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RE: [xmca] Fwd: Visual literacy?

Such as sculpture? 

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu]
On Behalf Of Andy Blunden
Sent: Monday, December 21, 2009 6:03 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Fwd: Visual literacy?

I'm not convinced by your critique of the broader use of the 
term "literacy", Jay (though I've learnt two new words 
today: adiabatic and agnatic, so I have to thank you for 
enhancing my literacy nonetheless). Do we want to ban the 
extension of meaning by metaphor, just because we think the 
metaphor is not perfect? :) What if you expand semiotics and 
sign use to artefacts in our maleable definition of literacy?


Jay Lemke wrote:
> Well, I just reformatted the subject line to the main topic, I think. 
> But in such a way that the archives will still put it with the earlier

> posts, I hope.
> I was asked to do a talk about how the concept of literacy has
> and thought it through, but never actually did the talk. It was 
> requested by some progressive people who found themselves in
> with some more conservative types who thought of literacy as only 
> reading verbal text linguistically (if that), with maybe writing as an

> afterthought.
> I long ago concluded that you can't reasonably define literacy as 
> anything other than the use of semiotic resources in meaning-making.
> attempts to narrow, except for historical purposes in matters of
> just don't wash for me intellectually. So math literacy and visual 
> literacy are, along with text literacy, just different pieces of the 
> same pie, as anyone reading or writing a technical document or 
> scientific article will tell you. Indeed it is often really hard to 
> separate the three semiotic resource systems involved, so much so that
> became convinced that (a) they have common historical origins and 
> ontogenetic precursors, and (b) they really form a single functional 
> system, even if you can sometimes tease them apart with formal 
> analytical methods.
> That implies of course that TEACHING them separately is not a good 
> strategy. And if we turn to face-to-face communication, then gesture
> posture and meaning-communicating movement belong similarly with
> as one functional system, something that some researchers in
> communication more or less realized long ago.
> Now "health literacy" as Mike implied, would seem to be a more 
> metaphorical usage. It really means basic knowledge about human
> and it is about content, not means of making meaning. About a
> kind of meaning made. On this model we could have railroad literacy,
> And that means that terms like text literacy, visual literacy, and
> literacy wind up with double meanings. Knowledge of literature and
>  other genres; knowledge of art works and history, knowledge of 
> mathematical theorems, etc. Except that in the semiotics of these 
> literacies, a lot of that knowledge can also be mobilized as 
> intertextual resources, which are a special kind of semiotic resource.
> Bodies of knowledge, however, do not form semiotic resource SYSTEMS in

> themselves. They don't have the characteristic paradigmatic and
> organization, nor the realization and instantiation relations, etc.
> can't organize them into minimal contrast pairs. You can however
> their elements as semiotic units, eg. in quotations.
> So knowledge literacies can be deployed with and within genuine
> literacies, and while there may be only one all-modes Semiotic
> at least in functional terms, there are certainly a large number of 
> rather distinct knowledge literacies, however fuzzy the boundaries.
> makes a knowledge literacy useful, or necessary, is just the fact that

> you can't substitute another one for it in its primary domains of use.
> Once upon a time, to be literate or "lettered" meant to be educated or

> knowledgeable, in general. And the term may just be trying to get back

> home.
> JAY.
>> Mike, you write:
>> "I managed a D+ in my one obligatory art producing class in college
>> work later exhibited, by some really odd
>> error, in a show of student art which makes one wonder at the 
>> judgments involved on either side of the
>> process!). I am a hopeless plastic arts producer. But not entirely 
>> illiterate as a reader, finder of meanings."
>> It's fair enough to argue that reading and writing are not equivalent

>> forms of literacy. But in this crazy multimodal culture of ours,
>> reading and writing both require adeptness with design proficiencies 
>> (remember that even the text we read on the screen is a digital 
>> product--the 'translation' of code into a specifically designed
>> format that we can interpret), what we call "visual literacy" is 
>> increasingly an essential component of BOTH reading and writing. 
>> Visual literacy goes far beyond what we learned in art class--the 
>> color wheel and all that.
>> In fact, it seems a little strange to link visual literacy to 
>> museumgoing. I bombed art class right along with the best of them,
>> success in art class still wouldn't have prepared me to engage in the

>> sorts of communications platforms that have become the most 
>> significant message delivery systems. Indeed, design and visual 
>> literacy (or whatever you want to call them) skills are so embedded
>> communication platforms that I find myself making design decisions 
>> without a thought (as when I re-formatted the chunk I quoted from the

>> previous email in this thread, because when I pasted it in the line 
>> breaks got all funky--distracting for the reader!). I don't know if 
>> the fact that visual literacy (or whatever you want to call it) is 
>> embedded within reading and writing literacy practices strengthens or

