City as Message: A Case Study of Visual Persuasion in Washington, D.C

By Richard Bello and Frances E. Brandau.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

We report on a research study that is based, in part, on an edited volume of work to which we contributed (Ragsdale, 2007). In this work, we argued that artistic structures such as museums and places of worship are visually persuasive, that is, that they communicate a persuasive message in the way they are designed, built, and structured. In the present case, we have extended this analysis to include the places in which structures reside. Based on the work of Messaris (1997) dealing with how visual images can be persuasive, we apply the concepts of iconicity, indexicality, and syntactic indeterminacy to demonstrate influence messages communicated by and within the city of Washington, D.C. We discuss Messaris’s concepts of visual persuasion, examine the history of Washington, D.C. as carefully planned and designed in part for persuasive purposes, and then apply the concepts to particular aspects of the city’s design, layout, memorials, and other structures.

Keywords: Semiotics, Iconicity, Indexicality, Syntactical Indeterminancy, Visual Persuasion, Washington D.C.

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp.315-322. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 589.224KB).

Dr. Richard Bello

Professor, Department of Communication Studies, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas, USA

After obtaining a minor in speech communication at Louisiana State University in 1977, Richard Bello decided to make the study of human communication his life’s work. In 1979, he earned a master’s degree with a concentration in communication theory and research from LSU. Rick spent most of the last thirty years as an assistant professor of speech communication at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana. While there, he earned a Ph.D. in LSU’s Department of Communication Studies in 1999 before moving to Sam Houston State University in 2003. Rick enjoys both teaching and research, with over thirty-five research presentations at professional conferences and twenty articles in scholarly journals to his credit. His research interests focus on language in interpersonal communication and visual communication. Rick has been married for 30 years and has a teenage daughter. Outside of work and family interests, he especially enjoys the study of birds and other outdoor activities. He has birded, camped, and photographed the natural world in places as far flung as Alaska and Belize, in addition to many places in between and in Europe.

Dr. Frances E. Brandau

Associate Professor, Department of Communication Studies, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas, USA

Frances Brandau-Brown decided to pursue a degree in communication studies after taking an interpersonal class at the University of Southern Mississippi. The caring and involved faculty at USM encouraged her to seek a master’s degree. During her second year of graduate school, she took a position as a teaching assistant, an experience that influenced her decision to become a college professor. She graduated from Louisiana State University’s Ph.D. program in 1999 and took her first teaching job at Southeastern Louisiana University. After teaching at SLU for a few years she came to Sam Houston. Frances is currently an Associate Professor and also serves as the Graduate Advisor for the department. She was pleased to be appointed to serve as the graduate advisor because it gives her another way to get involved with her students. Although Frances feels she can never repay those faculty members that helped her as an undergraduate and graduate student, her ability to help students is her way of “paying it forward.” Frances’ research interests include relationship maintenance and visual communication.


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