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Visual Culture Midterm Notes.docx

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Communication Studies
Peter Kuling

1 Visual Culture Midterm Notes Lecture 1 Culture: - Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, and material objects acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving - In its broadest sense it is cultivated behaviour, that is the totality of a persons learned accumulated experience, which is socially transmitted o Or more briefly, behaviour through social learning - Culture is an accepted way of life of a group of people, passed along through communication and imitation from one generation to the next o The essential core of culture consists of traditional ideas and especially their attached values o May on the one hand be considered a product of action, and on the other as conditioning influences upon further action Looking: - Looking is a huge part of how we learn to inherit culture systems - It is often unconscious - Means of survival - Information gathering system - Communication system - Physical; Sensory - Unique to individuals - Related to power The Gaze/Gazing - How is the gaze mediated by socio-cultural beliefs? o The gaze represents a predominate way of looking at something (from a predominate social view point) o The gaze will constantly by mediated/shaped by dominant social themes of culture o Gazes appear far more when people are in conflict  Opposing sides will present a view they want us to adopt o Personal gaze & predominate social gaze Representation - The practice of using things to understand other things o Putting something in place as a representation of the thing that existed before it - Items used to make meaning do not have to correspond to the original item in question o Can include: symbols, images, light, art, etc. - Representation functions on a requirement of making absent things present, for whatever reason o The create presence o To give them form other than themselves o To offer them experiences in new realms  Ex. Movies which are representations of novels; a painting of a cat representing the real cat; a picture of a person as a representation of that person - Representation is an exercise in fiction…not realism Connotative and Denotative Meanings Ronald Barthes Denotative meaning  basic truths of an image Connotative meaning  cultural/situational truths 2 - Both can change drastically over time and space o Connotative meaning changes to a greater extent Photographic Truth - Photographic truth is an impossibility Semiotics Ideas behind the concepts of Pierce and Saussure - Image/sound/word  Signifier - Meaning  Signified o Both are part of the sign Subjective vs. Objective Dependant on: - Perspective - Lenses - Conditions o There can never be a truly objective perspective Optics Out Eyes - Biological lenses - Generate experience o Physical and emotional - Have psychological effects o Ex. There is something „pleasing‟ about light  Light: pattern of a visible spectrum and what we can determine from it - Eyes as receptors are going to respond to things in their surroundings (physically and psychologically) Lenses - There are different qualities of lenses o Ex. Whether or not one needs contacts - Different types of lenses o Ex. Beer goggles - Mediate our experiences Lecture 3 Photography & Film – to reproduce, but not portray reality Production affects the way things get presented - How it gets presented, how quickly it gets presented, and what will be shown Technology - Changes to the medium affects the message - Changes the people as much as the content o Technology of photography became a quick way to set a new standard Hegemony From Oxford English Dictionary: Leadership, predominance, preponderance; esp. the leadership or predominant of authority of one state of a confederacy or union over the others: originally used in reference to states of ancient Greece, whence transferred to the German states, and in other modern applications 3 Hegemony = dominance of a perspective of cultural attitude - Naturalized ideology - Hegemony works by making an ideology which is constructed appear natural - Rule through consent rather than force All visual culture functions as a reproduction of something for other people to encounter and interact with. - Reproduction will affect the style, qualities, and messages offered by different visual culture pieces - Reproduction is a measure of cultural ideology, access and history o How something is reproduced will tell us a lot about the ideology of a culture “The medium is the message” – Marshall McLuhan “The medium crafts the message” – Peter Kuling - As media changes and evolves so does the proliferation of amounts/types of reproduction - As viewers, we are aware of the mediums/technologies of reproduction that we encounter o Consider how the technology of photography speaks to the history, ideology and identification of images Technology affects all areas of culture - Our history is a social history of technology - The Industrial Revolution