Bridging the visual-verbal divide in college mass communications programs
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Today, all communications products are multimodal, employing a variety of communications techniques, from writing to graphics (and more), in one product. Modes of communications must be synthesized to convey a message. The foundation of any communications artifact is the relationship between the words contained in it and its visual structure. Some forward-looking thinkers suggest that the division of labor between the narrative and visual components of materials has become increasingly blurry. As a consequence, they suggest, students must be trained to be visually and verbally "ambidextrous." This research examined college mass communications curricula to assess the extent to which programs of study nurture "visual-verbal ambidexterity" in students. Public relations, advertising and strategic communications programs at five schools of mass communications were examined. In-depth interviews with a select group of professors and textual analysis of course materials was undertaken to evaluate the programs. The study revealed a mixed picture. In many programs, students have substantial opportunities to practice visual-verbal integration in courses spanning writing, creative thinking and design. Yet at others it is still possible to graduate without taking a class in graphic design. Silos between schools of mass communications and art departments limit opportunities for true situated practice. Finally, accreditation standards constrain faculty in shaping curricula that exposes students to visual-verbal hybrid coursework. In sum, progress is being made, but there is more to be done. This inquiry scans the landscape, and offers suggestions for future study and possible solutions to the challenge.
Access is limited to the University of Missouri - Columbia.