Image Studies

Image Studies

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KEYWORDS:  Vector / Visual Culture / Visual Literacy / Visual Semiotics / Visuality

VECTOR images use geometrical primitives such as points, lines, curves, and shapes or polygons—all of which are based on mathematical expressions—to represent images in computer graphics. Put very simply, a vector graphic is described in mathematical terms such as ‘plot a line from A to B’ or ‘draw a circle with a diameter of X’. Unlike raster images, because vector images are plotted mathematically they can be upsized with no loss of quality. File formats include AI (Adobe Illustrator), EPS, and SVG (an open standard file type widely used in web applications). (See also RASTER).

VISUAL CULTURE  gained status as a subject area in the 1990’s. Nicholas Miimrzoff’s An Introduction to Visual Culture (1999) and his edited volume The Visual Culture Reader (2002) were instrumental in the definition of ‘visual culture’ as a field of study, although the first book titled Visual Culture (Vizuális Kultúra) was written by Pál Miklós in 1976. Major works within the field of visual culture include those by W. J. T. Mitchell, Stuart HallRoland BarthesJean-François LyotardRosalind Krauss, and Nicholas Mirzoeff. Many different academic fields include, and are included in, visual culture, such as cultural studies; art history; critical theory; philosophy; and anthropology. The relationship between visual culture and the newer field of ‘image studies’ is much debated. (See also IMAGE STUDIES).

VISUAL LITERACY is the ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from images of all kinds, extending the meaning of literacy as interpretation of a written text. The term is not without contradiction, not least because ‘its two words compress the common and unavoidable contradiction involved in saying that we “read” images’ (Elkins, 2008, p.1). However, the term has a long, if intermittent history within school education to refer to the cultivation of a critical appreciation of the visual. Furthermore, it is a convenient term, especially if we take it to deliberately foreground the tensions at stake in reading, seeing and creating the visual (Elkins, 2008).

VISUAL SEMIOTICS is a form of semiotics that analyses the way visual images communicate a message. Visual texts are important objects of analysis for semioticians, particularly for scholars working with the communication systems of film and television and in advertising, where message, whether overt or concealed, is key. Many of the basic concepts of semiotics  are linked inextricably to visual communication, and the argument can be made that visual communication operates similar to a language sign system in that the basic characteristics of the language are similar: elements, syntax, and grammar. (See also SEMIOTICS / SEMIOLOGY)
VISUALITY refers to specific ways of seeing, or representing the world in visual terms. Hal Foster argues in Vision and Visuality, that whereas ‘vision’ is a physical operation, ‘visuality’ also has a psychological and social aspect. (1988, p.ix). Nicholas Mirzoeff, in his essay ‘On Visuality’, explains that although this (Foster’s) definition seems straightforward,  the two terms cannot be easily distinguished, and that Foster himself concedes this. (Mirzoeff: 2006). The term is widely used, yet still remains problematic to define.
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