Tips For Critical Analysis of Visual Arguments by Matt The use of visual elements in an argument can make the author’s intended message much more powerful, and more complicated. Just like a linguistic text, where the writer’s language, tone, and examples contribute to the overall meaning, the analysis of images requires specific skills and practice. Being a savvy reader of visual arguments requires special consideration, and the following tips can get you started. 1. Think about how the visual component relates to the author’s overall claim. Is the visual element the whole argument, or is it intended to work in conjunction with some written language? Is this relationship explicitly stated, or do you need to be creative in making this connection? How is any writing present juxtaposed with the image(s)? 2. Consider what kind of tone the visual aspects (eg. use of color, lighting, etc.) of the argument evoke. How does that tone frame your thinking about the author’s message? Are any assumptions about you as an audience being made regarding your interests, values, or prior knowledge if the image(s)? 3. Ask yourself how the author is making one or more appeals by using the image(s). Remember our discussions of ethos/logos/pathos. How rhetorically effective are the appeals at work? Remember the following issues when analyzing visual appeals: Ethos – In what ways do the visual elements affect the author’s credibility and authority? How do they persuade you on an ethical level? Logos – How do the visual components of the argument (eg. charts, graphs, photographic evidence) support the author’s claim, or do they make arguments of their own? Is this evidence reliable and indeed logical? Pathos – What kind of emotional response do the visual aspects elicit? How do specific images or parts of images achieve this effect? 4. Examine the ideology at work in the argument. What beliefs, values, and worldview do the visual components perpetuate? Are certain binary opposites presented in a way that privileges one over the other? Of course, not every question listed above will be applicable to every visual argument, but the important part is that you get used to questioning the texts (visual or linguistic) that you encounter. In doing so, you will be better equipped to both make more informed decisions about what arguments shape your thinking and craft more persuasive writing of your own.