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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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Chapter 10: Television


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In the United States, television is a widespread and influential visual medium. Films are primarily viewed on television sets, and most people receive their news from the television, rather than the newspaper. Additionally, the introduction of cable and satellite television networks, and the Internet, has increased the variety of programs available to viewers. For example, MTV, the music video channel, has become a popular station and has influenced video editing techniques. Similarly, CNN, the Cable News Network, has influenced global television news reporting. Moreover, the Internet enables people to watch broadcast television and cable series whenever they want to on digital devices.

Competition between network television news departments has encouraged the creation of staged media events to visually capture the public’s attention. For example, in the 1960s, election campaigns became a battle to control the pictures that would play on the evening news. As a result, political candidates have become image conscious, and they carefully manage their media appearances. Additionally, candidates often announce their running plans on YouTube, which is then broadcast on television. Today, the entire process of political conventions is staged for television viewing audiences. The increased reliance on television images to capture a viewer’s attention has influenced other media and contributed to the visual orientation of American culture.

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