The Inclusive Vision

Essays in Honor of Larry Gross

by Paul Messaris (Volume editor) David W. Park (Volume editor)
©2018 Textbook XII, 274 Pages


Larry Gross is one of the most influential figures in the history of media studies. In this collection of original essays, his former students reflect on his groundbreaking contributions to three major developments: the emergence of visual studies as a distinct field of media theory and research; the analysis of media fiction as a symbol of power structures and a perpetuator of social inequalities; and the growing scholarly attention to the relationships between mass media and sexual minorities.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for The Inclusive Vision
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction (Paul Messaris)
  • On the Margins of the Art Worlds
  • Culture and Power
  • Towards Inclusion
  • References
  • Part One: On the Margins of the Art Worlds
  • 1. Toward Art for All: Art Museum Education and the Reinvigoration of American Art Museums (Lois H. Silverman)
  • The Art Museum Profession and Museum Studies Literature
  • A Rose Among Thorns: Early American Art Museums and the Docent as Communicator
  • From Practices to Profession: Museum Education Matures
  • The Paradigm Shifts: Toward Inclusive Public Engagement
  • Art Museum Audience Studies and Visitor Meaning-Making
  • New Methods, Programs, and Discourses About Art
  • Gallery Teaching Transformed
  • From Programs to Discourses
  • Reflections
  • References
  • 2. Photographic Art in the Age of Digital Image-Making (Dona Schwartz)
  • Art Photography Is Tied to Other Art Media
  • Art Photography Responds to Its Own History and Traditions
  • Art Photography Has Its Own Vocabulary
  • Art Photography Conveys Ideas
  • Art Photography Is Innovative
  • Art Photography Is Personal
  • Art Photography Is a Lifestyle
  • Art Photography Participates in the World of Commerce
  • Audience
  • Why Do You Choose to Shoot Film Rather Than Digital?
  • As Photo Technology Changes What Challenges Have You Confronted as a Result of Your Choice of Film?
  • Do You Use Digital Technology Anywhere in Your Practice? If So at What Points and Why?
  • What Makes Shooting Film the Right Choice for Your Work?
  • Note
  • References
  • 3. Cultural Competence in the Art World of Video Games (Bill Mikulak)
  • Introduction
  • Genesis of This Inquiry
  • The Growth of Video Games
  • The Legitimation of Video Games as Art
  • Contesting the Artistic Status of Video Games
  • Many Artists for One Video Game
  • Video Game Genres
  • Aesthetics of Game Design and the Gameplaying Experience
  • Games for Change
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • 4. On the Digital Margins of Art Worlds: Art and Vernacular Creativity in Online Spaces (Ioana Literat)
  • References
  • 5. Performance, Then and Now, There and Here: Need All the World Be a Stage? (Barbie Zelizer)
  • Performance’s Creep Across the Academic Curriculum
  • Performance as Staged Production
  • Performance as Interpersonal Strategy
  • Performance as Social Structure
  • Performance as Culture
  • Exhausting the Tipping Point of Performance
  • Note
  • References
  • Part Two: Culture & Power
  • 6. Larry Gross and Cultivation Analysis (Michael Morgan)
  • Note
  • References
  • 7. Conjuring Religion in the Media Age and in Media Scholarship (Stewart M. Hoover)
  • Broader Trends
  • Legacies of Scholarship—and of Protestantism
  • Historical Roots
  • The Politics of Religion in the Public Sphere
  • Media Scholarship
  • References
  • 8. The ‘Thing’ About Music: Hearing Power at the Nexus of Technology, Property, and Culture (Aram Sinnreich)
  • Notes
  • References
  • 9. The Emotional Politics of Populism, in Honor of Larry Gross (Eva Illouz)
  • Emotions and Rationality
  • Political Climates
  • A Normative Theory of Emotions and Politics?
  • Populist Emotions
  • Fear
  • Resentment
  • Love and Pride
  • Conclusion
  • Note
  • References
  • 10. The Community in Community Media: Islands and Interactions in a Digital Universe (Cindy Hing-Yuk Wong)
  • Defining Scribe by Community and Media Worlds
  • Community Media and Community Processes
  • Recruitment: Finding Communities
  • Production: Remaking Community
  • Products: The Visions of Community Visions
  • Distribution: Reproducing Community?
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • 11. The Tacit Dimension of Communication: Symbolic Competence and Symbolic Power (David W. Park)
  • The Tacit Dimension of Intelligibility
  • Symbolic Competence
  • Symbolic Competence’s Broader Application
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Part Three: Towards Inclusion
  • 12. The Thread of Concern: Wildlife Films, Art, and Representation (Derek Bousé)
  • Us and Them
  • But Is It Art?
  • Representation and Power
  • Coda
  • Notes
  • References
  • 13. From Gay Bars to Hook-Up Apps: Social and Media Change (David Gudelunas)
  • Generational Cohort Theory
  • Method
  • Results
  • Media Differences
  • Digitally Reliant Versus Digitally Able
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 14. The Hidden Female Face of New York (Carla Sarett)
  • Notes
  • References
  • 15. The Cultural and Economic Dimensions of Class in Queerness (Lisa Henderson)
  • Introduction: Sex and Solidarity
  • Class, Income, and Wealth
  • Class as Culture
  • Queer Class Representation
  • Conclusion: Queering Class
  • Note
  • References
  • 16. The Longest Walk Is the Walk Home: The Theme of Return in Indigenous Cinema (Steven Leuthold)
  • Relationships at the Center
  • The Long Walk of Fred Young
  • Red Road: The Barry Hambly Story
  • The Business of Fancydancing
  • List of Films Discussed
  • References
  • 17. Leading and Enabling Research for Social Change (Traci Gillig)
  • References
  • Contributors
  • Series index