was a very important part in our history o We lost past ideas in favour of those that are more widely accessible - Much would both exist and not exist as a result to technical changes in thought and culture o Many technologies are no longer applied/no longer have an application (ex. some computer programs no longer work on certain systems) Technology develops concepts of realism - Listening to music in various formats becomes the norm - Colour photography becomes the norm o Ex. PhD Dissertation, Surveillance Changes in realism are dependant on the influence of technological advances Charles Pierce: Three distinctive kinds of signs 1. Iconic a. Resemble the object they represent in some way i. Ex. photograph, painting, map 2. Symbolic a. No obvious relationship to the object they represent i. Called „unnatural‟ capacity ii. Ex. text, emblems, etc. 3. Indexical a. An „existential‟ relationship between signifier and signified b. Have co-existed in the same place at some time c. Ex. i. Pointing hand ii. Disease (when a person has chicken pocks their symptoms signify that they are sick at the same time as they actually co-exist with the sickness) iii. Weathervane (the wind is operating on it and changing its direction, at the same time it represents the direction the wind it going) 4 Photography/Film Origins - Telescopes - Camera Obscura o Photography‟s aim was to solidify the capturing of light o Reproducing authentic light from the time captured Photography (origins in 1820s) - Production and exhibition are what started to distinguish and define it - Essence of portraiture Film/Cinema (origins in 1890s) - Production and exhibition are what started to define it - The painting aesthetic How does film operate? Technicalities of the process: - Frames per second - Reels/projectors - Audio/sync sound - Colour timing o Projectors operate off the electrical current of the area in which they‟re located  North America: 24 frame rate a second  England: 25 frame rate a second - Persistence of vision o We are not necessarily seeing a moving image o Your mind „fills in the gaps‟ o You eye holds onto an image for a split second longer than it takes to change to the next image, giving the appearance of fluidity Composition: the arrangement of things within the image Rule of Thirds - An aspect of photographic composition - Placing things off centre by certain degrees to make the photograph more interesting to look at Mise-en-Scene: put in the scene - Cinema specific - Things which are put into a scene to add to its connotations and aesthetic value Suspension of Disbelief - Integral to the process o Belief o Acceptance  Technically  Visually  Narratively 5 - Accepting the parameters of the narrative presented - Film world  actual environment o We negotiate it in relationship to our world o Filmmakers negotiate it in relationship to the world - Films are products of time and of specific environments Production Value - Notion that value of the production can be seen on screen due to visual qualities of the image o Ex. a big explosion has more production value then a small one Colour - How does it contribute to realism? - Black & white and colour photography/film Camera position/manipulation - Cameras provide a subjective vision of scenes witnessed o Camera position is conscious/intended o Camera position affects our experience  Art and aesthetics are meant to be dissected/considered (you are not reading too much into it) Lecture 2 Why do we go to museums? - To be in the presence - To enrich our understanding - To say we‟ve seen it o Museums have consistently contributed to out culture and have had a prolonged affect on it Donkey: symbol for Democrats - Connotations: stubborn, strong, reliable o Obama‟s political symbol Elephant: symbol for Republicans - Connotations: never forgets, big, unbeatable Unique Visual Experiences - Everyone sees things drastically differently - Culturally, we find commonality in helping others see us - Learning how others see the world helps us understand variations of experience Common visual experiences link us - People working with visual culture aim to create common experiences for the sake of effect and value o Effects can be: social, political, financial, ideological Commonality of visual experience depends on several factors: 1. Psychology a. The cognitive abilities of the recipient to engage with material b. Patterns of emotional and social nurturing (parents, educators, role models, etc.) 2. Self-identification a. Ability of visual recipient to identify with the position of the creator of the visual material I question b. Dependant on engagement with creator and/or subject 3. Subject position 6 a. Concepts that images designate ideal conditions for experience by spectator i. Think about this in relationship to film or paintings b. Not dependant on knowledge of the creator, but dependant on engagement with subject Sharing common visual experiences is empowering If seeing = power, then power remains with the individual Context of experience - Depends on W5: who, what, where, when, why