Sunday, February 2, 2014

Applying Scott McCloud's "Show & Tell" to a Modern Image.

Applying Scott McCloud's "Show & Tell" to a Modern Image.

In the provided reading this week, Scott McCloud uses comic form to utilize both pictures and words, explaining the importance of the integration of the two alongside one another, but also showing the power that comes from separating the two. McCloud explains that there can be playful competition in images that combine both words and picture, but that this can "subvert the overall goals".

The first figure below is of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder. (Image from )
The second figure is some basic generated text, stating "Freedom Of Speech". Retrieved/generated from/at from
The third figure an image we generated combining the Assange image and the "Freedom Of Speech" text. Retrieved/generated from/at
All three are very powerful forms of visual rhetoric, each with their own direct messages.

                                         FIGURE 1

                                          FIGURE 2

                                          FIGURE 3

The Prompt
Utilizing all three of these images and what you read from Scott McCloud's analysis of the progression, pairing, and separation of pictures and words, please use all three figures and choose 2 of these questions to write about.

1. In FIGURE 1 and ONLY FIGURE 1: If a picture is worth a thousand words, what do you believe the main message of this picture of Julian Assange is? Does the fact that this example does not contain any text affect the overall tone and message being conveyed?

2. In FIGURE 2 and ONLY FIGURE 2: Does the text alone provide you with an overall sense of anything? Does the actual text make you think of "Freedom Of Speech"? Could there be an alteration to the colors of the text and the background that would make you believe more that it represents freedom of speech?

3. In FIGURE 3 and ONLY FIGURE 3: Now that the picture and words have been combined, do you feel that the message has changed? Do the colors clash between the two? Could the pictures and word function with the same meaning if they were separate, as in FIGURE 1 & FIGURE 2?

4. In ALL THREE FIGURES: Does the progression of Figures being displayed alter how you view the message of the pictures; Does FIGURE 3 have a different meaning now that both the image and text have been combined? Please explain whether you believe why or why not.


  1. 2. In Figure 2, the text seems to speak for itself. Printed in monochrome colors, you would think the overall meaning would be just as black and white. This figure, consisting of only words, brings to my mind the First Amendment and our freedom of speech as Americans. It is an inalienable right that can not be taken away from us as it is written in the Constitution. It also brings to mind a sense of patriotism, as we as Americans can identify with the text "freedom of speech" because it is a right that is inherently given to us. What if the text weren't in black and white? Do you think the text would get the same message across if the color scheme was different? What about in this image where the text seems to be combined with a visual of the American flag?
    [image from:]

    3. In Figure 3, the image and text have been combined. For me, the meaning of the text was drastically changed when combined with the image that had been shown on its own in Figure 1. Now I am questioning whether or not freedom of speech is something that is inalienable and inherent. Now freedom of speech seems to cause tension when paired with the image of Julian Assange with the American flag over his mouth, apparently censoring what he is saying. This being said, I don't think the monochrome background and the bold colors of the American flag clash, but rather highlight the importance of this cohesive image. The fact that what we associate with freedom, the colors of the American flag, is the problem. It is America, the land of the free, that is censoring it's citizens. Separately, the image and text alone could function; however, they would provide different meanings and function differently independently than they do as one combined image is in Figure 3. Figure

  2. Hi Alexia,
    I do agree that Figure 2 would not function the same without the image of Assange. Does Patriotism have to be linked to the colors of red, white, and blue or as you have said, does the black & white paired with the "Freedom Of Speech" text suffice since it is implied that this is an American topic?

    (For Alexia or anyone to respond to) In the image you have provided of "Free Speech" shaped as the American flag and with the red, white, and blue color scheme, does the exclusion of the -dom ending in Free change the meaning? Would "Free Speech" and "Freedom Of Speech" convey any different meaning if both were presenting in the same way as ( )?

  3. Are there any parts from the Scott McCloud reading that would benefit from having words truncated/shortened?

    Would red/white/blue colors add to any of the frames in the comic?

  4. Hi Cole,
    Would there be any other way, using text, to convey "Free Speech" or "Freedom of Speech"?

    If not text, are there any images that you feel also represent Free Speech?

  5. When you posted the first picture in class (figure 1), I instantly thought of media censorship in the United States and obviously of the controversy that is Julian Assange's WikiLeaks. I think the main message of this (as McCloud defines it) picture-specific image is that Americans are not as free as our government and the popular press claim us to be. Furthermore I interpreted the image as a bold statement on our country's systematic oppression and ever-decreasing integrity. Oddly, it made me think of the Patriot Act as well. The fact that this example does not contain any text causes the image to likely be interpreted more broadly by its audience, for it lacks another layer of explanation and/or complexity.

