Materiality

By Lauran Whitworth
Secondary Author: Jasmine Ponder

Fragment of the Antikythera Mechanism (believed to be an astronomical computer made ca. 87 BCE)
Image courtesy of Andrew Barclay via Flickr and Creative Commons.

 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines materiality as:

  1. That which constitutes the matter or material of something.
  2. Material or physical aspect or character; outward appearance or externality.
  3. The quality of being relevant or significant.

Most often used as an accounting term, one can think of materiality as what imbues stuff with its “stuff-ness” or substance. The Latin roots of the word derive from materia meaning matter. In the context of digital technology, much has been written about what Matthew Kirschenbaum has called “the haptic fallacy,” the belief that we have to be able to touch something for it to be “real” (Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination). Consequently, some of us may be inclined to deem the digital, such as the x-ray image of the Antikythera Mechanism pictured above, as less material or even immaterial because we can’t reach out and touch it in the same way that we can grasp the original object being represented.

In an age of cloud storage and data shared across multiple devices, digital tools are becoming increasingly ethereal and abstract. In response to this, Ted Dawson offers up “the hammer fallacy” as his take on the haptic fallacy. He explains, “[…] if there is something that can be smashed with a hammer resulting in the loss of your digital object, then that object is material. Of course, in our age of cloud-computing, you might have to smash quite a few different things to lose your file. The hammer principle helps us remember that this condition, in which the destruction of your hard drive does not mean the destruction of the digital objects stored there, does not make those objects less material, but rather means their materiality has been amplified, that the material accretions of our digital lives are multiplying” (“The Hammer Principle: Smashable (and Sustainable) DH”).

Our Connected Learning class, ART 120, has embodied this idea of “amplified materiality.” In the early weeks of our course, we began explicitly engaging materiality as course leader Nell Ruby taught us about the principles of design and tasked us with taking photographs of an array of textures, shapes, colors, and forms.

 

We tweeted our photographs of sunsets and stairwells and the shiny skins of tomatoes, transposing them into the Twitter-sphere and arguably amplifying their materiality through social media and the enhancements afforded by iPhone cameras and their filters.

In class three, we read George Siemens’ “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age” (2005) and discussed rhizomatic learning, a “net-enabled” pedagogical approach influenced by French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari and inspired by the rhizome, a subterranean plant stem that grows and sprouts horizontally versus vertically. Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophical ideas and abstractions are rendered all the more material and cognizant through that most organic and “down-to-earth” of metaphors, the growing plant.

A rhizome of Bearded Iris (Iris germanica) showing old and new leaves and a small root.
Image courtesy of John Bebbington (awaiting link).

These horizontal nodes serve as models for networked learning. As Juha Suoranta and Tere Vadén explain in “From Social to Socialist Media: The Critical Potential of the Wikiworld,” “The division between a hierarchical tree-like democracy or organization and that of the rhizomeian democracy or organization not only has political implications in the ideas of ‘leaderless revolution’ and networked dissidence but also educational implications in how to organize curricula […]” In this model, “teaching cannot be easily seen as an authoritarian activity but more like ‘subversive activity’ (Postman & Weingartner 1971) in which teachers, along with their students, compare information from various sources, negotiate their knowledge and experiences together, and interpret the world.”

As Suoranta and Vadén make clear, the implications of this rhizomatic model extend beyond the classroom. We witnessed this in our Women’s March studio project, which created a multi-perspectival research approach by chronicling different facets of the 2017 Women’s March on Washington. From protest signs to viral March photographs to critiques from marchers and non-marchers alike, our posts became a networked archive of the March and its “amplified materiality.”

 

Network

In the digital age, mattering, in both senses of the word–being physically substantive and being relevant–has shifted how we think about who and what matters. The haptic fallacy, that we have to be able to touch something or, in the case of the hammer fallacy, to break something for it to hold value to us, no longer applies. As this course has demonstrated, the seemingly immaterial–connected learning, social media activism, online communities, hashtags and re-Tweets–is often what matters most.

