- Oct 2017
At other times, words may work better than images when we arc trying to explain an idea because words can be more descriptive and to the point. It may take too many pictures to convey the same idea quickly (see Fig. 1.18).
For the Primary Source Description assignments, students are required to make heavy use of the linguistic mode in order to communicate the imagery of the quilt. Rather than composing an essay of photographs, students must provide enough detailed and descriptive language of the quilt that potential reconstruction of the panel discussed is possible. As this quote shows, knowing when visual modes and linguistic modes are necessary for the most efficient communication will be an essential skill in our college education. Though the Primary Source Description calls for extensive use of the linguistic mode, the visual mode must also be evoked.
Careful collection and presentation of visual aids will hopefully augment the reader’s imagination of the author’s linguistic mode, instead of overpowering it. My class notes on how to execute a well-rounded Primary Source Description can be seen below, as well as on my website:
Be Specific and Comprehensive in Your Description
• Don't just focus on visual descriptions.
• Describe the texture of the panel, and even its sound.
• Does the panel feel sturdy or thin and frail with age? What is the tactile sensation you observe?
• What are some of the spatial relationships between images, objects, or other attachments on the Quilt panel?
• How much does it weigh?
Images in Your Primary Source Description
• One should include images that quote details from the panel.
• Images may help to support your description.
• You don't have to have a picture of the entire panel.
• In fact, be sure that the images you do include do not supersede the text. The text must remain relevant, so use detailed images that are subordinate to your description.
• Use pictures that help to explain certain details on the Quilt.
If there is a flower on your panel, describe how many petals there are. Use analogous language to better convey the color of an object or the size of it. "The blue is similar to the color of a robin's egg."
As Kenneth Haltman notes in the introduction to American Artifacts, the ability to recreate an object’s “visual and physical effect in words” is critical. Knowing how to use language to effectively describe and interpret visual information can even provide a more comprehensive analysis of that object.