October 19, 2007

Hi, all. Like my first blog entry should be about an article I read for a different class, but there you go. At least I’m making connections… ?

In Strat Comm, our readings for the coming week are on issues of collective memory. One article we read in particular is titled “Public Identity and Collective Memory in U.S. Iconic Photography: The Image of ‘Accidental Napalm’” by Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites (2003). The authors look at a specific image from the coverage of the Vietnam War (“Accidental Napalm Attack,” 1972) and how it functioned and continues to function. I thought this was interesting particularly for this class, as this sort of image analysis really gives shape to some of the theory we’ve been reading. Hariman and Lucaites take these theories as their framework to examine the concept of collective memory as it is shaped by visual communication – how images work to construct collectivity.

To discuss the rhetoric of images, Hariman and Lucaites look at this image in particular. They take into account both the composition of the image and the context surrounding it to flesh out a fuller understanding of the different readings the image can provide. Specifically, the discussion is of how images become iconic, or when/how they gain the capacity to constitute a public out of a group of strangers via identification with some element of the image.

They also look at the production of images, particularly in terms of how images can be manipulated – the examples within the article are two specific intentional manipulations of this image and how they convey their own messages as extensions of the original. This example is an artist’s (Jeffrey Decoster’s) rendering of this photograph; the manipulations, however, were made with the intention of expanding on the messages within the photograph and of creating entirely new messages. The placement of the little girl in a bathing suit and on a suburban lawn, the addition of the ghostly-transparent veteran in a wheelchair next to her, and the composition of the elements to create a triangle (with the ball on the lawn) to drawn in the viewer all work to create a more insistent call to moral action in regards to the Vietnam War.

While the specifics are extremely interesting (and disturbing), the set-up of the framework for this discussion was what caught my eye in terms of this class. In the beginning of the article, the authors tackle some of the issues we’ve been discussing, specifically those from the week we spent on Semiology. They discuss the differences between visual media and discursive media – a question from the first class which we have yet to return to – and the suspicions of how visual media can function relative to discursive media. This leads into a brief discussion of the concept that all media is mixed media, that there is never any purely visual media. This reminded me of Barthes and his caveat for denotive messages; he says essentially the same thing when he posits that theoretically there can be a purely denotive message but that it is virtually impossible to ever encounter that message because of the cultural knowledge and perception we bring to the image.

Obviously, because the focus of the article is a photograph, the authors then go into a lengthier discussion of the pitfalls of reading photographs as texts – all of which are reminiscent of our readings from the week on Semiology. The authors talk explicitly about Barthes and Eco, specifically in terms of an acknowledgment of the “representational autonomy” of photographs – what Barthes discusses, when he mentions how photographs retain some elements of their object and thus can be confused as neutral representations. The discussion in this article, however, really leans more towards Hall’s conception of what goes on with photograph – the subtle difference of the degree, rather than the presence or absence, of ideology in a photographic image. For these authors, as for Hall, photos appear to be value-neutral representations of their object but always convey some value system; this appearance works to relay naturalizing concepts of ideology that aren’t natural at all.

This is a long and complicated dissection of a very complex image; because of that, and because not everyone else has read the article, I realize that this is probably a poor example for discussion. That said, I thought it was a really interesting – and helpful – application of the theoretical perspectives we’ve been discussing so far.

Hariman, R. & Lucaites, J.L. (2003). Public Identity and Collective Memory in U.S. Iconic Photography: The Image of "Accidental Napalm". Critical Studies in Media Communication, 20(1 - Mar 2003), 35-66.

You Tube Commercial for viewing for Wed class presentation....

Here is the link for Mary J Blige

mary j bilge chevy tahoe commercial

Mitchell Readings...some questions from George


1. Mitchell writes, "representation is always of something, or someone, by something or someone, to someone. It seems that only the third angle of representation need be a person" (p. 12). For each of these images, who or what is being represented? How does authorship influence the meaning of the representation? What about audience?

2. What network of signs are invoked by each image, and are these links explicit? What codes are being used, and what agreed meanings allow us to understand the images?

3. Mitchell distinguishes between code and convention. What conventions are used in each image, and are these conventions easily distinguishable from the codes used to decipher them?