 

 

 

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the state of being aware in the present.  Merriam Webster dictionary defines mindfulness not only as a mental state, but also a physical activity that requires the brain to observe and reflect on their surroundings that is nonjudgmental.  Mindfulness in the context of Connected Learning becomes synonymous with metacognition, a learning technique that allows students to take control of their own learning by focusing on “sense making, self assessment, and reflection” (BBC: How People Learn).  In other words while students are participating in the virtual world, they are also learning about how they are responding as individuals and in relation to the course.  This definition primarily focuses on the role of the brainstormer, researcher, and analyzer that students self-appoint for each weekly reading assignment.
The Role of the Brainstormer
According to the course syllabus, the brainstormer position makes students “think out loud” by tweeting responses to passages, ideas, words using the hashtag #agnesconnected.  In week two brainstormers had to tweet images in response to learning about the Elements and Principles of Design in Sturken and Cartright’s Practices of Looking reading assignment.  Student Shaniece Wilson tweeted a mailbox image and used terminology related to the text such as “repetition”, and “lines”.  This tweet perfectly displays mindfulness because

  1. Students are understanding the material and applying it to a social media platform to create digital literacy
  2. Twitter creates a place for future discussions that may or may not be used in Connected Learning, but outside of it.
  3. The act of tagging agnesconnected may be specifically for the Agnes Scott community but followers on a student’s Twitter account can also engage in the conversation, because Twitter is a public domain

The Role of the Researcher
In the course syllabus the researcher’s task has to select a name, word, concept phrase or reference in the reading to examine and write a response provided with links.  In week seven, researchers had to select a concept from “What Facebook Owes to Journalism” by Steve Waldman.  Student Alex Jester discusses her interest in the decline of news media and references “State of News Media 2016”.  She ends her research synopsis with questions such as “do social networking sites suffice to cover local news and community?”  Her research response displays mindfulness because

  1. Students are going beyond the text and consciously exploring what could be useful to your personal understanding
  2. Students are trying to find a concept that could be applied back to the reading

The Role of the Analyst
The course syllabus instructs the analyzer to select a particular portion of the reading that presents problems or complications and writing a summary about the student’s findings.  In week seven, faculty member Chris Bishop discusses Mark Zuckerberg’s comment about the lack of social infrastructure in present.  He references “Millennials Don’t Deserve NYC” from the New York Post and writes, “This takeaway encapsulates an important point, the replacement of traditional social infrastructure with forums such as Facebook and other social media outlets are certainly important in expanding our understanding of community. However, it may be just as important to look at how millennials are seeking to find space for themselves wherein being “alone” may be more fulfilling than being in a group, whether virtual or physical.”  His analyst response displays mindfulness because

  1. Being an active reader by asking questions that could be useful for discussions in this class
  2. Forcing students to develop their own opinion about the work itself

In conclusion, all these roles make students consciously engage with learning and learning together on a digital platform.

Comment

By: Shaniece Wilson

Secondary Author: Chris DePree

Image Courtesy of  Sergio Santos

Definition: Comment- An expression of an opinion or attitude about something (n.)

Commentary is essential for obtaining and sharing information about a subject. It can also be a way an individual can express their opinion. According to the Merriam Webster’s dictionary, the legal definition of a comment is the “expression of an opinion or attitude about something”. I chose the legal definition of comment because, I believe that it best defines the word, by not limiting it to be a statement that is only written. The top definition for comment is  “a note explaining, illustrating, or criticizing the meaning of writing”. I did not choose this definition because; comments are made in various forms. Comments are made in political debate, the various class discussions, WordPress blogs, and the tweets we have made throughout this course.Comments are essential for learning and can be a source of inspiration for an author to make a change to their statement.