o Ex. when you see a movie consider the W5 of your experience Individuals need to understand that others, as well as themselves, manipulate their visual experiences and their sight - Good art can make us consider unique experiences and our own experiences individually No image is neutral - Culture and experiences will guide how we view things - There is always an intended meaning o The skills of creators are relevant to their ability to translate their intentions Visual experiences in the world are perhaps the closest things to natural experiences, but cultural influences will manipulate/mediate the image Means of production/producing Always ask yourself: - Why has something been produced? - Why am I experiencing it in this way? Ideology: the shared set of values and beliefs that exist within a given society and through which individuals live out their relations to social institutions and structures. Refers to the way tat certain concepts and values are made to seem natural aspects of every day life - Producers hope to understand and regulate ideological experiences - There exist anticipated and intended gazes influenced by dominant ideologies Encoding and Decoding - Producers encode; viewers decode - Stuart Hall‟s ways of reading and responding: 1. Dominant hegemonic reading (dominant approach) 2. Negotiated reading (negotiate our sense of value from it) 3. Oppositional reading (reject something) Appropriations: something which is taken out of its original context and changed or appropriated to fit another context) - Appropriations are a political action Major Movements in Western Painting - Middle ages - Renaissance - Baroque - Romanticism/Impressionism - Modern/Contemporary - Surrealism - Abstract Religious art in the Western world 7 - Inheriting traditions of frescos and pictography - Subject matter was only afforded to religions personages Renaissance (rebirth) - Largely Italian movement - Michelangelo; Leonardo da Vinci Baroque - Lighting, shadows, simplicity, regular subjects - Rembrandt; Caravaggio Pre/Post/Neo Impressionism - Claude Money; George Seurat; Van Gogh; Picasso Contemporary Art Lecture 4 Architecture: prevailing sense of buildings & social and engineered architecture all around us Production value - Created by producers to give a sense of value - Can change our concept of value of authenticity and aesthetics - Not a tangible concept Visualization - We spend our day visualizing experiences - The action or fact of visualizing; the power or process of forming a mental picture or vision of something not actually present to the sight; a picture thus formed - Pre-visualization is basically the same thing We need to consider the specifics of what we both see and don‟t see on a daily basis - Does visual experience become so commonplace that we no longer register what we see? - What we see changes  How we see which changes  What we know - Consider realism o Technology functions similarly, changing what we can see and how we can see it o How can we see things can change how we understand things Visual Experience cannot be reversed - How has science been changed by sight? - Visual access creates questioning and consideration o Disease lies in visual as well as medical diagnosis o Science has empowered our sights in new ways (ex. microscope) o Seeing beyond our human capacity (ex. x-rays) Phrenology: the concept that the shape of ones head tells you something about the person they are and who they will become 8 Lecture 5 - Certain things have virtual value; certain things have real/concrete value (ex. dollar values) Visual Narrative vs. Real Narrative - When people start to see visual evidence of something they are more likely to buy into it o Ex. election polls - Media, advertisers and producers (people who produce messages) try to constantly convince people they live in a certain kind of environment Capitalism - The condition of possessing capital; a system which favours the existence of capitalists - Capital: something which possesses and controls the existence of everything below it Market economy, profit, and consumers - When we have a capitalist economy that develops, we have a market flow that relates to people being able to profit off of the things they can produce and put together o Cultural products start to fall into these categories (ex. film and music)  Some people make films out of pleasure, some do it in order to make profit o Starts to directly impact the way people produce; impacts and conceptualizes art Capitalism developed from ideas of mass production - Wealth and power had existed for centuries, but was held by people outside of the general population (ex. Kings) - Key idea in mass production is the change in the concept of a „market‟ o A place where goods are produced, bought, sold and traded o Consumers are a body of people that the economy/market can appeal to - Capitalism is a mass ideology (relevant to all people) - The industrial revolution helped disseminate the concept o Creating things faster o Part of the idea of efficiency, turned into mass