4. Postmodernism is brought up in the following quote, "Postmodern culture is often characterized as an era of "hyper-representation," in which abstract, formalist painting has been replaced by experiments like photorealism, and reality itself begins to be experienced as an endless network of representations." Do these images speak to postmodern culture? (think of the image of a cross, or the American flag for example)

5. What "taxes" or costs are made by the representations in these images? (see above for image ideas or think of others)

Colebrook...some thoughts by George for Wed


1. According to Colebrook, representation is contradictory. What does he mean by this, and what does he propose is the solution?

2. How does autonomy relate to representation? How does Colebrook break up possible responses to representation, the limits of language, and its relationship to the world?

3. What are the differences between epistemology, ontology, and grammatology?

Some questions on Latour from George for Wed


1. How does the term "anamorphosis" fit into Latour's argument?

2. Latour claims Holbein's painting cannot show the visible and invisible worlds in the same view point. Can this explanation of representation be applied to other differences besides issues of location of space? Does subject position (socially) have the same kind of perspective limits?

3. How do the two regimes Latour talks about differ? How does representing images of faith differ from representing images of science?

4. Latour describes key differences between the first and second regimes of representation. How does each deal with representation? How are each of these images understood from the first regime? From the second?

Some thoughts on Hall by George for our presentation


1. Hall describes three levels of meaning: the object, the concept, and the word. How do these images operate on these levels? Are they objects, concepts, words, or mixtures thereof? How do imaginary concepts like justice, faith, or patriotism complicate our understanding of these levels?

2. Hall describes a threefold system as does Peirce. How are these systems similar, and how are they different? Do objects, concepts, and words refer to issues of Peirce's firstness, secondness, and thirdness?

3. Icons and indexes are discussed. Does Hall use these terms in the same way as previous authors? What are the similarities and differences in his use of terms?

4. In his discussion of the Inuit's many words for snow, Hall raises an important question, "How far is our experience actually bounded by our linguistic and conceptual universe?" (p. 23) What are the implications of the opposite argument, that our difference languages reflect our different experiences as culture groups (ie. the Inuit have more words for snow because, in the geographical region where they live, there is a variety of "snow" experiences that are relevant to their lives)? Are both perspectives necessarily opposed to one another?

5. What are the approaches in each theory of representation that Hall discusses? How do reflective, intentional, and constructionist approaches to understanding images translate into actual image decoding? How is the comic, the map, and the weather image reflective, intentional, and constructed? What role does technology play in each approach, and how does technology enhance or detract from each perspective?

6. In Hall's discussion of the traffic light, Hall mentions that the real importance of color difference is the ability for us as the audience to distinguish between the colors. Do the color blind experience different representations if they are unable to distinguish one color from another?


Check out this on you tube....


How is Mary J Blige "represented" in this commerical?

Representation...some thoughts to ponder on images

For our class presentation/discussion..we (Meg, Rudy, George) wanted to throw out some questions for you to ponder pre class....

Imagine a cross, a crucifix..what does this mean to you? Does the fact that Villanova is a Catholic University have a bearing on why you choose to attend?

Picture an American flag. What does this represent to you? What about pre 9-11?? post 911?

Imagine all of the teachers and professors you have had over the years...do any of them "represent" what a "typical" teacher should look like??

October 18, 2007

Hello All,as I was in the process of scrapping my original idea for the final project, I ran across this video again, which I thought that some of us may find provocative - sometimes I get annoyed with how much scholarship that focuses solely on the Internet - Internet this, Internet that, but then occasionally something like this video will bring me pause, for it reveals (and here, visually!) how incredible this technology is, by making us pay close atttention to how it works.

There is certainly some room to focus on aspects of the internet in conjunction with either visual communication or visual culture. Maybe I'll look into it for a final project idea. There is certainly something here that can be said about the relationship of text and image - anyway, what is fascinating about this little video is that it focuses no only on the content of the digital medium, but also digital web2.0 tools that are used to make web content.

Hey Gordon, what do you make of the statement "the machine is us?" Seems Deleuzian to me - can you point me to some textual resources that address this kind of idea?