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Edited by C.A. DeCoursey and Dean A.F. Gui

In a world where work is becoming more distributed and virtual, and learning and gaming communities have become more complex, teachers, instructional designers and educational researchers from across the globe are examining virtual environments as discursive environments. The authors of this volume respond to these paradigm shifts, engineering new meanings in the workplace, higher education, organisations, psychology, hegemonies, and video games; where learners critically self-reflect and experience the world in transformative ways. Overall, this volume explores innovative design frameworks and learning activities, allowing readers to consider experiential learning through quantitative, inductive, qualitative and instructional analysis and methodology.

Ida Jooste

The trend for data driven journalism has spawned a host of information visualization styles – some for broad news consumption. Rapid developments in data visualization and digital content creation have democratized and popularized this field. In Kenya, newsrooms are adopting infographics as a mode of information dissemination. Findings from an exploratory audience reception study of graphic literacy provide groundbreaking feedback about style aspects that aid audience recall and comprehension. The implications of this study will be useful for journalists and designers. They will also contribute to the field of visualization and media studies. To compare a sample audience’s ability to retain information presented in textual vs. infographic formats (the same facts were presented in different formats), a questionnaire was administered to forty nine respondents, stratified to represent Nairobi’s print news consumer demographics. Findings indicate the same level of retention for the two formats. Semi-structured interviews conducted with a further 35 respondents to test comprehension, preference and the perceived utility of three distinct visualization styles (a news infographic with human figures as representational pictographs, a bar graph and a bubble chart – all visualizations of demographic information) showed mixed results. Very few interviewees understood or found any utility in the bubble chart, a graph format designed to compare relationships between data objects in three numeric-data dimensions. A social desirability bias was detected in a number of participants who said they liked the bar graph most, because it appeared credible and “scientific”; when tested, many did not appear to comprehend its contents. The pictorial infographic elicited the most interest; respondents drew inferences from the facts presented – a desirable outcome for news producers who seek to engage their audiences. This study is a reminder that it only makes sense to create visualizations if they are comprehended as intended.

Esthir Lemi

Based on how the structure of music is connected to myth, this chapter presents the way visual thinking shapes particular schemata that can be detected in various 20th century artistic endeavours, and the evolution of contemporary artworks involving immersion, embodied performance and trans-disciplinary art. These complicated structures, referred to in Romanticism as total artworks, cultivate audience perception. Using the work of Samuel Beckett in the same way as phenomenology came to be understood, the author will attempt to show how art evolves creating new boundaries and inter-connections. A musicological approach is considered apt in presenting the connectivity between music composition and visual thinking. The end of tonality in music and the beginning of more complex presentations lead to music interfering with and depending more on other art-forms, producing a new generation of music readers who can follow abstract structures in multiple ways. Focusing on visual metaphor and the revealing basic structures as laid down in the scores of music composition, we can see the similarities between an aleatoric score and Beckett’s work. This point of view is relevant for the cultivation of senses in contemporary interdisciplinary, experiential performances that involve interaction and go beyond the performance to affect everyday perception.

Tanja Sakota-Kokot

The last century seems to be categorized by a world striving for peace but riddled with conflict on every continent right from the Russian Revolution at the beginning of the century to the Gulf, Rwandan and Chechnyan wars at the end of the century. The new millennium does not seem to offer any solution as conflict continued with the September 11 attacks initiating the ‘War on Terror’ in 2001 and 2002. We all know that ‘bad news sells’ and one institution in particular, the media, has thrived as a result. Fiction film, one of the segments that forms part of the media has been particularly successful in its representation of conflict. This study aims to examine how the ‘War on Terror’ features within a typically Hollywood fiction narrative, with particular reference to how the protagonist is shaped as a means to find a resolution. The discussion will examine how the cultural, political and social contexts are constructed in order to perpetuate a particular vision of the world, the ‘War on Terror’ and the representation of different ethnic groups. Drawing on the principals of the Classic 3-Act structure and the confinements associated with linear storytelling, this paper will examine how the fiction film The Kingdom draws on actual events in order to legitimize its story and characters and comment on minority groups. The discussion will demonstrate how actual events are also used to sustain the authenticity and political message of the essentially fictional narrative. Through an analysis of The Kingdom, the paper will argue that due to its global appeal, such a Hollywood film remains problematically influential and persuasive in its political message and outlook. Due to the cause-effect nature of the Hollywood narrative, the discussion will interrogate how the film comments on the actual world, whilst being confined to the characteristics that govern its structure and outcome.