production o Ex. Fordism - Individuals contribute to/reinforce it Capitalism/Marketing - An experience that is individual yet attempts to be communal Abstraction - Space of imagined future/possibilities or of imagines personal identity - Virtual process by which we envision the more perfect/evolving self in our relation to the things around us o Momentum towards a new or improved you (future you) o Happens every time you imagine yourself buying something - Principal of socialization, good or bad o We do this to each other o We abstract our relationship to friends, family, etc. - Creates a sense of economic desire o Ex. do I want to go beer drunk, or do I want to go wine drunk (what is going to fit your system better for the direction you want to go) - Abstraction is a virtual experience o We as individuals make a choice to make it real or not o Plays off our desires to want to be something we aren‟t currently 9 - Abstraction happens when other people do it to us, and when we do it to ourselves o Ex. Whether or not to buy the expensive dress or the cheap one; based on how you will feel/what you think others will think and how they will judge you o Economic desire and personal desire to look/be a certain way - Sometimes abstraction is about envisioning in an unrealized/fictitious way Judith Williamson - Appellation (in advertising) o Speaking to “you” directly o Addressed at a version of “you” Lancan’s Order of Cultural Experience 3 ways we spend time thinking about ourselves as cultural people 1. Imaginary Order a. Combination of images encountered and personal imagination i. Identify with other people or see the other as oneself ii. Process of incorporation through appropriation b. Lancan characterized this as misrepresentation i. By borrowing we are essentially constructing an existing image that is not our true selves 2. Symbolic order a. Principally an order of language, differentiation b. Regulates desire c. Reacting to the symbol of the other rather than recognizing oneself as the other d. Offers the capacity to change the real, and ultimately to transform it i. Can be the principle reaction to the things we don‟t like 1. Ex. looking at a persons tattoo and knowing you don‟t want that tattoo, you have a different desire 3. Order of the Real a. A place of “smooth, undifferentiated space” i. Ex. Obama – became a literal symbol of change; in his election he symbolized a change that could happen forever to America, politics and the White House 1. No longer a symbol of imaginary, he was standing in as someone that could really become the first black president 2. Real because he was an emerging symbol to culture (before he even became president) a. Literally writing the book as it goes forward b. Things that have yet to by symbolized i. A premise of things as they‟re emerging ii. Culturally real, not symbolic or imaginative 1. Rare thing to come across but happens from time to time 2. When things are not regulated by our imagination or by symbols c. Part of the symbolic order, but not the imaginative one i. A place we almost can‟t achieve Role of Retail (in which we encounter advertisements) - Environments – malls, online, markets, ourselves, etc. - Can we divorce ourselves from it? - Architecture and environment contribute to our visual and cultural experience Advertising - Is visual advertising the most prevalent form of visual culture in our daily lives? - Advertising rips us from Lancan‟s idea of being in the real 10 o We are pulled from the real self that we are Role of the Body in Capitalism and Advertising - Manipulation of human desire o Desire to be or to be with the other - Contributes to misrepresentation of self - Advertising forces us to negotiate the value of ourselves and the other o Ex. Victoria Secret - Advertising is never part of the real experience (primarily imaginary, symbolic at times) Symbolic Logos - Cultural basis and marketing basis o Ex. Air Canada (mixture of culture and marketing) o Ex. FedEx (arrow in logo) - Often they can create inclusion and exclusion Lecture 7 Print Culture - The embodiment of all kinds of textual and visual print based communication and culture o Includes: books, pamphlets, magazines, newspapers, journals, letters, etc. o Includes: those jobs, people and industries that relate to the creating of printed items and their distribution  Group/community effort - Largely visual, though not entirely dependant on visual experience How do we know something is Print Based? - We understand that the role of technology is producing the communication item in question - Visually and culturally we know to distinguish between print and other visual forms - Significantly different visuals of symbolic character o Print is about encouraging access (giving people access to messages or ideas in larger and more transferable ways)  Disseminates its voice as quickly and powerfully as possible Visual Culture requires large-scale participation - Print Culture is the most transient form of visual culture in its modern form o Television is a close second - Not the case