 Throughout this connected learning course we have been sharing our comments verbally and digitally. With every reading assigned we were able to briefly state our opinion or fact about the subject, and discuss the various point of views on the topic through class discussions. The comments that were made during these discussions broaden my understanding on using photos ethically, and that a simple edit to a photo can create a whole new meaning to an image. Also, learned about the various websites that can help cite an image. With this knowledge as a class we were able to apply this to other courses, and this information made us more aware as bloggers. Comments are able to provide insight on certain details a person would not have noticed unless someone pointed it out to them

Comments can be intimidating for some and many tend to ignore them because, they point out the imperfections we have as human beings. There are different types of comments a person can give and that is constructive criticism and comments that are purely opinionated and doesn’t help the author grow as a writer. In our Women’s March blog post I was happy with all the feedback I received from my peers, because it allowed me to focus on certain areas that need more explanation. The comments that were given, allowed me to format my blog post better where I was able to include social media posts from celebrities that attended the march; this helped my blog look visually appealing. Furthermore, when we spoke with Anders the cofounder of Ublend, he asked the class for our feedback on the site. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary our converation with Anders was classified as commentary. With this feedback he was able to clarify certain aspects of the site that were confusing to some, and take suggestions that can potentially give the site more users.

Image courtesy of Peer Review of Women’s March Blog Post

Comments are classified as suggestions; an author is not obligated to take into consideration every comment that is given. For example, an author may ask a peer to give their feedback on the formatting of a certain text and the author may disagree with the changes that the reviewer made and may want to ignore it because they feel as if the formatting is fine the way it is. However, as an author it is important to know if several reviewers notice the same issue; it should be taken into consideration so that this detail does not interfere with the message that is being presented.

Image courtesy of Shaniece Wilson WordPress Blog

Many consider the only way a comment can be valid is if it is written and this is an invalid statement. What some fail to realize is that comments are a part of our everyday lives. Whenever we ask a friend for an opinion, a Facebook post, tweet, or blog post it is considered a comment. Comments can also be classified as a form of peer review so that the individual can be able to make improvements on their work or continue whatever they are doing. Even though comments are known for being hurtful and sometimes annoying, they are there to share information with the author and various readers to update them on the recent changes in regards to their topic.

References:

  1. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=comment

Images courtesy of Shaniece Wilson

 

Ownership

By: Nastacia Pereira and Alex Jester

eBook

Image “ebook” courtesy of Jonas Tana via Flickr and Creative Commons.

Ownership is primarily defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as, “the fact or state of being an owner; proprietorship, dominion; legal right of possession. It is also defined as the condition of being owned (by a particular person, institution, etc.). As we move into an age where most things are stored on digital platforms and purchased in digital marketplaces, it is important to explore how notions of ‘ownership’ have shifted. There is no formal definition of digital ownership, to date, but it has been broadly defined by Urban Dictionary and Reverso Dictionary as the virtual ownership of digital assets in cyberspace. But, what does it mean to own digital assets and is it actually possible to own your digital assets?

Digital Ownership: What Does It Really Mean

When you visit a store and purchase an item, perhaps a CD, your rights to that item are fairly intuitive – it becomes your personal property. As such, you are able to sell it, lend it to a friend, or even destroy it if you so please. When you buy things digitally, however, that same intuition about your ownership no longer apply. When you ‘buy’ digital media (i.e. ebooks, audiobooks, music), you do not ‘own’ those items. In his article, “The Digital Age Has Destroyed the Concept of Ownership, and Companies are Taking Advantage of it,” Christopher Groskopf highlights that the terms of service contracts that you agree to when you buy things digitally state, “that [the] content is licensed, not sold and thus remains property of the seller. This means, when you buy things digitally, you are not allowed to do any of the following:

  • Copy it for your own use
  • Resell it
  • Bequeath it when you die
  • Give it away as a gift
  • Lend it to a friend
  • Put it on all of your devices
  • Keep it indefinitely

While the rise of digital goods have afforded consumers convenience and flexibility it has also transformed consumers from owners into mere users who have little to no rights regarding the items they purchase.

