Culture(s) of Visualization: Strategies for Analysis
- Visual culture, to borrow Nicholas Mirzoeff’s definition, is perhaps best understood as a tactic for studying the functions of a world addressed through pictures, images, and visualizations, rather than through texts and words.
- Studying visual culture isolates or brackets “visual mediation” or “visual representation” for analysis.
- However, most of our experience of media is a hybrid of texts, images, and sounds, rather than pure states of any one mode.
- The visual is always “contaminated” by the non-visual: ideologies, texts, discourses, beliefs, intertextual presuppositions, prior experience and “visual competence” (cf. Eco and Bourdieu).
- Shouldn’t it be “visual cultures” (plural)?
Image-Saturated world: visual culture and everyday life
- Experience of images today mainly through photographic means, or images encoded as photographs.
- Digital images now dominate production of images in every medium.
- The era of “post-photography” photography: images and film that imitate photography and camera-based images, but are entirely digital in composition and viewable output.
- What is the role of the visual arts in a mass-mediated visual world?
- Many elements of our visual mediasphere are consumer-culture driven: advertising
- Viewer in the subject position of consumer: advertising constructs its viewer.
- “Advertising serves not so much to advertise products as to promote consumption as a way of life.” (Christopher Lasch)
Theory and disciplinary resources for thinking about visual culture
- Visual Culture Theory Map
- Disciplinary construction of objects of knowledge: approaches meet at the intersection of epistemology and institutional disciplinary professionalization
- “Visual Culture Studies:” can it be defined as an interdisciplinary field?
- How are its objects constituted and subject matter formed? Is there a subject for this field?s
- Necessity of theory. Legacy of party-line academic orthodoxies in humanities and social sciences, professionalization of disciplines, boundaries, turf.
- Already a debate about the professional legitimization of the field as intellectually and institutionally viable.
- Mitchell, Elkins, Mirzoeff, Krauss and October debate
“Visual Cultures”: Are Our Modes of Visuality like a Language?
- Social and cultural, not natural
- Rule-governed: use of images form systems of meaning based on a grammar of learned rules
- Extend levels of function and analysis from linguistics and semiotics
- Minimal signifying units in meaningful strings (syntax, grammar) to connected discourse.
- Both theory and production rules have already described the visual grammars of advertising, fashion, design, visual art, film, television genres.