The literary critic I. A. Richards once said, "A book is a machine
to think with" (1).
In fact, any representational space or language is not just a neutral container for information or a decorative style, but is a device to think with.
Example 1: Duluth, Minnesota
Consider the following representations of Duluth. Each one mingles two kinds of representative space in different proportions: from the purely visual space of a satellite photo to the purely verbal space of the Duluth phone book. Notice how the map and the web page combine visual and verbal rules of representation.
1. Duluth from orbit (Google Maps)
2. Duluth from mapquest.com
3. Duluth as represented on a web page (
4. Duluth according to a phone book
Example 2: Three Ways of Presenting the French Invasion of Russia (1812)
1. Verbal (Analytical)
>>>"...Sitting in the ashes of a ruined city without having received the Russian capitulation, and facing a Russian maneuver forcing him out of Moscow, Napoleon started his long retreat by the middle of October. At the Battle of Maloyaroslavets, Kutuzov was able to force the French army into using the very same Smolensk road on which they had earlier moved East and which had already been stripped of food supplies by both armies. This is often presented as yet another example of scorched-earth tactics. Continuing to block the southern flank to prevent the French from returning by a different route, Kutuzov again deployed partisan tactics to constantly strike at the French train where it was weakest. Light Russian cavalry, including mounted Cossacks, assaulted and broke up isolated French units.
>>>Supplying the army became an impossibility – the lack of grass weakened the army's remaining horses, almost all of which died or were killed for food by starving soldiers...."
--"French Invasion of Russia" (Wikipedia)
2. Visual (Dramatic)
- Napoleon's retreat from Moscow by Adolph Northen
3. Visual/Verbal Hybrid (Analytical)
- a version of Charles Joseph Minard's 1870 flow-map from the site "Re-Visions of Minard"
Is George Mahlberg's 1996 composite image "Oswald in a Jam" (aka "In-A-Gadda-Da-Oswald," immediately below) a "machine to think with"?
An early Photoshop guru, Mahlberg manipulated the original news photo (bottom) of President John Kennedy's assassin Lee Harvey Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby when Oswald was being moved while in police custody in 1963.
What ideas or contexts does
Mahlberg's composite bring into collision? How is this composite making a statement, and what might that statement be about?