VISUAL LITERACY AND DOMINANCE OF THE PICTORIAL WORLD

Štúdia 4. 02. 2019, Božena Šupšáková

The dominance of the pictorial world forms the beginning of the effect of new visual civilisation in the 21st century. Today, we already know that photograph, film and television are just fist stage of visual era. The modern phenomena of digitalisation and mass communication related to the development of information and communication technologies and Internet, dramatically saturate the pictures and pictorial messages to public space and thus also to our everyday life. Posters, billboards and various visual posts attack us every day with their pictorial messages, trying to influence us while going to the work or school as well as while being on the road for a joy or relax. The presence of visual impulses is perceived also in the public space, for example in shopping malls. In such an environment, their role is to affect our purchasing habits. The information lettering in pictorial form -iconograms- orientate us on the streets, at the stations of mass transport, at the airports, in shopping malls, in tourism regions. Today, Internet and social networks are mainly the source of information mediated in the form of pictures in multimedia form. We can not only watch but also create video messages and films on the biggest worldwide Internet portal YouTube we send MMS via smartphones, and we take photos and record videos using the intelligent mobile phones. Another example of digitisation and mass communication is web page Pinterest allowing the users to create thematic sets of pictures or photos free of charge. Of course, the contemporary visual expression may be disputable as long as its functionality is concerned. Many times, we are the witnesses of the origin of the world of "hyper-reality" or virtual reality where experience, real pictures or products are replaced with the virtual ones. The immersion into the new "world" is not investigated to such an extent that we would be able to assess the impact of "hyper-reality" onto the emotional and rational world of a human.

To have the visual capacity1 that is determined neuro-physically, by age, learning, profession also means to be visually literate. K. Raney (1999) describes the visual literacy as the multilayer phenomena, as the perception sensitivity, at the level of everyday perception of environment (life) and the relations of every individual. Thus we may speak of the cultural space of a new type, in which the life style is created, not only in the field of the creation in the category of perception, the classification schemes or aesthetic judgements. Also the ability to be tolerant and recognize the cultural demonstrations of other social groups and sub-cultures, for example the culture of children, old people or ethnic groups is important. Furthermore, it includes also the ability of critical thinking and thus related cognition of the means of expression in visual mediation, the recognition of intention with what the picture is created, in the context of history and present time. Last but not least, it is necessary to speak also of the ability to recognize how the picture acts in a certain context, who and why placed it to that context, what group of recipients it should address and why. Also the aesthetic openness is important, in the sense of openness to the emotional and empathic relations and processes, in the ability of visual expression, in the ability to creatively generate any visually perceived picture and object in the broadest sense of word – from oil painting up to web page, from top design up to the common flat furnishing. "The visual literacy relates to a great portion of attained abilities, thus the ability to understand (read) and use (write) pictures, as well as think and learn“(Avgerinou, 2011, p. 26).

It is unambiguously implied by the study of foreign special literature (J. Clark-Baca, J. A. Hortin etc.) that there was hitherto no agreement about the unified definition of the term of visual literacy that would be accepted by the majority of renowned theoreticians – researchers. In general, there is just the agreement about the main aspects expressing it: visual perception, visual thinking, visual language, visual communication and the attainment of new visual abilities by learning. The main reason of the instability of the definition of visual literacy is of course that the groups of theoreticians – philosophers, aesthetes, art scientists, linguists, psychologists, physiologists and neurophysiologists, sociologists – view this term from various points of view and disciplines. The term of visual literacy appears also with the increasing impact of other fields, such as cultural anthropology and cultural theory and semiotics, dealing with the non-language systems of communication. The opinions of the individual groups form a kind of mosaics about the theory of visual literacy. However, the result is the non-homogeneous vies preventing the formulation of a unified holistic definition. In other words, these theoretical vies provide us with sufficient quota of knowledge about the concept, despite that they are not sufficiently arranged in a single structure and they explain the related phenomena in an insufficient way. Thus they do not provide answer to all questions. However, what is positive is mainly that several theoreticians are inclined to the opinion that art, philosophy, linguistics, psychology belongs also amongst the basic disciplines of visual literacy. We agree with R. A. Braden, J. A. Hortin, J. Clark-Baca and the other ones in their opinion it is necessary to accept visual thinking, visual perception, visual communication and the attainment of visual abilities by learning as the fundamental concepts of visual literacy. At the same time, it is necessary to state that there was not elaborated in details any relevant theory of visual literacy till now. The reason may be also that the majority of researchers is focused rather on the practical applications and learning of visual literacy. According to them, the theory of visual literacy should stimulate generally valid strategies, therefore they suggest approaching to it from three different angles of view.

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