with earlier forms of print culture o Materials and their ability to last  Newspapers vs. Magazines vs. Books  Easily disposable and destructible - Mass production has an effect on the quality of newer print forms o More quantity, less quality, larger message, less staying power - GOAL of print culture  to get messages across to as many people as quick as possible Manuscript/Scribal Culture - Manuscript = Script composed by man himself o A person putting together words or script; human script (ex. hand written notes before they are typed)  Human process of writing and developing the prototype - Illuminated Manuscripts o Texts/books as decorative 11 o Celebrating ones faith through elaborate symbolic power o Subjects were religious; owners were powerful and/or wealthy - Early texts carried with them symbolic presences and power Flow if Information - Gives rise to the need for print culture - Largely non-literate audiences require access to information - Who developed Print? Why?  Johannes Gutenberg o Wanted to reproduce something quickly and efficiently  Needed a means of reprinting massive amounts of letters of indulgence o Created moveable type and a simple press to imprint the type onto sheets  Availability of materials required (lead, metal, etc.) allowed for the opportunity o Frustration with the slow turn around of the earlier precedents of print/book culture (manuscripts/scribes) Moveable Type - Revolutionary o Long strands of lead - Upper case vs. Lower case o Upper case letters were used less so they were kept in high less easy to reach places (the upper cases) o Lower cases were used more often and were therefore kept in the lower, easier to reach cases - Stereotype o A giant set of type that produces the entire page it was embossed from o Take a mold of an important page so it can be used again easily Printing Press - Responsible for changing the world - Through ONE invention, millions of other thoughts/ideas/inventions began to take shape, gain form and spread through thought - Offered the world of print and book culture to everyone at large – no longer in the hands of the elite and wealthy - Forward moving and ever growing o Continually expanding visual culture industry Other types of press: - Flatbed Press - Newspaper Press o Technology and demand influenced the production and the press itself o Changes in the concepts of the labour but still required to create print  The print shop Print Truth - Do we trust something because it is printed? Is it the same idea as photographic truth? Mass Media Mass  production, consumption, ideology, culture Karl Marx - Theories of the Masses o Proletariat (masses) o Socialism requires knowledge o Revolution through print o Publication of a Manifesto (Communist Manifesto) Power of the Mass Media 12 Ex. Olympic games, Obama‟s 30-minute infomercial Frankfurt School - Adorno/Horkheimer o Oppression/Domination o Propaganda/Influence One of the key issues in print culture is sponsorship - Financial capital required to make print happen - From its inception it has been tied to money/power/access - Can we have printing without financing? No. o You can have scribal culture without financial baking (would take a long time though) o But you cannot have large scale printing Evolution and notion of Copyright - Trademark to Text Culture - Publishing Rights - Exclusivity - Introduces Concepts of Legality and Ownership Diaspora: dispersion of culture from its root place or source and the resulting products/experiences that appear during that relocation - Relates to more visual culture than simply Print - Applies to any type of culture or product coming from experience Hypertext - How is it different than text on it own? o We are not talking about the basic text itself, we are talking about the virtual o Kind of markup languages surrounded by all sorts of other materials - Hyper = virtual - The resultant products of the end of sponsorship - Not unlike technological liberation in other formats o We can interact with hypertext (might have advertising connected to it)  Ex. when an ad pops up in front of an article you are reading online  Ex. the idea that you can change fonts in a second is a hyper/virtual condition of that text - Like print, but hypertext is HIGHLY disposable o It is even less remnant…NO TRACES!  Think of the reasoning behind access date for online material  Constantly updating pages on the net  Your Facebook profile - HTML is a hypertext markup language o What is its symbolic relationship to us? - Webpage examples: o We often look at web pages but don‟t see the technology beneath the images we are seeing o Similar to other forms of visual experience, we don‟t appreciate or recognize subliminal technology inherent in the medium  What is source or code? Do we need to consider it?  The printing press is like a version of source code (helps us organize) o Think about viewers: 13  Have we become less interested in knowing or understanding what we see? Online print has the power to be the ultimate e
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