Friday, December 9, 2016

Reflecting on Visual Literacy

I can't believe it's already the end of the semester; finals are next week! For Visual Literacy, I have been asked to look back at what I wrote about visual literacy at the beginning of the course and reflect on what I have learned.

In my initial post, I centered my focus around visual symbols. I included photos of symbols in my life, such as the drawing I was using to do mathematics in my problem solving class and the Maps app I use almost every time I get in my car.

Reading my initial post is a little uncomfortable; my words lack personality, and my inexperience and narrow understanding of visual literacy shine through now that I am more educated. By only focusing on things I defined as visual symbols, I missed an opportunity to think more deeply about how visuals -literally all of the things that I see and perceive with my eyes- affect my daily life. 

I have learned that visuals are ALL AROUND us. Without recognizing this, we allow what we see to subconsciously influence us. All it takes is a moment to stop and think about what we're viewing to glean so much more from the visual itself. Here are some visuals I see everyday that I hadn't purposefully stopped to think about until enrolling in Visual Literacy. 

Through Visual Literacy, I have learned not only how to recognize visuals, but also how to think critically about those visuals. The course truly opened my eyes (as reflected in my aha! journals) to the visuals that are around me. Sometimes those visuals are not even intended to convey meaning, but they do anyway! Take, for example, my messy shelf. (Take a moment to really look at it and think about what's there before reading my comments below.)

You could pull any number of things from this image and use it to more critically analyze my life. First, we see that the desk is cluttered; I'll acknowledge it. (It's getting tidied after I finish my finals next week.) What does that tell you about me? Perhaps you're thinking that I am just a messy person. Perhaps I am too busy to clean up after myself. Maybe this is my visual to-do list; all of the projects I need to complete are confined to one shelf for easy access. On the other hand, if you look closer, there is some organization to this photo. Look at my shoes in the bottom left hand corner; they are paired and carefully arranged by frequency of wear. I have a multitude of bins organizing my purses, extra personal care items, craft supplies, and more. That blue piece of paper is a typed to-do list of things I need to do as an RA before I leave for winter break. Looking beyond the obvious catastrophe, a different side of me shines through. In reality, I am usually a very organized person!

In Visual Literacy, I have learned not only to look deeper into images, but also think about the creator's intentions behind the visuals. My shelf is not something that I intended would give off a message about me, and yet, it does. However, the door to my room is something I put time into. What have you learned about me from my bedroom door?

There is some obvious text information here. My door says "Resident Assistant," and my door decs say "RA Anna," so it's clear that I hold that role (in Rider Hall this year). But if I am purposefully advertising my job title, what do I want you to know as a viewer? I want you to know that I have been trained in how to respond to situations, emergency or otherwise, and that you can come to me with any of your problems or concerns. I want you to know that I am here for you always, but if I'm not physically in my space, you'll be able to see where I'm at (by my weekly class schedule to the left or the pin on my doorboard indicating if I'm out of town, in class, or around the hall) and can either find me or send me an email. I want you to know that I care about you as a whole being, not only your academic and social lives but your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc. wellbeing. There is so much to the RA role that I could write a completely separate post about it, but these are some messages that I use my bedroom door to communicate to those who walk by.

Through Visual Literacy this semester, I have begun to explore the true power of visuals. We started small; we looked at dots, lines, color, shape, texture, white space, contrast. We combined these elements into broader concepts, such as aesthetics and creativity. Over the course of the semester, our focus only extended as we combined all of these ideas to reflect on larger projects, like movies and the presidential campaign that ended this November. We even created our own project intended to save the world and presented it in our Save the World Conference. Everything from the simplest black squares to multi-year campaigns such as Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty has the potential to impact the viewer's emotions, thoughts, ideals, behaviors, etc. 

Because we are so deeply impacted by visuals, our exploration this semester resulted in my conclusion that we cannot trap ourselves in accepting everything we see at face value. We must take the time to not only appreciate the visual, but also understand it. What is the purpose of the visual? What did the creator intend to convey (through various elements, such as font choice, color, size, and even location of the visual)? How do these elements all work together to propagate a broader message? How does your own personal frame of reference and experience color how you view this visual; may someone else interpret it in a different way? These are all things we need to think about as we move through life. 

I am no expert. My journey to practice critical thinking through visual literacy is only beginning. However, I feel that I now have the necessary insights and tools needed to continue analyzing and appreciating my visual world.

This blog is about me as an educator, so of course, throughout this reflection I have been thinking about how Visual Literacy will impact me as a teacher. What I have learned in this class goes beyond teaching my students how to interpret the charts, diagrams, and graphs they will see in their textbooks. Truly phenomenal educators are those that teach their students the content and skills they will need in the world outside of the classroom (and that includes explicitly telling students why they need to know and practice these things). I intend to incorporate visual literacy into my teaching by helping my students understand how and why they need to critically analyze the world around them. I hope that they will come to the realizations I have, such as the power of visuals and their ability to influence us subconsciously. 

What other messages were you able to glean from critically analyzing my shelf, door, and other visuals in this post? Have you learned other lessons through my past postings on visual literacy that you think I should have included here? Please post your thoughts in the comments!

PS - Thank you for reading about my visual literacy journey through these blog posts!

1 comment:

  1. Good post, Anna. Even without organized shoes, you can tell that it is a girl desk just by looking at the color scheme. The clutter on a desk shows that you are busy, but everything else is extremely well organized, your shelfs are not messy, they are just full - your whole work space supports my observations of you (Yes, it is positive :-) ). Good luck to you Anna, it was pleasure to work with you over the years!