"Professors at Work"

Web Writing:  Theory and Practice of Digital Rhetoric



Assignment #6

Digital Image Analysis



Examining Cultural Images

Images reveal much about our culture, more than we may normally be aware of.  From advertising to TV to the internet, we are bombarded almost continuously with images which shape our consciousness.   Images provide models for our bodies and minds, suggest social roles for us to play, project needs we come to adopt.  One digital source which provides a window on our culture is "Google Images." 

"Google Images" works by providing images that have been linked with certain words or text on web pages that Google scans.  The more an image is linked with a certain word, the more likely it will turn up in a Goggle image search.  Also the more an image is linked with a certain text or word, the sooner it will be presented on the search page.

Topic:  Think of a term to search in Google Images.  Among the first images that come up, select 9 from your search page and write a 750 word analysis of what the images reveal about American culture. 

Make sure your terms result in some images of people

Use a term that is important to you personally or seems characteristic of our current digital age, such as--


video gamer podcaster newspaper reader videographer
computer programmer college student magazine editor Second Lifer
shopper entertainment/entertainer filmmaker  
bloggers MP3 listener dancers  
political activist soldier business leader  
sports spectator car racing fan music downloader  
sportscaster digital photographer IMer  
web designer newspaper columnist CEO  
hypertext writer reporter journalist  

From your google search page, choose 9 images which seem typical of the term you use. 

Then ask yourself these questions:  (Comment on a total of six of these concepts.)

What "gaze" is encouraged in the viewer? Male, female, out of control consumer, empowered, which social class is assumed?
What power relations are depicted--between viewer and subject of picture, among those pictured?
What "presumption of relevance" is presented?
What equivalences are established? Aspects of belonging and difference?
What aspects of reification are included in the photo?
How is the consumer/viewer interpolated?  (e.g., called to and expected to respond to the image?
What meaning comes through formal aspects of image?
What socio-historic references are included?
Are the images making references to images that preceded them culturally?
In what context is the image embedded?
What aspects of our society are emphasized?
What values are promoted?  (economic, political, cultural?) Whose values are promoted?
Are any icons or myths called upon?
How does the image break down in terms of gender, race and class?
What assumptions about beauty, desire, glamour, prestige, social value are present?
What expressions do the individuals or groups pictured wear?
What is revealed about American culture in the images you've found? 
What cultural values are contained in these images?  What typical activities are pictured?
What positive and negative connotations do you see?

Come to some generalizations based on your sample of images and put this analysis into a 750 word academic essay with introduction, thesis, body and conclusion (see below for what to include in your conclusion).  After reporting on trends in the 9 image sample, you may want to concentrate on one or two typical images which seem particularly rich in meanings.

Here are some suggestions for Introductions

Format:  Two web pages:

1.  An Assignment homepage with a 9 cell table and assignment title--as above.

  • A nine cell table illustrating images you found at "Google Images"
  • Be sure your web page will print out well--vertically.  If not, try putting it all inside a one celled table and sliding the left border so that only 2/3 of the page is taken up by the table.
  • Be sure your photos have enough pixels that they won't look pixelated in your web page.  If they don't look good, find better images.
  • Work on your pictures in Photoshop to be sure they are all the same size, maybe 160 x 150 pixels.  Give them a 3D effect.
  • Put them in a 9 cell table in Frontpage.
  • Take care not to distort your images in any way (stretched out, elongated)
  • You can make your image table a "hotspot" which links to your text.

2.  A 2nd web page, linked to the first, which presents your analysis of the photos.

  • Create a link from the assignment homepage to the text section--perhaps make your 9 cell table a hotspot.
  • Practice good web writing technique in the text section.
  • Position Google Images throughout the 750 word text.
  • Make sure text wraps around images but doesn't begin right up at the edge of a photo.
  • Use headings, sub-heads and graphics to guide the reader/viewer through the text.  The text can be on one long page.
  • Conclusion:  At the very bottom of the text page, list the URL's of all images you've used in this assignment.  Include in the conclusion to your analysis what the origin of these images may add to the information in your analysis.
  • When finished, email the text analysis section to Dr. Hollis as a Word doc.