brooke,2006). Historians such as Pamela Scott and James Sterling Young have argued that the planof the city embodies the basic structure of the federal republican democracy laid out in theConstitution, and that this embodiment was distinctly intentional on the part of LEnfantand George Washington (Luria, 2006). (Washington himself is considered the personprimarily responsible for spearheading the movement for the planning and construction ofa national capital from scratch.) As Luria has so pithily stated, LEnfant and Washingtondesigned a city that looked like the Constitution (2006, p. 6).The connection between the city and Constitution remains relevant even today, as arguedby Luria (2006), who says that theclose and intentional relationship between the capitals design and the Constitutionposes a fascinating case for the further study of the interplay between the written wordand material culture. That close relationship continues beyond the founding of the city,as the city remains a malleable space for the projection of political visions. (pp. xxixxii)The foundation for this planning approach can be seen in the fact that Washington thoughtof monuments and architectural structures as prime means for influencing the citizens of thenew republic toward the acceptance of a unified national identity (Harris, 1999). Davidsonand Brooke (2006) agree with this sentiment, although in more general terms. They pointout that any city intentionally designed and dedicated to the business of government hasthe potential for generat[ing] a sense of patriotism and national unity expressed throughsymbolic architecture (p. 142). Of course, many countries choose national capitals fromamong a number of key cities that are populous and already established. The fact thatWashington, D.C., on the other hand, was specially dedicated as a national capital built ona large empty tract of land along the Potomac River likely imbues its symbolic spaces,monuments, and structures with a special persuasive force and potential.Not only does the original city plan continue to make its presence felt up to the presenttime, but it also extends its influence into the years ahead. The National Capital FrameworkPlan, released in 2008 by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) and the U.S.Commission of Fine Arts, was created to aid in preparation and planning for future city needsrelated to the management of space for new museums, memorials, and the like. One of thesingle most important characteristics of this master plan is that it respects the foundationlaid by Pierre LEnfant when he designed the capital city (National Capital, 2008, p. 2).317RICHARD BELLO, FRANCES BRANDAU-BROWNA final aspect of LEnfants original plan that still rings true today is its emphasis on agrand scale that made extensive use of vast open spaces. His plan called for fifteen sizeableopen spaces placed where avenues intersected, and he believed that these open spaces wereas important as the buildings and the monuments, that they should set off the monumentsand help to give them meaning (Davidson & Brooke, 2006, p. 143). This more specializeduse of space was altered mainly in the MacMillan plan from 1902 that called for a more vastand empty space that became the National Mall. However, the overall emphasis on spaceitself (for example, for gatherings and ceremonies) and space used to set off and accentuatemonuments, memorials, and federal buildings still figures prominently in present-dayWashington, D.C. (Luria, 2006).Examining the history of the planning and construction of Washington, D.C. demonstratesthat, from the very beginning, the city was thought of largely in terms of the rhetorical impactit could have on residents and visitors. With that framework in place, we now turn our attentionto a more specific analysis of some of the content and method of that impact, with particularemphasis on the semiotic approach to visual persuasion discussed in the openingsection of this paper.Visual Persuasion in the CityAlthough there appear to be a number of persuasive themes around which spaces, structures,and layout revolve, we choose to concentrate on the one that is the most fundamental andprominent: support for the American experiment with republican democracy (Luria, 2006,p. 155).The National MallIt is perhaps best to begin with a clear focus on the National Mall as the center of a geometryof layout. This layout is representative for the visitor, through the psychology of the principleof syntactic indeterminancy, of the system of American democracy itself. Virtually any visitorencounters this geometry of democracy, likely first in perusing maps of the city, andsecondly in extensively touring the Mall and its environs. At the eastern end of this massiverectangular green space is the great dome of the Capitol Building, which houses the legislativebranch of government seen ideally as the embodiment of the legal and political will of thepeople. Also in this location, indeed just immediately to the east of the Capitol, the visitorencounters the building that houses the focal point of the judicial branch of government, theU.S. Supreme Court. Legislative and judicial are bound together physically just as they arebound together systemically, one making law and the other interpreting the constitutionalstatus of that law. Through this syntax of the buildings proximity, as well as the indexicalityof their open and obvious presence and the iconicity of authority inherent in the Classicismof their architecture, one is impressed by the importance of the work taking place therefor the American system of democracy and by the equal and complementary nature of theroles they play within that system (Sorkin, 2005).Add to this formula the presence of the White House annexed to the National Mall justnorth of its axis via the green space called the Ellipse, and you have a completion in themind of the visitor of the separation of powers inherent in the Constitution itself. Here wesee a clear application of the principle of syntactic indeterminancy espoused by Messaris318THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF THE ARTS IN SOCIETY(1997) and Gass and Seiter (2007). In the physical layout of the Mall, all three arms of thenational government are seen by the visitor as separate, in line with the Constitution. At thesame time, they are seen as inextricably connected. Both this separation and connection arenecessary if democracy is to function as designed by the founders of the American experiment.This geometry of democracy is especially apparent when the visitor (or potential visitor)peruses maps of the citys core, and its emotional impact is driven home when the visitortakes the time to tour extensively the National Mall as the center of this geometry (Luria,2006).The iconic status of the Mall itself has persuasive potential on its own, as well as addingto the power of the visual impact of the separation (and connection) of the key powers ofthe federal government as written into the Constitution. The Mall is viewed by some as aspeculative, ambiguous space (Luria, 