Several companies have come under criticism in recent years over shady practices involving digital media rights. In 2009, Amazon dropped George Orwell’s, “1984” from several users’ Kindle E-Readers. The NY Times notes that “Digital books bought for the Kindle are sent to it over a wireless network. Amazon can also use that network to synchronize electronic books between devices — and apparently to make them vanish.” If you were to purchase a paperback book and take it home with you and the seller entered your home to retrieve it, that would illegal. In the digital world, however, it is perfectly legal for this to happen.

In our connected learning course, we use various digital platforms to create and share content. Let’s explore two of the platforms we use regularly Twitter and Google.

Do You Own Your Twitter Content?

Twitter

Short Answer: Yes. Long Answer: Not Really.

When you agree to use Twitter, you agree to the following clause:

You understand that through your use of the Services you consent to the collection and use (as set forth in the Privacy Policy) of [your] information, including the transfer of this information to the United States, Ireland, and/or other countries for storage, processing and use by Twitter and its affiliates.”  

Essentially, Twitter is able to use the information you provide to them in whatever way seems reasonable. However, they are very explicit about your rights the content you submit, post, and display on their platform.

Twitter states, “You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. What’s yours is yours — you own your Content (and your photos and videos are part of the Content).” However, they go on to say that:

“By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed). This license authorizes us to make your Content available to the rest of the world and to let others do the same. You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to provide, promote, and improve the Services and to make Content submitted to or through the Services available to other companies, organizations or individuals for the syndication, broadcast, distribution, promotion or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use. Such additional uses by Twitter, or other companies, organizations or individuals, may be made with no compensation paid to you with respect to the Content that you submit, post, transmit or otherwise make available through the Services.” Twitter, Terms of Service

In a nutshell, Twitter is agreeing that you own the content you submit and they have agreed to credit it as yours, but they have also forced you to agree that they may do to and with your content what they please.  

Do You Own Your Google Content?

google products
Short Answer: Yes Long Answer: Not really

Much like Twitter, Google agrees that you do own your content. If you find that someone is plagiarizing your content you can contact Google and they will help you handle it. However, according to their terms of service, you are agreeing to the following:

“When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services.” Google, Terms of Service

Prior to the digital era, definitions of ownership were fairly cut-and-dry, but now it is nuanced and complicated. Digital platforms create a world of opportunity, however, there are some constraints. As debates over privacy laws continue, it is likely that issues of how we define ownership will rise to the surface.

Publish

By Chris De Pree

Secondary Author: Kendall Lattimer

The word publish traces its roots to the Latin word publicare, or “to make public, show or tell to the people, make known, declare”. The modern spelling of publish is from Middle English, and retains the meaning of the Latin publicare: “to make generally known.” With the invention of the printing press in the late 15th century, publishing began to be associated with the physical process of printing. And by the 18th century, the word publish was closely associated with the word “edit”. The word “edit”, as far back at 1793 is used to mean “to supervise for publication”. So a few hundred years after the invention of the printing press, publishing was limited in its scope to those with access to printing presses, either through wealth or through the editorial process associated with “publishers”. In this examination of the word, I will examine both physical publishing (as in the printing press) and a more modern definition of publishing that has returned the word to its etymological origins.

Since the invention of the printing press, and well into the current era, the word publish was assumed to mean that a work was printed on paper. That is, publishing necessarily involved an editor, a review process, and the costly, painstaking process of setting up a printing run. Since publishing is still associated with printed material in many people’s minds, it is important to point out that the modern printing press traces its heritage to the Gutenberg press in Mainz, Germany in 1457. “Gutenberg’s movable-type printing system spread rapidly across Europe, from the single Mainz printing press in 1457 to 110 presses by 1480”. And the Gutenberg press traces its lineage back to metal movable type processes developed in China and Korea in the 12th and 13th centuries. For many centuries, then, printing (and therefore publishing) was a profoundly physical process, involving the placement of letters in grids, and specific, limited print runs. In essence, this process was unchanged until the advent of modern computers in the 1950s and 1960s. And while computers accelerated the transition from writing to publication, printers continued to use a modified version of the original process from the 15th century.

