In Fall 2014, I taught my first visual rhetoric course at UMN. Visual rhetoric is a particular interest of mine, and I enjoyed developing and teaching this course. The course website is a living document that evolved over the semester. It showcases our reading material, major assignments, and a few online activities from class.
One activity the website doesn’t showcase, but is one of my favorites from the semester, is our collaborative content analysis of roller derby logos. We used Rose’s (2006) method of visual content analysis to analyze 273 roller derby league logos in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA).
First, we sampled the first 20 logos on the Member Leagues website in order to develop preliminary coding categories: female figures and body parts (heads, torsos, legs); skate gear; and skulls and/or bones, weapons, pirates, and other vaguely “tough”-looking stuff. We then divided into groups and conducted a frequency analysis–we counted and counted and counted! Then groups presented their individual findings. The next day in class, we discussed what all of our findings together meant–that roller derby logos seemed to want to associate female skaters with visual markers of “toughness”–a reflection of WFTDA’s slogan: “Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.”
This exercise introduced students to one way to approach their final project–a digital document analyzing the “Visual Rhetoric of [X].” By collaborating with students to conduct a quick analysis like this one, I could guide them in developing coding categories and scaffold discussion of what the numbers “meant” for our analysis.