| vii →


Figure 4.1: User-Generated Content in Oglander’s Craigslist Mirrors (2016)

Figure 4.2: User-Generated Content in Lonergan’s “Kids in Hampers” From Recent Music Videos Series (2012)

Figure 4.3: Animated GIF by Lorna Mills (2015).

Figure 4.4: Still From Petra Cortright’s VVEBCAM (2007)

Figure 6.1: Television Viewing and Political Self-Designation, 1975−2016

Figure 14.1: Angel of the Waters, Bethesda Fountain, Sculptor—Emma Stebbins. Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon, Wikimedia Commons.

Figure 14.2: Burnett Memorial Fountain, Sculptor—Bessie Potter Vonoh. Photo Credit: Another Believer, Wikimedia Commons.

Figure 14.3: Dance, Radio City Music Hall, in Mixed Metal and Enamel Roundel by Hildreth Meière, 1932. Photo Credit: Hildreth Meière Dunn © 2007.

| ix →


We would like to express our gratitude to Kathryn Harrison, Acquisitions Editor at Peter Lang, for her support of this project and her valuable guidance. We also thank Michael Doub, Editorial Assistant, and Luke McCord, Production Editor, for their help in getting the manuscript ready for publication. Paul Messaris thanks Michael Delli Carpini, Dean of the Annenberg School at Penn, for providing resources that greatly facilitated Messaris’s work on this book. As well, Messaris is grateful to Deborah E. Porter, Senior Building Administrator at Annenberg, for her many contributions to the successful completion of this project. Dave Park is grateful to Lake Forest College for support during the production of this volume. Both editors greatly appreciate the advice and assistance that they received from Scott Tucker.

| 1 →



Few people have had as much impact on the field of communication studies as Larry Gross has had. Over the course of his long and distinguished academic career, Gross has played a central role in three major scholarly movements. He was a prominent member of the generation that founded visual studies as a graduate research discipline within the field of communication. He was a principal investigator in the Cultural Indicators Project, which, in its time, was perhaps the most influential investigation of the cultural ramifications of the mass media. He was, and remains, one of the most eloquent, illuminating, and productive commentators on the media’s portrayal of sexual and other minorities.