  6. I agree that the image alone would be interpreted more broadly by its audience and that the Freedom of Speech makes its meaning more clear and reinforces the idea. Black is an interesting choice of a background because it strengthens the idea of oppression and its contrast of white could represent elitism and unfriendliness. The boldness of the font and the contrast of white and black draws my eyes first to the words, in figure 3, then to the picture.

  7. Eric van den TerrellFebruary 4, 2014 at 8:42 PM

    I agree with your interpretation that the picture alone conveys the message of censorship, but I would argue that the main message is not limited to only Americans or our press. The presented elements are straightforward: Julian Assange is depicted in black and white contrast with the only color coming from an American flag over his mouth. Censorship is one of the dominant suggested elements this presentation brings up, but there are also undertones of: U.S. political overreach, rights of privacy issues, governmental transparency (or a lack thereof), public perception of right and wrong, and the political polarization we have seen in the United States over the past several decades.
    The function of the image is to elicit a reaction or opinion from its viewer about some of the suggested elements. One potential problem with seeing the image by itself is the fact it assumes the viewer is aware of who the man being depicted is. What someone takes away from viewing the image can vary greatly depending on their level of knowledge about who Julian Assange is and the situation surrounding Wikileaks. What would change if the man in the image was not a recognizable face? How would our perceptions change? Would your initial reaction change if it were Edward Snowden being depicted instead of Assange? If so, why?

  8. Hi Stephanie,
    I agree with your initial reaction of media censorship within the United States. I think the lack of words lets viewers interpret the picture how they want, but would all come to a similar conclusion that America is supposed to be the land of the free, yet everything is censored, nothing is free and one will be punished if they go against the norm of what "should be" rather than what is right. I think that the first picture is more powerful than the other two that contain words. With the black and only color on Assange's lips of the first picture and the black on his face, I believe that is saying that most people are left in the dark and only believe what the government leads them to believe. Then there is the other half that know how screwed up the government is and when they say how they feel, they are shut down by the puppets the government has created through censorship.

  9. Many students in this thread are doing a great job deciphering the messages of the figures, but are there term from the Scott McCloud reading that could be tied in to the figures shown above?

  10. Eric, you bring a very interesting point up regarding peoples' recognition or lack of recognizing Julian Assange.

    What if the person in the image was neither Assange or Snowden and was a regular non-political person with the same American flag put over their mouth?

    Would the image change if it were multiple people within the image?

  11. Posting this as another question prompt:

    Does this inverted image change the message or tone?

    Think about the previous reading regarding what colors represent and use them in your comment(s).

  12. I think absolutely! As Stephanie points out, other things come to mind because Figure 1 lacks any text to ground the meaning of the image. And as Sturken and Cartwright point out in their introduction to Practices of Looking "there is always a range of meanings and interpretations 'floating about.'" (4).
    To speak more directly to Eric's and Justin's questions, if the person were, instead, say, a female soldier, I might think of a message like the one forwarded by the documentary The Invisible War which tries to bring attention to rape in the military. Or, I might think back to Don't-ask-don't-tell-policies. I think the context (time/place/medium) in which the artifact circulates and the audience who sees it really affects the ultimate function it has. Although, I do agree with Eric that one of the most dominant meanings an American audience would understand is censorship. No matter what, we want to take off that flag that covers the mouth right?

  13. Danielle, I agree that the bold or heavy font is a rhetorical choice that suggests "freedom of speech" is very important to United States citizens. The font consumes Figure 2 so that it is all we look at. Then, in figure 3, when Assange is back, my eyes still go first to the left (in part, because of my Western reading practice) and land on that heavy text so that I interpret Assange through the lens of "freedom of speech." Suddenly the tone of the image is ironic. The image prompts the question "Do we have freedom of speech?"

  14. I believe that in figure 3 the phrase "Freedom of Speech" would be additive to the picture. With the image alone, the audience would understand the idea of censorship with Assange's mouth covered by the American flag. The words become ironic next to the picture. The words by themselves could be taken as patriotic, the words elaborate on the picture and add meaning to it.

  15. I'd definitely agree with your point, the picture alone leaves a little bit more to the imagination so you can look at it slightly differently from someone else. Once the text is introduced it narrows your thoughts down to a single topic to focus on, making it less open for different interpretations.