 

Korean movable type from the 14th century (Wikipedia, Public Domain)

 

The earliest computers made this process faster, but publishing printed material experienced a profound change in the 1980s, when the first WYSIWYG computers were able to display the printed page (with a variety of fonts) directly on a computer screen.

 

XEROX developed the first WYSIWYG computer systems that allowed content creators to view documents exactly as they would appear when they were printed (http://www.intentsoft.com/wysiwyg-see-get/).

 

Computers could reproduce the look of a printed page. Paired with a laser printer, a computer was now able to print pages that looked for all the world like they had sprung from a printing press. And as monitors improved in quality, and became more and more portable (e.g. iPads, smartphones), readers were able to view published work one page at a time as if it were a printed page. In 2017, writers are able to submit their manuscripts to be published as books one at a time, no minimum print run required, because there is no printing press to set up.

But publishing, at its origin, meant much more than to print up copies of a book. It meant to “declare publicly”, and the World Wide Web, which came into its own in the 1990s, allowed people to publish, or make public, their thoughts and feelings in a dizzying variety of ways. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube allow us to “declare” our thoughts and creative works publicly. We can publish videos, images, blogs, 140 character thoughts, or complete novels. The popular talk series Ted Talks has recently highlighted talks on the topic of digital publishing.

On the WordPress site, every new post is accompanied by a button that returns us to the original meaning of the word. The blue button is labeled “Publish”. Pressing that button changes a post from a private piece of writing into a piece that can be viewed by anyone on the Internet. Publishing has come full circle, with very little in the way of intermediaries between the author and the audience. Twitter (limited to 140 characters) has a button labelled “Tweet”, which seems to admit that these public declarations are (perhaps) of smaller significance.

 

A screen shot from Word press, a blogging software package that allows individuals to publish, or declare publicly, their thoughts and feelings. (wordpress.org)

 

While works of fiction and non-fiction are still predominantly published by publishing houses, there are a large and growing number of authors who choose to self-publish. Companies like Amazon allow authors to self-publish for free to its platform called Kindle. Authors can have their works appear on the Amazon site and be available worldwide within a few days. And a number of self-published books (e.g. The Martian, Wool) became so popular as self-published works that major publishing houses decided to take them on as distributors, and “publish” them in a more traditional sense.
The real shift in the nature of the word publish from the invention of the printing press until now is that the control over the act of “declaring publicly” has returned to the individual, for good and for bad. Freed from the limitations of the editorial and review process, authors of a wide variety of abilities are able to publish whatever they want, in ways that can appear to be professional, at least at first glance.

Social Media

By Jasmine Ponder

Secondary Author : Nastacia Perreria

Image courtesy of William Iven via Unsplash

The phrase “social media” comes into English in the early-mid 90s, however it is unclear who was the first to coin the term. There’s a three-way tie between Tina Sharkey, Ted Leonis and Darrell Barry. According to their Wiki bios, the Internet credits Sharkey  with registering the domain names socialmedia.com, socialmedia.net and socialmedia.org. Sharkey’s use of “social media” is not entirely in line with how it is used today, but worded more in a sense from about the business side to media at iVillage.  Leonsis’ individual contribution is a quote from 1997,  where he utilizes the phrase “social media” in terms of improving user experience and service at AOL. Darrell Barry also receives credit with using the phrase “social media” in the early 90s in his paper “Social Media Spaces”, where his argument focuses on the the evolution of the internet towards a social network and away from an online file cabinet. I think that this is the closest meaning to what social media has transformed into today. There’s not a clear indication of who deserves the most credit, but it is clear that before the internet spiraled into the most current, practical forms of  “social media”, people were already contemplating the importance and use of the online space.

Image courtesy of Rachael Crowe via Unsplash

The earliest dictionary entry for the words “social media” were in Merriam-Webster 2004. It reads : “Forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos)”. Since then, social media is now used for a variety of purposes, with examples ranging from how social media has overpowered traditional journalism, started online-to-real-life movements to how it’s penetrated the academic realm.