The influence of Gross’s work as a scholar has been amplified by his extraordinary contributions to the field as a mentor of graduate students and by his tireless participation in editorial activities and administrative service. At the Annenberg School for Communication of the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught from 1968 to 2003, he was the primary advisor on more than 180 masters theses and doctoral dissertations—a record that is not likely to be surpassed. At the University of Southern California, he was the Director of the Annenberg School of Communication from 2003 to 2014. He has served multi-year terms at the helm of two journals, Studies in Visual Communication and the International Journal of Communication, and he remains the principal editor of the latter. In recognition of the value of his scholarship, teaching, and administrative contributions, he has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (1998–1999) and the International Communication Association’s B. Aubrey Fisher Mentorship Award (2001). He is an ICA Fellow (elected in 2006) and past-President (2011–2012). ← 1 | 2 →

This volume is an exploration of Larry Gross’s enduring influence on the field of communication. In three sections that roughly correspond to the three research areas in which he made his most significant contributions, Gross’s former students present their own current scholarship. In some of the chapters, the authors comment explicitly about connections to Gross’s teaching. In other chapters the ties to Gross are more implicit. Regardless, it is hoped that this book will serve as a bridge between the lines of inquiry that were initiated by Gross and the concerns that are likely to animate the work of future scholars.

The title of the book’s first section, “On the Margins of the Art Worlds,” is taken directly from one of Gross’s publications. Broadly speaking, the essays in this section seek to question cultural distinctions between artistic activities that qualify as elite or approved art and those activities that are rejected as inferior or derided as trash. The book’s next section, on “Culture and Power,” contains essays that extend the lines of inquiry initiated by Larry Gross, George Gerbner, and their collaborators in the Cultural Indicators Project. That project’s aim had been to analyze the ways in which the mass media’s portrayal of society serves to reinforce power relationships and social subjugation in real life. The essays in this section discuss the project’s impact on later scholarship, and they extend its framework to investigations of present-day social issues. Finally, in the third section, “Towards Inclusion,” the book turns to the question that has animated much of Gross’s and his students’ work since the publication of Up From Invisibility (2001), his landmark study of media portrayals of sexual minorities: Who speaks for those who have been less fortunate in the social distribution of power? As a prelude to this collection of essays by Gross’s students, the following pages will provide an overview, in roughly chronological order, of those aspects of Gross’s work that are most directly related to the themes of each of the book’s three sections.

On the Margins of the Art Worlds

Larry Gross’s career as a professor began in the Fall of 1968, when he joined the faculty of the Annenberg School of Communications (later renamed the Annenberg School for Communication) at the University of Pennsylvania. Gross had recently received his Ph.D. in social psychology from Columbia, and his training in the logic of hypothesis testing may have been one source of the conceptual rigor and clarity that are such distinctive features of his work. He moved from social psychology to communication because he wanted to study art, and he believed that a communications program would provide a ← 2 | 3 → more congenial environment for such a pursuit than a department of psychology would. Looking back on this decision some fifteen years later, he wrote the following: “The field of communications, at least as it was represented at the Annenberg School, appeared to offer a framework in which the varieties of symbolic behavior (especially the kinds that we call art) could be studied with a sensitivity to the role of psychological, social, and cultural determinants” (Gross, 1981, 23).

Gross included that reminiscence in his introduction to a memorial edition of the writings of Sol Worth, who had taught at Annenberg for two decades and had provided the initial impetus for the school’s early adoption of visual studies as a field of graduate-level research. Gross has said that his decision to join the Annenberg faculty was motivated to a large extent by Worth’s presence. The two of them became close collaborators in their own scholarly work as well as the mentorship of graduate student research. Their collaboration became the nucleus of an expanding group of students interested in visual communication, and it strengthened the intellectual foundations of visual studies at Annenberg.

