Iconographic Tracking Report Instructions

For this project, students will use Laurie Gries’ iconographic tracking methodology and the open-source reference software Zotero to track the rhetorical circulation of a digital icon or image. Students will submit a paper describing their research, methodology, and analysis. Prior to their iconographic tracking report, students will write an “Icon Analysis” blog post (Blog #4) that rhetorically analyzes their chosen icon. 

The report itself should be a minimum of 1,250 words and will consist of four sections: background, methodology, research, and analysis. Papers should at minimum cite the Computers and Composition article by Gries, “Iconographic Tracking: A Digital Research Method for Visual Rhetoric and Circulation Studies.” Students may also draw from other course readings or outside texts if necessary.

Step 1: Selecting an Icon

  1. Select an icon or digital image to analyze for this project. This image should be something that has a clear rhetorical function, and ideally something that has been circulated and appropriated for other rhetorical purposes.
  2. Do some cursory research into your image. Who made it? What was its intended purpose? How was this image initially received?
  3. Complete Blog #4

Step 2: Collecting Data

  1. Download Zotero—either the desktop client, the browser extension, or both. I would recommend making an account so your information is backed up.
  2. Start with your search engine of choice (Google, DuckDuckGo, Bing, etc.) and search for your image. You might want to experiment with different search terms, but also with using reverse image search.
  3. Each time you find a version of your icon that has been remixed or circulated, use Zotero to save it to your database. Create tags to quickly identify notable features of the image, and keep a list of these tags at hand so you can consult them if needed.
  4. Do not linger on these webpages or read anything about these images at this time. In keeping with Gries borrowing of the notion of dérive, simply grab the data that you need and move on.
  5. Once you feel you have an ample dataset, try diversifying your data using other sites and strategies. Search social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. via hashtags and search terms. Use image sites like TinEye, Flickr, AP Images, Getty Images, and Reuters.

Step 3: Analyzing Data

  1. Once you have amassed a large quantity of data, go through Zotero and dig through the metadata. If new tags or terms are created or suggested by Zotero, consider using them to do another search.
  2. Identify patterns and trends. Begin to analyze how your image has been transformed across different genres and media, and what rhetorical situations it has been involved in.
  3. It may be helpful to use Zotero’s folder system to begin organizing your data. I’ve found that the tag functions can also be great ways to explore your data from different perspectives.

Step 4: Writing the Iconographic Tracking Report

  1. The report will be broken into four sections: background, methodology, research, and analysis. Consider the affordances of composing this as a webtext—you can link to articles, embed images and videos, and choose how you lay out and divide up your text.
  2. Background: You will likely be able to pull a lot from your writeup in Blog #4. The background will consist of a brief (1-2 paragraph) introduction to both your paper and to your chosen icon. You will give information on where the image originated, who created it, what its original purpose was, etc. This might be framed as a pre-circulation account of the icon, or as a sort of “origin story” for your icon. Include a copy of your icon somewhere in or near this section.
  3. Methodology: This section will consist of a brief (1-2 paragraph) explanation of the methodology you are using and why you are using it. You will summarize Laurie Gries’ methodology and why you are using it to analyze this image. This is a great opportunity to practice citing and integrating scholarship into your own writing. Include 2-3 quotes from Gries’ article in this section.
  4. Research:In this section you will explain how you gathered your research—what key terms you used, what sites you drew data from, how you used Zotero, what worked and what didn’t work, etc. You will also explain what these approaches yielded, and what decisions you had to make in order to collect that data. This is an opportunity to explain and justify your data collection process, but also to point out potential shortcomings of your method.
  5. Analysis:In your analysis section you will look for patterns, identify trends, and begin to draw conclusions about the circulation of your icon based on the results of your research. You might develop theories in this section as to why the results are the way they are, or you might confirm or contradict predictions you made prior to your data gathering. This section is essentially where you will try to answer the question, borrowing from Gries, what is the consequentiality of my chosen icon? You will have already identified what your icon means in the first section, so this section is about identifying the different meanings your icon takes on when it circulates.

Final report due 2/12 by 11:59pm