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An Introduction to Visual Communication

From Cave Art to Second Life (2nd edition)


Susan B. Barnes

Technological changes have radically altered the ways in which people use visual images. Since the invention of photography, imagery has increasingly been used for entertainment, journalism, information, medical diagnostics, instruction, branding and communication. These functions move the image beyond aesthetic issues associated with art and into the realm of communication studies.

This introductory textbook introduces students to the terminology of visual literacy, methods for analyzing visual media, and theories on the relationship between visual communication and culture. Exploring the meanings associated with visual symbols and the relationship of visual communication to culture, this book provides students with a better understanding of the visually oriented world in which they live. From cave art to virtual reality, all visual media are discussed with methods for evaluation. Student-friendly features such as boxed topics, key terms, web resources, and suggestions for exercises are provided throughout.


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Part III: Visual Communication in Cultural Contexts


PART III Visual Communication in Cultural Contexts Visual Communication in Cultural Contexts 225 The final section of the book deals with visual technologies and cultural contexts, starting with the new technology of virtual reality and ending with issues that face contemporary culture with the introduction of digital technologies . Included in this section are discussions about advertising and the role of visual media in education . These chapters attempt to place visual media in the contexts in which they are influencing culture today . Over the past 150 years, image technologies have advanced from photography to virtual reality devices . With the invention of photography came the promise of a picture that was more factual than hand produced artwork . A distinction was made between realistic photography and imaginary or interpretive illustrations . However, digital technologies are altering photography’s role as a factual recorder of events . In contrast to photography’s ability to capture historical moments and facts, digital technology can easily make copies of copies and create images of images . Moreover, digital technol- ogy can mix historical and current images together in ways that conflict with more traditional notions of reality . For example, Natalie Cole’s music video Unforgettable has Natalie singing a duet with her deceased father Nat King Cole . Recent television commercials also mix classic film footage with con- temporary actors . These digital techniques make us more aware and self-conscious about the ways in which images are constructed . Digital technologies alter, improve, and combine visual elements together in ways that are not possible in the...

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