Visual Culture and Everyday Life
Everyday experience in a city involves navigating and decoding
multiple kinds of visual codes and signs. We read visual information
in many contexts and have learned how to code-switch among all the
genres and visual content.
Everything from street plans, building designs, and the look of
different neighborhoods to messages in advertising, logo design,
the look and design of cars and all vehicles, and the styles of
clothing and everyone's "look" convey cultural messages.
Cruciform layout for a shopping mall, Rochester, NY
Cancelled "Pepsi Wave" ad, Jan. 2005
Calvin Klein Jeans billboard, Houston St., NY, Jan. 2005
Matrix Reloaded, Trinity and "bullet
Santiago Calatrava, Design for World Trade Center train
Foxnews.com, screen capture, Jan. 25, 2005
Most of our visual language is channeled through media--newspapers,
magazines, television, video, film, computer screens and software
interfaces, Web and Internet visual content.
The totality of media forms and all their relationships at any
given cultural moment was termed "the mediasphere" by
Regis Debray. The mediasphere represents the intersecting nodes
of all our circulating visual information.
Points to consider:
- Mass culture and code-switching
- Many elements of our visual mediasphere are consumer-culture
driven: the dominance of advertising, marketing, brand image.
- Viewers are constructed in the subject position of "consumer"
serves not so much to advertise products as to promote consumption
as a way of life." (Christopher
- Cases studies: shopping malls (see Shopping
Mall Studies site)
The "visual cultural of everyday life" in today's cities
can be described by updating Benjamin's notion of the detached observer
of modern city life, the flâneur, who takes it all
in but doesn't get absorbed din the crowd. (See description,
a part of Benjamin's "arcades
Make an inventory of culturally significant visual content and
the genres and codes they belong to.