Eloquent Images: Word and Image in the Age of New Media
Editor: Mary E. Hocks, Michelle R. Kendrick
Publisher: Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003
Review Published: December 2006
I am honored that our collection has been selected a RCSS's book of the month for December. Sadly, I must inform readers that my collaborator and dear friend Michelle Kendrick passed away on Sept. 30, 2006 after a courageous five-year battle with ovarian cancer. I know Michelle would be as thrilled as I am about our book's contribution to scholarship -- the collection was her idea, after all, and she was fiercely proud of it -- so she would jump up and give a feisty response to all reviews. With a heavy heart, I take up the mantle.
Fortunately, the two reviews by Vika Zafrin and Alan Razee are smart critiques, and thus a joy to read and answer. I'm particularly pleased that Vika Zafrin understands what Matt Kirshenbaum's challenging work offers us -- something other reviewers have missed. In addition, I get the sense that she understands first-hand the problem of academic labor for those who make digital media projects and want to bring multiple perspectives to the production process. As much as academia loves to tout and promote interdisciplinary (or its cousin multi-disciplinary) teaching and scholarship, these kinds of alliances often prove difficult at best and, at worst, impossible in the context of departmental or disciplinary turf wars. So the challenges that Zafrin highlights in the words of our contributors are still vexingly real.
Alan Razee's review is equally interesting and useful. What Razee suggests as a downside -- that the assumptions in one essay contradict the premises of another -- is a deliberate strength of the collection. We use different words, but such clashes and tensions would be expected in my understanding of dialogic and also of hybridity. Such tensions led Michelle to offer the final quotation from DeCerteau, a favorite of hers, as we end with the play of everyday practices in our digital machines.
The many meanings Razee lists of "image" are right on target. Many scholars, including some in this collection, have already ceased to use "image" in favor of naming the specific types of visuals at work: illustrations, maps, exploded diagrams and so on. And Kristine Fleckenstein, in her smart College English article (2004), argued for the more subtle and metaphoric uses of "visual" in our field of English studies. But I also think this uneasy ambiguity of "image" makes the discussion more interesting than confounding or deceitful as the words "conflated" or "equivocated" would suggest. Razee concludes that "images" is a category too ambiguous to juxtapose with a more definitive category like "words" but I must disagree that "words" is quite so fixed while "images" includes everything under the sun. The term "New Media" has become more problematic in my mind because it really can include every single medium under the sun.
A final note about the copyediting mistakes: The paperback released late in 2005 corrects most, if not all of these errors. But not the orange cover, which Michelle hated and I still like. If nothing else, it stands out nicely on the shelf.
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