In terms of academics, Art 120 for Agnes Scott’s Spring 2017 catalog is the first class of its nature at the College that offers students the opportunity to actively engage in online social spaces for coursework and discussion; with class reflections posted on each individual’s class blog. The entire class is based upon social media engagement within education and learning, so many class examples could be placed in this keyword. However, the assignment regarding user experience in a foreign social network stands out as the best example of the intersections of academics and social media. Outside of the academic sphere, social media has changed the way that society functions. One of the most widely used social media platforms, Facebook, started as a community network of college students, but today’s user numbers have  grown to hundreds of millions. Facebook is a high school class reunion, library, or whatever the user wants it to be. Twitter, another huge social media platform, and is the most popular for current events, funny jokes, and celebrity gossip.

The dynamic nature of social media is what makes it so exciting and invigorating. Social media is a word that is necessary because it is a part of the fabric of modern living. Social media gives insight into how people interact with their peers and the world around them.

 

Curation

Image courtesy of S. Butterfield, Flickr Creative Commons

By: Alex Jester

Secondary Author: Rebecca Meador

“Curation” is the act of filtering information for a particular purpose, usually for clarity on the consumer’s end. MacMillan dictionary defines curation as the act of “[selecting] items from among a large number of possibilities for other people to consume and enjoy…” The word in this context pertains to not only museums and their artifacts, then, but also “music, design, fashion, and especially digital media” (MacMillan Dictionary, “curate”). In the context of one’s online presence, curation is especially important to individuals concerned with public perception of their virtual lives, as well as bloggers, web designers, and other content producers who want to frame their content according to particular themes or purposes, with the key goal of providing ease of access for the reader. This definition focuses particularly on the word “curation”’s web-related usage and applications.

Still image from Quora’s Reading Digest

Curation, Broadly: The Enormity of the Internet

Broadly, curation applies across the internet in many forms. All content on the web needs to be processed and packaged in some form in order to be legible, whether it be a web page’s CSS styling, a web site’s navigation map, or a block of text’s copyediting. Granted, many sites are not packaged well, and might not be user-friendly or may appear outdated; however, most websites are curated in some form or another by the page creators. The problem with curating the internet is its sheer enormity. The massive amounts of content available to users of the internet prove problematic for companies and organizations who want to get their content to the forefront of the internet. Even reddit, the “front page of the internet”, is huge—as of April 4, 2017, Reddit Metrics reported 1,055,848 active subreddits (Reddit Metrics, “History”). Curation, then, is absolutely necessary if users are to make any sense of the content to which they need access.

Curation, Broadly: Content Curation vs Content Marketing

One way the internet supports content curation is through user-targeted content curation sites. Content Curation stands apart from Content Marketing (which will be referred to as CC and CM hereafter) in the former’s focus on curation, contrasted with the latter’s focus on actual content creation. In CM, companies provide useful information they have created in order to appeal to customers. However, CC involves not creation of information, but collection. One example of this is Quora’s Reading Digest, where the website pulls its most popular content and shares it daily with readers. CC, while important in the context of modern web usage, is only one method of digital curation. In this sort of pursuit, curation can often take on an anti-consumer light; certainly, consumers benefit from not having to slog through content. On the other hand, news curation is where censorship can occur. If consumers are not actively searching for information, they might not see information they might wish to see. This is the double-edged sword of consumers allowing the internet to curate itself for them.

 

Curation, Focused: Connected Learning at Agnes Scott and the Women’s March

A tweet from the Women’s March Project

In the Connected Learning course offered at Agnes Scott College, one of the primary projects students collaborated on was an analysis of the Women’s March on Washington. Students created content individually and then worked to curate the content in one repository. In this way, students were able to create topic-targeted content, but also participated in the process of curation after creating the content itself. On an individual level, the success of this project relied on students’ diligence in curating their own information. Members of the class scoured the internet for news articles, personal blogs, twitter accounts, etc. documenting personal experiences with the march, and took responsibility for myriad topics relevant to Connected Learning. The resulting blog posts are to be curated on a class web page and organized by topic.

