Tag Archives: design

Entering New Territory: Picturing Lyme Disease

So here’s the thing: things are changing. A simple Q&A format clarifies everything and nothing:

Q: What’s the most fun part about research?

A: Things are constantly evolving and you never know where you’re going to end up next!

Q: What’s the most frustrating/scary/difficult part of research?

A: Things are constantly evolving and you never know where you’re going to end up next!

We might say that research is a process that is both recursive and reflexive…which reveals new things as it goes along. When you think you’ve already picked a good topic, found good sites/archives for research, and developed your main claims,this can be rather annoying. I’m currently working my way through this phase; it’s kind of like the denial, bargaining, and other stages of grief. I am frustrated because I know both that my original idea–to study the rhetoric of Lyme Disease–was good, but that my new plan–to study the visual rhetoric of Lyme Disease–is significantly  more compelling.

Thanks to my brilliant #TeamRhetoric Writing Group colleagues, especially Jason and Jen, it has become clear that I should shift my project about the rhetoric of Lyme Disease to focus on visual rhetoric/images specifically. Why this change? I’ve learned a lot about the rhetoric of Lyme Disease in recent history, and as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have been particularly unimpressed with the images of Lyme that regularly circulate in popular culture. Photos of ticks and drawings of EM rashes? Maps of where Lyme is located geographically? B-O-R-I-N-G. Not compelling (i.e. seemingly not adding to any particular arguments and appearing to merely take up space at the tops of Washington Post articles). So underwhelming that I started taking photographs of my knees to document my own embodied experiences with Lyme for the fun of it. (See the right side of this blog for a link to some of my selfies). AND YET these underwhelming images are likely a subtle key to the contentious arguments about Lyme Disease–as it exists and as it is imagined.

Evolving questions include:

  • What does Lyme Disease look like?
  • Who circulates images of Lyme Disease?
  • What does the circulation network look like?
    • How do Lyme Disease health-seekers/patients envision their connection to Lyme? How do they document their experiences of Lyme, if at all?
    • How do clinicians who treat Lyme Disease and researchers who do experiments to learn more about Lyme Disease *see* it–in the lab, in the treatment center, in the exam room?
  • How do these images circulate?
  • What is the history of images of Lyme Disease?

and of course…how do Lyme Disease visuals function rhetorically? How might images/visuals be effective argumentative tools for presenting new ideas/shifting the focusing/reevaluating the stakes of Lyme Disease?

At the moment, I’m thinking through a few major concerns:

  • Is it possible to do a visual project from/with great attention to a disability studies perspective?
  • I don’t know nearly enough about visual rhetoric.
  • How can I ensure that this will be an explicitly feminist and explicitly intersectional project?

But what I do know is this:

  • Qualitative researchers in the health sciences have reported that visual research methods can reveal new and exciting things about health and medical behaviors and practices, particularly about gender.
  • Scholars in the rhetoric of  health and  medicine haven’t often taken up visuals as a) research methods, or b) objects of analysis. A recent special issue of Communication Design Quarterly, a peer-reviewed journal published by the Special Interest Group for Design of Communication, focused on rhetorics of health and medicine and prompted me to think about designs as visuals….(?)
    • “The essays included here explicitly and implicitly point to different ways that ideas, texts, methods, practices, and technologies work in a variety of healthcare contexts, and more importantly, how that information is designed. The essays also bridge theory to practice.” (Frost and Meloncon 9)
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