Bob Dahm

Visual communication is a global activity and often demands using visual language that will be understood across cultures. Lack of place specificity is often considered a desirable trait in design. But the trend toward visual globalization can have the disadvantage of taking students away from the visual language they are familiar with, leaving them, visually, speechless. This often results in appropriation of only partly understood signs, symbols and images, resulting in problematic visual communication. In effect, not only do we ask students to use a verbal language, English, that may be their second or third one, but we sometimes also ask students to use a visual language that derives little from their own visual experience. If we apprehend the world primarily visually as Arnheim argues, the ability to use one’s personal visual vocabulary is necessary for effective visual communication. The chapter will discuss the development of locally based narratives in animation, film, and graphic novels in the context of teaching in the UAE. In visual narrative courses at my college students make use of locally sourced texts and visual information. Once the subject matter is grounded in a locale familiar to students, appropriation from other cultures becomes less of a factor in the classroom. Students take a variety of approaches; some narratives are illustrated texts, while others begin with visual information around which a narrative is formed. A few students have created visual narratives without words, similar to Franz Masereel’s ‘novels without words’. The course Visual Narrative has taken advantage of the university’s Writing Center and creative writing faculty during the story development phase. The chapter will argue that courses which emphasize local narratives and historical or fictional traditional stories can play a small part in transforming the region from content consumer into a net content creator.

Dena Gilby

Given that art objects do not cease to ‘live’ once their original contexts (cultural, historical and even physical) do, the employment of new theories of visual literacy to old works can yield nuanced interpretations that resuscitate history. Such is the case with John Vanderlyn’s (1775-1852) The Jane McCrea. By drawing on multiple disciplines—including sociology and psychology—one learns key facts not only about Vanderlyn’s aesthetic ambitions, but also about the political ideology and sexual politics of Republican Era America that illuminate psychological anxieties underlying the Anglo Republican male’s place in the Post-Revolutionary world.

Tenna Doktor Olsen Tvedebrink, Anna Marie Fisker and Hans Ramsgaard Møller

According to James Elkin visual literacy is interpreted as material representations, which communicate knowledge and create insight through their visual appearance. Based on the EU Cultural Heritage project REcall, we argue that visual literacy can also relate to interdisciplinary knowledge rooted in architectural environments. The project REcall seeks to formulate a new role of the architectural environment based on invigorated research on the cultural landscapes of WWI and WWII. Based on interdisciplinary workshops employing creative approaches and tools, artists, architects, museologists, and archeologists question the role of architectural environments when dealing with war heritage. Today, there are still traces left from WWII in the European architectural environments, traces that by visual literacy represent unpleasant memories. However, these visual literacies have shaped our environment, yet, slowly the collective memories are fading as the physical signs vanish. As time moves on visual literacies become merely fictive if nothing is done to preserve them, but what knowledge should be told? Our thesis is that there is a link between war memories and cultural identity. The present chapter tackles the difficult war heritage, and explores how we can use visual literacy to move beyond the critical local context into general constructs, and, further, how visual literacy is connected to the visual thinking. On the background of the REcall Venice and REcall Falstad projects, we advocate that new actions recalling the visual literacies might prevent knowledge from being forgotten. In order to communicate meaningful knowledge about the past with caution and decency, we explore how this recalling is based on the practical interdisciplinary process of historicization using the visual literacies rooted in the architectural environment to interpret and reconstruct history, facts, form and fiction. A curriculum design across disciplines connected to and through visual literacy.

Hans Alma

The central question in this article is how visual literacy relates to capacities people need to participate in ‘modern social imaginaries’. According to James Elkins an important field visual literacy addresses is that of politics, social construction and identity. Elkins assumes that our sense of self, both individually and collectively, is made and remade in and through the visual, and he stresses that people need visual literacy to think and act responsibly in contemporary late capitalist culture. This view makes visual literacy of crucial importance in thinking about late modern social imaginaries. To elaborate this line of thought, I focus on the work of three important thinkers: Charles Taylor’s view on social imaginaries, John Dewey’s view on (moral) imagination and Arjun Appadurai’s view on the imagination as a social practice. I will shortly discuss these views before relating them to visual literacy in the face of global challenges. It will be argued that Taylor leaves little room for critical awareness of social imaginaries, whereas Dewey points to the possibility of appraisal and change through the imagination. To evaluate the capacities people need to participate in modern social imaginaries, it is fruitful to think of the imagination in terms of a space of contestation, strongly influenced by ‘mediascapes’ (Appadurai). The impact of modern media on our culture is evaluated in both positive and negative ways. What seems to be needed to participate in modern social imaginaries is visual literacy, seen as the capacity to navigate and negotiate a social sphere or even arena where images have their hold on us both on conscious and unconscious levels. Relating visual literacy to the field of social imaginaries gives it a critical role in being able to participate responsibly in the face of global challenges.