Practices of Looking.docx

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Department
Sociology
Course
SOCB50H3
Professor
Steven Hayle
Semester
Fall

Description
Practices of Looking – Images, Power, and Politics -to see is a process of observing and recognizing the world around us -to look is to actively make meaning of that world  involves greater sense of purpose/direction -involves relationships of power – to influence and be influenced (communication) -cultures increasingly permeated by visual images with variety of purposes + intended effects -technology of images is central to our experience of visual culture Representation – use of language + images to create meaning about world (describe + define) -debate: representation = mimesis (reflection of world as it is) vs. social construction (use representation to make meaning of the material world via language systems, culturally specific contexts) -language and systems of representation do not reflect an already existing reality so much as they organize, construct, and mediate our understanding of reality, emotion, and imagination -we learn the rules and conventions of the systems of representation within a given culture -complexity in how words + images produce meaning (e.g. “This is not a pipe” painting) The Myth of Photographic Truth – photograph is often perceived to be an unmediated copy of the real world (i.e. perceived to speak the truth) -creation of an image through a camera lens always involves some degree of subjective choice -selection, framing, personalization th -photography developed in EU in early 19 century, positivist science -positivism – belief that empirical truths can be established through visual evidence -because scientist’s own subjectivity would influence/prejudice objectivity of experiment -therefore machines more reliable -paradox of photography that although we know that images can be ambiguous and are easily manipulated/altered, much of power of photography still lies in the shared belief that they are objective + truthful records of events -two levels of meaning -denotative  literal descriptive meaning -connotative  more culturally specific; relies on cultural/historical context of the image -myth  cultural values and beliefs that are expressed at level of connotation -hidden set of rules + conventions through which meanings (specific to certain groups) are made to seem universal and given for a whole society -allows connotative meaning to appear denotative/natural -historically + culturally specific -meaning of an image and our expectations of it are tied to the technology through which it is produced Images and Ideology – systems of belief that exist within all cultures -images are important means through which ideologies are produced + projected onto -ideology  broad shared set of values + beliefs through which individuals live out their complex relations to a range of social structures -manifested in widely shared social assumptions about not only the way things are but the way we all know things should be -most important aspect is that they appear to be natural/given, rather than part of a system of belief that a culture produces in order to function in a particular way -i.e. connotations parading as denotations -ideologies are produced and affirmed through the social institutions in a given society -use of images as means of controlling populations -portrait images frequently used as personal identification, primary medium for evidence -can acquire new meanings though  mug shots -conventions of framing + composition alone connote to viewers a sense of subject’s deviance/guilt, regardless of who it is -images often move across social arenas  each change in context = change in meaning How We Negotiate the Meaning of Images -capacity of images to affect us as viewers and consumers is dependent on the larger cultural meanings they invoke and the social, political, and cultural contexts in which they are viewed -meanings are multiple, created each time it is viewed -images are produced according to social an
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