Some of the most fruitful discussions between Gross and Worth occurred in the presence of their students, in an informal research seminar that met from time to time in Gross’s apartment. Disagreement was encouraged at those meetings, and the most vehement—but always polite—disagreement invariably occurred between Gross and Worth. For former students who witnessed them, those clashes about ideas between two close friends have served as enduringly inspiring demonstrations of the value of productive argument. Gross has described his discussions with Worth as major influences on his early work. At the time of their first meeting, Worth had completed the fieldwork for a study of films produced by young Navajos who had had minimal previous exposure to Hollywood movies or television (Worth & Adair, 1972). This attention to cultural difference and to non-professional artistic production is present in Gross’s work of that period as well, and it may be one aspect of Worth’s influence. However, what is most noteworthy about Gross’s work at the very beginning of his professional career is its striking originality.

Gross chose to work in the field of communication because he wanted to do research on art. The most significant results of that research are summarized in a pair of articles that he produced in the early 1970s. His first goal in those articles was to craft a basic theory of art (Gross, 1973a). At that time, art theory had still not completely recovered from the antics of such artistic provocateurs as Marcel Duchamp (for example, his well-known submission of a mass-produced urinal to an artistic exhibition) or John Cage (for example, ← 3 | 4 → his musical composition 4’33’’, featuring musicians not playing their instruments for 4 minutes and 33 seconds). Instead of appreciating such actions for what they were—amusing gags that would not have been out of place in a New Yorker cartoon or a Buster Keaton movie—art critics and theorists had been torturing themselves to produce a theory of art that would encompass both Duchamp and da Vinci, both Cage and Bach in a single definition. Mercifully for his readers, Gross’s approach to art was mostly unaffected by such issues. He had little interest in establishing the dividing line between art and non-art, but great interest in the interconnections between art and the rest of life. The central focus of his approach was on the following questions: What is our motivation for experiencing art, and what is the source of that motivation?

In addressing these questions, Gross drew upon his background in psychology, but also on a wide range of material from other fields. On the basis of this prior literature, he argued that what the arts (visual, verbal, musical) have in common is their audiences’ attention (explicit or tacit) to performative competence—the fluent handling of the conventions of a particular medium and genre. In other words, what viewers or listeners or readers get out of the arts as a whole is the appreciation of skill. Gross argued further that this type of appreciation is not limited to experiences that are conventionally thought of as artistic. Rather, it is a fundamental human response to any activity whose effective performance is dependent on practice and/or talent. Our appreciation of a well-drawn sketch or a well-played tune has much in common with our admiration for a well-designed piece of furniture, a well-executed football pass, or, for that matter, a well-solved mathematical problem. In that sense, our interest in the arts may be said to derive from a psychological tendency that serves an obvious utilitarian function in our broader lives.

In certain respects, what Gross was proposing was quite similar to the theories of art that have been popularized in recent years by evolutionary psychologists—in other words, theories that seek to explain art in terms of its potential contributions to evolutionary fitness (Chatterjee, 2014; Dutton, 2008; Voland & Grammer, 2003). However, Gross was writing long before such theories had gained the prominence that they enjoy today and, in fact, long before the emergence of evolutionary psychology as a distinct area of research. In that sense, his approach was remarkably original. It was also highly original in one other, very important way.

Gross’s main focus of interest, throughout his career, has been on visual media. However, in his theoretical work on aesthetics he took a broader view, encompassing the arts as a whole, regardless of their medium of communication. Aesthetic theory has a long tradition of attempts to define the distinctive ← 4 | 5 → characteristics of the various arts, and Gross was certainly aware of this tradition. For example, at the time when he was writing about aesthetics, the reading list of one of his courses included G. E. Lessing’s Laocoön (1962)—originally published in 1766—one of the most prominent analyses of the differences between visual depiction and verbal description. Nevertheless, as has been noted, Gross has typically been interested in similarities more than in differences. In his work on aesthetics, it was that interest in commonalities and connections that led him to his most creative theoretical formulation.

Writing in publications dealing with social policy and with education, Gross put forth an argument (Gross, 1973b) that was essentially an extrapolation from his conception of skillful communication as the central characteristic of artistic activity and aesthetic experience. He began by noting that the skills that are prized in the use of verbal media are commonly thought of as core constituents of intelligence. Traditionally, the measurement of intelligence has focused primarily on verbal skills and on mathematical skills. However, Gross argued, if skills and competence have value regardless of the medium in which they are deployed, then it makes sense to think of intelligence itself as extending beyond words and numbers. At a minimum, he suggested, we should think of five types of intelligence instead of just one or two: lexical, mathematical, musical, iconic, and social-gestural.

