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Image versus Visual Literacy

April 18, 2017

The circulation of images in the contemporary globalized media society has gained unseen quantity and speed. With the arrival of social media and smartphones in our pockets, the ubiquity of visual media has reached even the most intimate recesses of private life. The ways of gaining and sharing information through visual content have established definitive dominance; for quite some time, we have been hearing about the inability of the younger and youngest generation to navigate in visual communication, a world of images of which they make active use while significantly contributing to it.

As pointed out by visual theorist W. J. T. Mitchell, images seduce their viewers to believe they are transparent communication channels. Through their strong presence in everyday life, speed of mediating information and simplification of shared content, they impact the widest masses and assume a semblance of simplicity and authenticity while their production and circulation is based on a complex network of social, economic, technological and political agents. However, Mitchell adds that the dominant position of image in the society is not a novelty of the modern times. Image has always enjoyed a significant position in the society; just think of how information was gained and spread at the times of an illiterate society besides oral tradition!

Why is it that even today, we do not learn to understand and critically interpret images in the same manner in which we learn to read and analyze texts? When and how to start developing visual literacy at a time when it is necessary to untangle the complex network behind the economy of images of contemporary visual culture? Is it possible to teach a critical approach to image without reflecting its relation to text?

Fresh Eye hosts a round table with experts from various fields who contribute to the development of visual literacy in their practice and are able to critically reflect on it. The first part of the 51st Fresh Eye evening will offer a brief introduction of the particular projects; in the second part, the guests will discuss essential questions concerning the theme with the visitors.

ŠIMON BAUER, director of the Center for Documentary Film (CDF, Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague)

JAROSLAV VANČÁT, visual theorist (EduArt, Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University in Prague)

ČENĚK PÝCHA, historian (Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague)

ANDREA PRŮCHOVÁ, visual culture theorist (Fresh Eye, Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University in Prague)

Hosted by: Jan Vávra, journalist (Fresh Eye, E15)

Learn more about the programme on FB event!