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COM 232 Visual Literacy Prof. Juliet Davis |

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1 COM 232 Visual Literacy Prof. Juliet Davis |

2 What is “visual literacy”? The ability to interpret and produce visual messages. NOTE: “Visuality” means “of or relating to sense of sight.”

3 Visual Literacy Facts Visual literacy is learned, just as other kinds of literacy are learned. How many years in school do we spend learning to read, interpret, and produce words? We live in an image-saturated society, and yet most of us have no education in visual literacy. People devote their lives to the goal of becoming more visually literate themselves, so it’s not simple or easy (example: professors; art directors in ad agencies; filmmakers; politicians; etc.)

4 Am I visually literate? We all are, to some extent

5 There are other layers of meaning.

6 “Steak”

7 Sexuality becomes equated with meat.


9 Intertextuality Intertextuality is an interrelationship between texts. Films are referred to as texts (or film texts) because they are read/interpreted. Animated children’s movies tend to make numerous references to other texts (films, books, culture, etc.). It can be argued that all texts are intertextual—related to other texts—but these are specific, conscious references to discrete works for the purpose of engaging audiences of various generations.

10 Cultural Memory and Intertextuality: Saturday Night Fever Cultural Memories are those transformative historical experiences that define a culture, even as time passes and it adapts to new influences.

11 Allusions to race

12 “How can I be sure that meaning is really there and that I’m not ‘reading too much into it?’” Your development as a student This isn’t just about figuring out what the author intended...

13 Making Meaning: Stuart Hall o Meaning actualizes in the mind of the viewer. o Many different interpretations are possible. o Meaning-making becomes a collaboration between author (who encodes the message) and viewers (who decode it).

14 “FILTERS” (a metaphor) o We examine the world—and all media—through the filters of life experience and identity. o A child will “see” different meaning in a film than an adult will. A lot of messages will get filtered out—and others will be vivid. o Filters that impact what we see and how we see include age, gender, ethnicity, geographic location, education, prior knowledge, etc.

15 American Beauty o If you’re a teenager, this movie could be “about a hot cheerleader.” If you’re an adult, it could be about the struggles of mid-life crisis.


17 Question:  How can we learn to communicate on so many complex levels, when we have limited life experiences and particular identities?  Empathy.  Media makers play to their strengths and interests, but it’s important to have empathy and become as educated as possible about culture, audience behavior, belief systems, and visual literacy.

18 First, what if you don’t ? Filmmakers with hundred-million-dollar budgets can’t afford to communicate in ways they don’t intend. Art Directors can’t afford to make mistakes with multimillion dollar advertising budgets. How much does a Hollywood eyebrow designer cost per job? A set designer? Visual communication is a highly complex and expensive business. You need to know what your colleagues already know in fields of visual communication.

19 Is Tinky-Winky gay? Is Proctor & Gamble satanic? Anticipating Interpretation

20  Media makers need to be able to anticipate how various audiences will perceive messages—and they need to be able to anticipate as many possible interpretations as they can.

21 = Sometimes interpretations are pretty outrageous, and there’s no way to anticipate them.

22 Rumors spread by 4 rival businesses

23 Here’s another specious analysis....

24 What can we learn from this story?  We read our belief systems into what we see. There’s even a visual literacy textbook called Seeing is Believing.  You can’t know every belief system or anticipate every possible interpretation, but be sensitive to as many as possible.  Your interpretations in this class need to be supported by tangible evidence, though you’re encouraged to take chances (if you see something, odds are good someone else does, too).  Your unique life experiences can bring us unique, interesting interpretations.


26 Is Tinky-Winky gay?

27 Is this ad racist? Downy’s “Whitening” Headline: "Now Whitening Has a Softer Side that's Fit for an Angel." Small Print: "Introducing Downy Plus Whitening, the only fabric softener that brightens and whitens while it softens."


29 Was Walmart dissing non-Christians? What message does Wal-Mart send when it decides to take down “Happy Holidays” and replace it with “Merry Christmas?”

30 Why did Walmart change its logo and colors? (Your analysis)

31 Anticipating Needs of Diverse Audiences Is “political correctness” a good thing? Definition: the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.

32 Who needs to be highly visually literate? We can argue that we all do. Moreover, how many of you in here think you might end up in one of these fields? Filmmaking Advertising Public Relations Marketing Corporate Communications Journalism Broadcast Graphic Design Web Design TV Production Fine Art Writing Rocket Science

33 Our Goals  Perceive meaning you didn’t see before.  Apply fundamental theories about visual culture that help you see those layers of meaning  Create and interpret visual imagery with this new literacy  Be prepared for subsequent COM courses  Be prepared for your career of choice

34 How we’ll do this:  Learn vocabulary and concepts  View and analyze visual media: fine art, film, photography, advertising, TV, new media.  Critically read and respond to theory about visual communication.  Creatively use visual media.  Work together in group dialogue and presentations as well as individual assignments.  Exercise both creativity and analysis, writing and visual production. “This won’t hurt a bit.”

35 A message from past students who say I should tell you this:  Apparently I’m a hard grader and should let everyone know on the first day.  I see myself as a very reasonable grader who is supportive and caring.  (Both things could be true.)  There are usually about two A’s in each class. The average is a B/C or C.  But this is not about counting grades. My goal is to give you good feedback and help you improve as much as you can over the weeks.


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