Anyone familiar with the psychology of intelligence will immediately realize that what Gross was proposing was very similar to what is now known as the “theory of multiple intelligences.” Today, that theory is a staple of academic discourse about intelligence, and it is also a ubiquitous assumption in educational circles. Much of the credit for the theory’s popularity goes to Howard Gardner, whose 1983 book about the theory has justly been called a “classic.” But Gross’s article on the five types of communicational competence was published half a century ago, and twenty years before Gardner’s book. Why has Gross’s pioneering contribution to this topic seemingly left no mark on the thinking of contemporary scholars?

The person who can best answer that question is Gross himself. For whatever reason, he never followed up on the ground-breaking ideas about aesthetics, skill, and communicational competence that he had articulated in his early theoretical writings. Those writings make it clear that, if he had wanted to, Gross could have become one of the pre-eminent theorists of artistic communication of his generation. He was a highly original thinker, he had a powerful integrative mind, and his erudition was formidable. But, by the end of his first decade as a professor, he had become involved in research whose political implications were more pressing concerns than its theoretical underpinnings. To be sure, he did produce one more major publication ← 5 | 6 → related to his early interests in art and communication. After a heart attack took the life of his colleague and good friend Sol Worth, Gross put together a meticulously curated collection of Worth’s articles and papers (Gross, 1981). Thereafter, Gross’s work can fairly be described as being increasingly focused on the relationships among media, culture, and social issues.

Culture and Power

From the mid-1970s until the late 1980s, the primary focus of Gross’s research was on a series of studies of the content and effects of television fiction. Much of this work was part of the cultural indicators project, a large-scale, federally-funded undertaking that had been initiated by George Gerbner, at that time the Dean of the Annenberg School, and eventually came to include Larry Gross, Michael Morgan, Nancy Signorielli, and James Shanahan as principal investigators. Michael Morgan’s chapter in this volume is an authoritative account of the project’s aims and methods. As Morgan points out, the project’s research approach—which was labeled “cultivation analysis,” because of its focus on the process by which audiences absorb mainstream cultural values from mass media—eventually found its way into some 800 studies published in academic journals, and the project’s theoretical framework has become one of the most-cited theories in the history of mass communication scholarship. What follows here is an attempt to assess the project’s implications for present-day researchers, in light of the changes that the mass media have gone through during the past quarter century.

The cultural indicators project began as a content analysis of violence on television, with funding that George Gerbner received as part of the US Government’s response to the social turmoil of the late 1960s. After Gross became involved in the project and the two researchers began to publish together, the project’s first major report was an article that appeared in the Journal of Communication (Gerbner & Gross, 1976). The article was subtitled “The Violence Profile”—a reference to the fact that it contained an abundance of data about television violence. However, any reader who came to the article expecting a customary treatment of that topic—i.e., an assessment of the relationship between TV violence and real-world violence—would have been disappointed and perhaps even bewildered by the article’s actual approach.


XII, 274
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (June)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XII, 274 pp., 1 b/w ill., 7 coloured ill.

Biographical notes

Paul Messaris (Volume editor) David W. Park (Volume editor)

Paul Messaris (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) is the Lev Kuleshov Emeritus Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication of the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on visual communication and digital media. His book Visual Literacy: Image, Mind, and Reality was the recipient of the National Communication Association’s Diamond Anniversary Book Award. His most recent publication is Digital Media: Transformations in Human Communication, 2nd Ed. (co-edited with Lee Humphreys). David W. Park (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) is a Professor of Communication at Lake Forest College. His scholarship addresses communication history and social theory. His books include: The History of Media and Communication Research (edited with Jefferson Pooley), The International History of Communication Study (edited with Peter Simonson), and Pierre Bourdieu: A Critical Introduction to Media and Communication Theory.


Title: The Inclusive Vision
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