Image Studies

Image Studies

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KEYWORDS: Literacy / Locke’s Dark Room


LITERACY (and Visual Literacy / Competence). Literacy is, at its simplest, the ability to read and write, but the term has been expanded to include the ability to use language, numbers, images and other means to understand and use the dominant systems of a culture. It has been argued that literacy always exists within a context and a system of ideas and as such should be perceived as an ideological term (Jack Goody: 1986). Visual literacy can be defined as the ‘ability to construct meaning from visual images’ (Giorgis, Johnson, Bonomo, Colbert, & al: 1999), broadly using the same critical skills of exploration, critique and reflection that are involved in the understanding of a text. Visual literacy is also dependant on an awareness of the context and cultural milieux in which images exist.

LOCKE’S DARK ROOM is a term used by English philosopher and enlightenment thinker John Locke (1632 – 1704) in his essay on human understanding, where he compares human understanding to the camera obscura-like process of temporary images coming in to a darkened room, saying, ‘understanding is not so much unlike a closet wholly shut from light, with only some little opening left, to let in visible resemblances, or ideas without: would the pictures coming in to such a dark room but stay there, and lie so orderly as to be found upon occasion, it would very much resemble the understanding of a man, in reference to all objects of sight and the ideas of them.’ (Locke: 1824 [1689])

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