Visual Studies and Beyond
There is a certain enjoyment to be had from exploring the world and its words, and deciding on visual representations. I am well aware that many visual culture and critical pedagogy theorists would suggest that words and images can never be considered outside of a sociopolitical context. Nevertheless, I do not think humanity would progress far in terms of industry, design, medicine, and science, if we insist that nothing can be defined and that nothing is neutral. Even if there is some indeterminacy in meaning, objects and actions can be defined well enough that we can at least move forward, and not be caught in a state of aporia. Elkins (2003) has noted that “statistically, science is where vision is studied, not the humanities” (p. 87). He suggested there are a variety of images and visual practices that get overlooked by visual culture theorists. He wrote, “The further you go into the fascinating hinterland of image practices … the less there is to say about social construction, commodification, and the making of the viewing subject, and the less hope there is of also being able to talk about political history, patronage, contemporary literature, or the host of subjects that can make art history and visual culture so absorbing” (p. 84-85). Elkins has proposed a new academic discipline called visual studies, which he sees as the field that “visual culture might grow to be: the study of visual practices across all boundaries” (p. 7). He has suggested that visual studies theorists should familiarize themselves with art history, non-western ways of seeing, how to make images, past ways of seeing, the use of images in the field of science, special effects and digital images, graphics and design, and architectural spaces (pp. 125-195). When visual culture is expanded to visual studies in the way that Elkins envisioned, I see the field as providing a very good set of theories to guide the development of Vidtionary. Through the expanded criteria suggested by the visual studies field, I am encouraged to explore the fields of software design, information technology, neuroscience, graphic design, geometry, drafting, artificial intelligence, virtual environments, visual language, and visual perception.
In the Introduction, I stated that I hoped to better understand the intersection of images and words. I have not tried to use the literature to directly support the concept of the Vidtionary project, but rather I feel a review of the literature has added depth to my workings as a visual practitioner. I hope that it is clear that many of the concerns and questions raised by the Vidtionary project also arise in writings concerning visual literacy. Visual literacy is a concept that remains as yet unsettled in its proper place in the education system. The discussion about how education practices need to adapt to new and mixed media will undoubtedly intensify in the coming years. Hopefully, Vidtionary will contribute in some small way to this discussion, and perhaps become a resource for educators interested in visual literacy, in addition to its primary goal of being a tool for language learners.
Visual Studies and Beyond