Ultimately, curation boils down to what the curator intends for a consumer to see. Sometimes the curator is not the creator of content, sometimes she is. The keyword project itself is an example of curation. Ideally, organizing these keywords in this way will make the material more digestible and, most importantly, accessible for readers.

Image

By Katherine Smith

Secondary author: Ashley Bruce

Image is one of the most general terms to describe representation, often understood as visual in form (though mental images are also conjured by texts). Visual images exist in a variety of media and range from those associated with the fine arts and created (originally) by hand, including drawing, painting, sculpture, to those produced technologically, including photography (camera and digital) and film.  Images can be representational or mimetic, striving to reproduce a subject as accurately as possible, or abstract, simplifying forms to non-objective renderings of color, line, and form.

 

When describing and analyzing images, we can approach their formal terms through the elements (line, shape, form, value, color, texture, space) and principles of design (rhythm, balance, scale, proportion, emphasis, proximity, contrast).  We can also examine their iconography or symbolism and situate them in socio-historical contexts.  Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright, in The Practices of Looking, offer a number of ways to consider—to look—at images, as they perceptively differentiate between the processes of seeing (as arbitrary) and looking (as intentional) (Sturken/Cartwright, 2002 10): “Looking is a social practice [that] involves relationships of power” (2009 9).  

 

Sturken and Cartwright discuss ways the we can discern the potential meanings of images, cognizant of their deliberate construction and cultural specificity.  Among their references are ideas from French theorist Roland Barthes about denotative and connotative image, referring to its literal and cultural/historical meanings, respectively (20).  For instance, the current logo of Agnes Scott College has two component parts:  the text in purple and a yellowish-brown image.  This image consists of two curved, diagonal lines, which cross and mirror one another so that they are higher at the center than on the sides; both sets of lines end in flat sides at the top edges but come to sharp points at the bottom.  A second line, parallel to on in this group, moves diagonally upward (or downward, depending on how you are looking), with a flat top and pointed bottom.  The denotative meaning of this image seems unclear, beyond its visual elements (line and color seem primary) and principles (rhythm and balance).  Its connotative meaning, for those who have the lived experience (or virtual knowledge) of Agnes Scott’s campus will understand its connection to the Neo-Gothic architecture on our campus.  This style, which became popular for American colleges in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century not only alights institutions of higher education with their more established predecessors in England but also stretches father back historically to Gothic architecture in the medieval period, most notably in cathedrals where the pointed arch was the hallmark of the style and signals structural innovations (flying buttresses) and vertical height (symbolic ascension).  On the campus of Agnes Scott, one can link the linear qualities of the image to pointed in our entrance gate, building forms, and window designs around campus and understand its relevance, as an architectural style linked to the history of Christianity, to the college’s founding, in 1889, in association with the Presbyterian Church.  At the same time, one could understand the image differently, in more generally symbolic terms, as conveying, for instance, in its diagonal movement, the soaring aspirations of our students upon entering or graduating from the college, especially under the SUMMIT program; some find the diagonal movement of the top line especially to indicate a mountain or a shooting star.  These possibilities, like Barthes’s designation of denotative and connotative imagery, suggests that there are multiple levels on which to understand an image.

 

The function of this image, as the logo for the college, underscores the significance of the circulation of images, which has only increased with rise of digital technology and communication.  The capability of sharing images as and in digital message and social media underscores the significance of being able to analyze visual material.  According to Mashable, tweets with links to images, rather than text alone, are retweeted more often: 35% more often with pictures and 28% more often with videos, also suggesting a difference between static and dynamic imagery.  (http://mashable.com/2014/03/11/twitter-photos-more-retweets/#rVtgPrzVaZqu).   Our first few projects in this course, while perhaps not explicitly, tested this research.  We went on scavenger hunts around the Dana Fine Arts Building to find, photograph, and tweeted (some of us, author and co-author included, for the first time) images that would undermine current notions of technology;

we drew three images to define ourselves;

we photographed images, objects, and scenes in our daily lives to demonstrate visual elements and principles of design (and convey emotion), also tweeted.  

