Kress, G (2005) Gains and losses: new forms of texts, knowledge and learning. Computers and Composition. 22(1), 5-22.
Rose, Gillian (2007) Researching visual materials: towards a critical visual methodology, chapter 1 of Visual methodologies: an introduction to the interpretation of visual materials. London: Sage. pp.1-27.
I See What You Did There
I’ve already had a great big whinge about how I felt after reading Carpenter, so I’ll use this weekly summary to talk about two other readings and some of the ideas that sprang to mind as I worked through them.
Kress’ central assertion – that purely textual representations of meaning are more restrictive than visual representations – rings slightly hollow for me. I’m not contesting the notion that visual representations afford greater degrees of playfulness, multiple-meaning making and come loaded with opportunities, perhaps, for a more user-centered experience. Unquestionably, visual literacies can provide opportunities for engagement, meaning construction and dialogue which a purely textual representation may not have, but I can’t help feeling that Kress rather overstates the case, seemingly asserting that there is an inevitable shift towards a more visual means of communication in online environments.
Discussion forums, with their affordances of image and text posting might be a good example to look at. Several threads on a forum which I spend time on (which will remain nameless to protect the guilty) have purely visual threads. But they are not yet so common that they are becoming the dominant form of communication. Indeed, their novelty and stark difference to the standard textual conversations is what makes them so popular.
There are two long-running threads which I am thinking of here: one for animated gifs and the other for random, obscure, weird and amusing images. Whilst both are enormously popular they are largely so because they represent such a different form of conversation to normal threads – a more playful, less-obvious and fluid dialogue. No-one here is asking ‘do you see what I mean?’ or seeking clarification on their ‘view’ of things – it’s merely a game. An extended, asynchronous game of visual connect the joke gags.
This is not to say that other conversation threads do not include visual fabric – they do – but they are often posted as supplemental, illustrative and addendum-like ephemera, to add some humour to a point, provide a riposte to a previous response or act as illustration of a subject under discussion. I’m quite sure that should the forum suddenly be rendered incapable of hosting such images, the discussion would carry on just fine. This is, it would seem, a far cry from the ‘ocularcentralism’ which Rose talks about.
Even Better Than The Real Thing
Staying with Rose for a moment, I was intrigued by the discussion of the rise of ’simulacra’ in post-modern culture – the idea that it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to distinguish reality from virtual reality. I couldn’t help thinking of the somewhat salacious newspaper and television reports we regularly see, exposing the seedy sexual underbelly of spaces like Second Life and their new afordances for non-physcial infidelity.
Some questions for myself:
Does a visual representation of meaning afford a wider spectrum of meanings for audience members than simple text?
Can a visual representation be truly visual? As Rose points out, even the most impenetrable of modern art pieces usually comes with a explanatory gallery label.