2006) that can be imbued by the visitor with whateverseems appropriate to the theme of democracy and separation of powers that is front andcenter. It is almost certain that for quite a number of visitors to the city, the Mall conjuresup images of huge gatherings of the masses of the people for the exercising of a kind ofdirect democracy. Some of these images are iconic, as in the medias coverage of MartinLuther Kings I Have a Dream speech during the height of the civil rights movement andof the historical gatherings of the masses associated with the inauguration of elected presidents.Others have the distinct potential of achieving iconic status, as in, and most especially,the recent overwhelming influx of about two million U.S. citizens for the inauguration ofPresident Barack Obama (Safford, 2010). There can be little doubt that such images, conjuredup during ones visit to the Mall itself, serve a persuasive and motivational function thathighlights the centrality and importance of the role of democracy in America.In addition, the conception of open green spaces, especially those associated with publicand communal gatherings (as in civic parks and town commons), is embedded in theAmerican psyche. Going as far back as colonial times, they have been viewed as representativeof democratic principles such as the idea of power and authority flowing from thepeople to governmental institutions rather than vice-versa (OMalley, 1999). In referring tothe colonial period, OMalley has pointed out thatNew Englanders wanted to exercise their freedom to manage common lands, a licensetheir English forebears did not have. Since each town regulated its own common, itbecame an icon of democracy. Thus, in America, the open grass plat within the villagecenter embodies a sense of community and self-governance. (1999, p. 73)For many, therefore, the National Mall likely taps in to this aspect of the American makeup,existing as it does as a kind of quintessential public and communal space. In other words,the Mall exists in the collective American unconscious as a town common writ large, thatis, a town common for the nation. This perception is probably aided by the fact that theMall is often referred to in a variety of sources as Americas Front Lawn or Americas FrontYard, especially Internet sites often used by individuals for planning trips to the D.C. area(e.g., Trust, 2010; Campaign Elements, 2008).319RICHARD BELLO, FRANCES BRANDAU-BROWNKey MemorialsFinally, there are any number of memorials in or near Americas Front Yard that have strongvisually persuasive potential. Perhaps two of the most dramatic are the Vietnam VeteransMemorial and the Lincoln Memorial. Because it is such a somber and tragic recognition ofa U.S. military defeat, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was by far the more controversialof the two. In the way the memorial simply lists in an unadorned fashion name after nameof all of the servicemen and women who were killed during the war, it emotionally servesfor many to highlight the stark reality of the historical situation. However, it has also becomeiconic for many Americans of not only that particular tragedy, but of the great losses thatare sometimes incurred by the masses of Americans, the people at the heart of democracyitself, when military objectives are pursued in the name of that democracy. This iconicmessage, one of reservation about and the limits of democracy, is driven home all the morestrongly by the dark granite of the construction and most importantly, via the principle ofsyntactic indeterminancy, by the manner in which the memorial is not only placed on butalso excavated into the ground of the National Mall itself (Sorkin, 2005).The Lincoln Memorial, perhaps the best known icon of the man himself anywhere in theworld, is visited by well over three million people each year (Lincoln Memorial Facts,2010). Certainly much of the allure to visitors lies in the historical figure to which the memorialis dedicated, but some of that allure lies also in what the memorial and the man aremost representative of: the salvation of American democracy during the period when it wasmost sorely tested, that of the Civil War. The very idea of Lincoln as savior of democracyis brought to the fore in the minds of visitors to the memorial through emphasis on at leasttwo key visual aspects. First, the Classical architecture (bookended on the opposite end ofthe Mall by the Classical architecture of the Capitol and Supreme Court buildings) is intendedto be iconic of an ancient Greek temple (Sorkin, 2005), enhancing an atmosphere of spiritually-based authority and wisdom that is especially prominent as one climbs the stairs of thenearly 100 foot high memorial. Second, and somewhat more subtle, is the location of thememorial at the west end of the National Mall, including the direction in which the statueof Lincoln himself is facing. It surely is no accident that the statue of Lincoln, elevated sohigh above the grounds of the Mall itself, is facing eastward and overlooking the whole ofthe Mall (Lincoln Memorial, 2010). From this vantage point, the experience of many visitorsis no doubt one of the iconic Lincoln as not only the savior of American democracy,but also as its keeper. The thought that must occur to many visitors is that, therefore, democracyis not only worth saving, but also worth keeping. We see here the principle of syntacticindeterminancy applied in, perhaps, its clearest form.ConclusionIn demonstrating that visitors to the city of Washington, D.C. likely are the targets of socialinfluence processes based on carefully designed and laid out visual components of the city,this paper implies other possibilities as well. First, it strongly suggests that there are manyother examples of visually persuasive processes taking place within D.C., as well as persuasiveand motivational themes other than only that of homage to the American form of republicandemocracy that we have examined herein. For example, a preliminary analysis suggests thata persuasive theme focused on the grandeur and infinite possibilities of America and the320THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF THE ARTS IN SOCIETYAmerican experience might also be present. We therefore hope to extend this line of research,with continued emphasis on the semiotic principles developed by Messaris (1997), to otherbuildings, monuments, spaces, and layouts that make up the city.Second, it is true that Washington, D.C. is a city steeped in a political and rhetorical traditionthat increases the likelihood of visual persuasion. However, there is nothing inherent inour analysis suggesting that similar kinds of visually persuasive processes would not be operativein other American cities, or even in cities around the world. Broadening the kind ofanalysis used here to other cities, therefore, appears to be another logical research step worthtaking, and one that has the potential for greatly enhancing our understanding of how citiesexist as vessels of persuasive and motivational messages.
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