  16. Good explanation. It would make sense to describe the text as an additive. At first I wanted to say they were interdependent from one another, but that would probably be wrong since they can stand alone. However, I do think that the two of them together portray a different message than they do as separate pieces.

  17. In FIG. 1 the flag across the lower face could be considered restriction of speech, it could also be viewed that we do have freedom of speech in the US without any hinted irony. This image can most certainly be seen both ways as far as the message being delivered. People may associate black with negativity, but perhaps it could embody strength and power.
    The style of text for FIG. 2 is very Americana to me in the sense that it reminds me of vintage 1950's font. Going along with that, I do relate the "Freedom of Speech" with the actual typography because it feels very patriotic. When FIGURES 1 & 2 are combined the image creates a direct message to the audience. The bold capitalization of the words alongside the man's face gives a statement that is figuratively and literally black and white. There is no question mark for people to question the meaning because it is right in front of us. If there was freedom to speak then the man's mouth would not be covered. The text is very loud in FIG. 3 while the image of the man stares in complete silence. hmm.

  18. Hi Erika,

    In your comment, you mention the man staring at the audience "in complete silence." By looking directly at the audience, he commands attention. His intense gaze emphasizes the severity of speech censorship to the audience.
    Do you think the overall meaning or message of Figure 3 would change if the man were looking in a different direction? If he were looking off to the side or if he had his eyes closed, how would that affect the overall statement of the piece?


  19. I agree with Brittany's analysis of the image. I think the majority of viewers would instantaneously grasp the irony just by looking at the image alone. The colors make a significant difference to how the audience can perceive the message that the image is attempting to convey. By containing elements like the black shadowy background contrasting against Assange's image, it leaves a more negative connotation to the audience. I think Brittany came up with a good theory of this representing the censorship of speech leaving American's in the dark, and that freedom of speech isn't necessary the free positive spirit it's made out to be.

  20. Very great points in here! I really liked the reference to the fact that you first saw the inverted flag as a lock and keypad.

    Another good point was referencing the red from the Colour-Affects and how it stands out as being nearer in Figure 3.

  21. Hi Erin! Are there any references to the color discussion that could be used to support the "significant difference" of perception noted above?

    Does the shadow on the side of Assange's face stand for anything? Could it stand for people only knowing half of the truth since it covers half of his face?

  22. Hi Brittany,

    I believe that if Assange was looking to the left or right instead of at the viewer, it would alter the intent of the image because it would not be straightforward. By having a frontward gaze, it commands your attention as you stated, and it also makes sure that you know he is looking to you to think about the message.

  23. Well I think this is an interesting discussion so I'll chime in even though it's late and probably won't be responded to. Regardless of whether or not someone recognizes the man in the image as Julian Assange, the picture alone in the first image was cleverly designed to appeal to moral sensibilities. As the professor has noted, you would never want to see anyones mouth covered and to have it covered by a flag adds to the effect. Once combined with the words in the final image the message does change however. Instead of being strictly moral in also combines it with the concepts of truth, justice, and identity. We recognize, as Americans, that freedom of speech as a 1st amendment as part of our justice system and is such a way of life for us that to disagree with the message of the image would be to deny ourselves of our own identity. So the final image reaches further than just morality and is also less ambiguous (less floating about). That's not to say that the message in the final image is definite, its just more clear.

    Personally, I recognized who the person was and immediately associated the 1st image with censorship in America. Anyone who didn't recognize him was probably more likely to have a greater difference in interpretations of all the images. For me the messages were all the same but that is only because of my knowledge of the person and the subjective reality that shapes the way we see images. I'm sure someone in the world has seen this image and was confused by it. The message never gets to everyone.

  24. @Justin Loranger To me, it's just an aesthetic choice. However, I think the artist responsible for the image chose darkness and contrast as a way of aesthetically explaining the message. So if you were to read into it more, the half of the face being hidden could represent the public only hearing (or in this case seeing) half the truth. The hard light is truth, meant to illuminate the dark and cast us out of the shadows. So in this case it was more aesthetic to display the message this way because if, for example, bright pastel colors were used, the message would seem confusing, distorted, and ironic.

  25. HI Justin and Brittany,
    I agree that the man looking straight forward at the audience commands attention but it also has a message. The man's mouth is covered but by having his eyes open, gazing at whoever is looking at him, he is saying that his message, whether it is freedom of speech is or is not in America, is what he believes in. I took the stare as a daring one, daring someone to speak out against him.