12.0062 visual literacy & imagination

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Thu, 4 Jun 1998 22:49:44 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 62.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

[1] From: Geoffrey Rockwell <grockwel@mcmaster.ca> (21)
Subject: Visual Literacy

[2] From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> (32)
Subject: the atrophy of the spectator?

Date: Thu, 4 Jun 1998 09:15:58 +0100 (BST)
From: Geoffrey Rockwell <grockwel@mcmaster.ca>
Subject: Visual Literacy

Dear Willard,

You asked on Humanist who is training people in visual design. The first
answer that comes to mind is that there are strong programmes in Graphic
Design that do this and that we may not want to duplicate them in
Humanities Computing. In Canada these programmes usually take place outside
universities in colleges like Sheridan. They emphasize the practical and
train people for careers in animation and design. In Humanities Computing
we can approach these issues from an academic perspective that builds on
the strengths of humanities students rather than duplicating what happens
in design school. At McMaster we have introduced a course entitled "The
Digital Image: Computer Graphics and Design" which will run for the first
time this Fall. This course, along with the existing Multimedia course, are
a first step towards offering courses that extend the skills and knowledge
humanities students get in their disciplines to engage visual design and
its history. The idea is to have courses that have a lot more theory,
history, and criticism. The skills are then learned in the context of
intellectual inquiry rather than in the context of getting a job at Disney.
(Not that I would be ashamed that our students got such jobs.) I would be
interested to hear about other such courses.


Geoffrey Rockwell
Humanities Computing, McMaster University

Date: Thu, 04 Jun 1998 22:45:13 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: the atrophy of the spectator?

Germane to the current thread of discussion on images, the visual
imagination and its effects, the following commentary on the philosophy of
Adorno and Horkheimer, referring in particular to their book Dialectic of
Enlightenment (1973; first German edn 1944), by Jes=FAs Mart=EDn-Barbero,
Communication, Culture and Hegemony: From the Media to Mediations (London:
Sage, 1993; orig. De los medios a las mediaciones: Communicaci=F3n, cultura=
hegemon=EDa, Barcelona, 1987).

Discussing Adorno and Horkheimer's notion of "the unity of the system" of
cultural production, Mart=EDn-Barbero notes that, "...this insistence on
'unity' becomes theoretically abusive and politically dangerous when it is
used, for example, to argue that all films, from the most trivial to those
of Chaplin or Wells, are the same.... Films are held up [by Adorno and
Horkheimer] has one of the best examples of how the culture industries brin=
about the atrophied role of the spectator. The attention of the spectator
must move so fast to keep up with the plot that they have no time to think.
Because everything must be communicated through visual images, 'the sound
film... leaves no room for imagination or reflection on the part of the
audiences... the film forces its victims to equate it directly with reality=
(Horkheimer and Adorno, 1973: 126). Thus, a fundamental dimension of media
analysis, the role of the spectator, is cut off from study because of a
cultural pessimism that ascribes the unity of the system to its 'technical
rationality'. What is but one historical aspect of the media becomes its
basic quality" (pp. 41f).


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -=20
Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
voice: +44 (0)171 873 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 873 5801
e-mail: Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk=20

Humanist Discussion Group=20
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