There are important considerations for responsible image use in online environments, from necessary knowledge and tools for strong design, smart choices of appropriate and relevant content, to thorough understanding and application of copyright and permissions (http://dcenter.agnesscott.org/d-center-video-library).  Our current worlds, virtual and “real” are arguably are arguably primarily visible ones, asking us to notice, incorporate, navigate, and circulate images constantly and, I hope, increasingly with careful attention and creative and critical thinking.

 

Sources:

 

www.agnesscott.edu

 

Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright, The Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001 and 2009).

 

Roland Barthes, “The Photographic Message” and “Rhetoric of the Image.” In Image Music Text.  Translated by Stephen Heath.  New York: Hill and Wang, 1977.

 

Images on this page are courtesy of Agnes Scott College via Flickr and Creative Commons.

Seeing

By Chris Bishop
Secondary author: Lauren Whitworth

Definition

The Century Dictionary: An Encyclopedic Lexicon of the English Language, published in 1890, offers multiple definitions and interpretations for relating the act of seeing. “To examine with the eyes; view; behold; observe; inspect” defines the act of physically viewing an object with your eyes. Alternately, seeing as a cognitive act allows individuals “To perceive mentally; discern; form a conception or idea of; distinguish; understand; comprehend.” Additionally, seeing allows individuals “to examine or inquire; consider.”

  • Whitney, W. (Ed.). (1889). The century dictionary: An encyclopedic lexicon of the english language. New York: Century.

Connection to Connected Learning

Connected learning requires the learner to actively participate in seeing as a point of connectivity wherein comprehension, examination, and inquiry are related efforts to elicit greater insight and understanding.

Three Examples

The spring 2017 Connected Learning class brought a diverse group of faculty, staff, and students together, in a shared forum, to explore a broad range of ideas with ties to the overall outline of the class. The examples below are snapshots meant to convey a glimpse of understanding in regards to our exploration as a class.

 


  1. Hashtags provide users with a connective point to see and organize twitter content utilizing word or term choices from which users can consider shared meanings while simultaneously exploring new understandings and modes of comprehension.
  • The twitter hashtag: #seeing
  • Examples from class member Twitter accounts: #agnesconnected
  • The emphasis on user created content invites a diversity of approaches to styling content, creating a need for style guides to create shared standards for sharing information: Example: Evan LePage’s The Do’s and Don’ts of How to Use Hashtags

Krueger, B. (2009, December 11). Untitled. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/goincase/4177103094
Untitled” by Barbara Krueger is licensed under CC BY 2.0

  1. Example from class: Marita Sturken’s Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture – “The material world has meaning and can be ‘seen’ by us only through representations. The world is not simply reflected back to us through representations that stand in for things by copying their appearance. We construct the meaning of things through the process of representing them.” (p. 12) – Sturken, M. (2009). Practices of looking : An introduction to visual culture (2nd ed. ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • The act of looking is similar to seeing, wherein the viewer must construct meaning based on previously know social constructs and the subjective lens we use to form meaning when attempting to construct understanding.
  • The Class discussion of “Untitled (Everything is Going to Be Okay)” by Barbara Kruger revealed varying understandings regarding how classmates see the work and infer meaning. 

Wasik, M. (2017, January 21). New York City, 2017 . Retrieved April 25, 2017, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Women%27s_March_on_NYC_(32329519271).jpg

  1. The Women’s March offered a multitude of visual cues related to issues affecting women, allowing both participants and observers to see and discuss protest through art.

Bio

Librarian seeks knowledge and understanding in a world filled with doubt. Feel free to submit answers to life’s greatest questions as time allows.