>> weaken the case for calling it a form of literacy; I only know that 
>> it's both important and different enough from reading and writing 
>> skills to deserve its own label, if only so we know how to talk about
>> visually,
>> jenna
>> ~~
>> Jenna McWilliams
>> Learning Sciences Program, Indiana University
>> ~
>> http://jennamcwilliams.blogspot.com
>> http://remediatingassessment.blogspot.com
>> ~
>> jenmcwil@indiana.edu
>> jennamcjenna@gmail.com
>> On Dec 21, 2009, at 7:06 PM, mike cole wrote:
>>> The addition of production to definitions of literacy is always a 
>>> good move
>>> in my view, Jay. Reading is not equivalent to writing. In the case
>>> visual
>>> literacy and museum art, it seems like what is being referred to is
>>> reading half. At least i hope so. I managed a D+ in my one
>>> art
>>> producing class in college (a work later exhibited, by some really
>>> error, in a show of student art which makes one wonder at the
>>> involved on either side of the
>>> process!). I am a hopeless plastic arts producer. But not entirely
>>> illiterate as a reader, finder of meanings.
>>> There is, a few blocks from you apartment, a show at the SD Museum
>>> Contemporary Art by Tera Donavan. I think you will find it as 
>>> fascinating as
>>> I did. I plan to take the family during their visit. Donovan take 
>>> everyday
>>> objects (tar paper, straws, cups, and more) and creates
>>> with
>>> thousand of only one object aggregated in the most fantastic ways.
>>> states her goal as wanting to explore the properties of objects
seens as
>>> parts of very large populations rather than as individual objects.
>>> effects she achieves are mind boggling with the play of light and 
>>> texture
>>> over surface sufficient to reorder our perceptions in ways we could 
>>> never
>>> anticipate.Again, art as tertiary artifact, re-admired.
>>> Since you have written more on time scales, I'll stay away from the 
>>> topic in
>>> general; we have agreed too often here to warrant repitition.
>>> But quite specifically, our work in creating the "Fifth Dimension" 
>>> was to be
>>> able to study changes in a pre-pared system of activity over a long
>>> period (from inception to death) at several scales of time. The idea
>>> part of our interest in the failure of "successful" educational 
>>> innovations
>>> to be sustained-- how did they die and why and how did their 
>>> implementers
>>> enter in to and respond to the process. Still wrestling with 
>>> analysis-- lots
>>> of 5thD's were born and died but others keep being born. Some are, 
>>> today,
>>> strikingly like their originals in the 1980's, others have morphed
>>> that
>>> only a few features remain. The children participants, who are
>>> impossible to track over time are now adults -- i sometime encounter

>>> one at
>>> ucsd. The college participants are parents I sometimes hear from.
>>> recorded in their fieldnotes written at the time. I have some money 
>>> salted
>>> away so that "when it dies" (or if i can manage to retire before 
>>> doing so
>>> myself) I will have the full range of instances documented and a lot

>>> of the
>>> data in digital form,
>>> so that I can look at that object from both ends of its history. A
>>> preliminary report is in the book, *The Fifth Dimension*.
>>> As to LCHC, that is another matter. It seems to me a certainty that 
>>> it will
>>> die. It had a near-death experience a couple of years ago. As a way 
>>> of at
>>> least marking its passing, a number of former and current members of

>>> the lab
>>> are in the process of creating a book that traces its origins and
>>> many
>>> offspring it has generated. THAT collective narrative I hope to live

>>> long
>>> enough to see come into being.
>>> Now if Yuan or anyone would like to see LCHC live, proposals for how
>>> arrange that would of course be seriously entertained, and perhaps
>>> even entertaining! I thought I saw a nibble at collaboration on 
>>> making XMCA
>>> a more powerful medium the other day, but it turned out to be a  
>>> mirage. So
>>> for now, we keep on keeping on.
>>> mike
>>> On Mon, Dec 21, 2009 at 12:07 PM, Jay Lemke <jaylemke@umich.edu>
>>>> Thanks for the link, Mike. Was nice to see someone in the mass
>>>> affiliated with a newspaper no less, arguing for critical visual 
>>>> literacy to
>>>> protect us from advertising!
>>>> Of course that is an old idea in visual education circles, and it 
>>>> can build
>>>> on the widespread folk-skepticism toward advertising. Unfortunately

>>>> the more
>>>> pernicious effects in ads are probably at subtler levels than what 
>>>> basic
>>>> visual literacy skills can foreground.
>>>> "The ability to find meaning in images" is the definition of visual
>>>> literacy used. That seems a little too basic. I think everyone
>>>> meaning
>>>> in images, with or without any literacy education. Maybe there is
>>>> implied
>>>> emphasis on FIND, in the sense of digging below the
>>>> which
>>>> would be better. But more recent ideas in the field put more 
>>>> emphasis on
>>>> visual production relative to interpretation, so I'd probably go
with a
>>>> definition more like "the skills of making meaning with visual 
>>>> resources,
>>>> for your own purposes", and include in that the meaning-making we
>>>> with
>>>> others' images by way of interpretation, critique, etc.
>>>> Have you ever noticed that when anyone, docent, tourguide, or just
>>>> speaks authoritatively about a painting in a museum, that many 
>>>> bystanders
>>>> seem to become interested in listening? People generally seem to 
>>>> believe
>>>> that art images, at least, require some professional interpretation
>>>> benefit from having specialist knowledge (esp. historical). People 
>>>> also seem
>>>> to enjoy visual interpretation more than textual. Textual 
>>>> interpretation is
>>>> seen as superfluous, even obstructing to enjoyment of the work. No
>>>> really reads literary criticism, or book reviews beyond the "it's
>>>> part. But people are fascinated by the exegesis of visual works.
>>>> is one
>>>> basis for the popularity of the DaVinci Code and similar popular
>>>> And there is not a word about visual interpretation skills in our 
>>>> standard
>>>> curricula (meaning as practiced in schools, there are some nods in
>>>> official standards).
>>>> JAY.
>>>> Jay Lemke
>>>> Professor (Adjunct, 2009-2010)
>>>> Educational Studies
>>>> University of Michigan
>>>> Ann Arbor, MI 48109
>>>> www.umich.edu/~jaylemke <http://www.umich.edu/%7Ejaylemke>
>>>> Visiting Scholar
>>>> Laboratory for Comparative Human Communication
>>>> University of California -- San Diego
>>>> La Jolla, CA
>>>> USA 92093
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Andy Blunden http://home.mira.net/~andy/ +61 3 9380 9435 
Skype andy.blunden
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