The Turn to the Visual

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The Turn to the Visual

I begin this section on creativity with discussions around the visual because creativity has long been associated with a certain mysterious, talismanic aura; the ‘rare gift’ of artistic visual interpretation or a special aptitude for commercial visual or conceptual innovation.

Now that digitization has to some extent democratized and demystified image-making production and publishing processes, it has become necessary for the meaning of creativity to widen its application which in turn has implications for the visual. What might have been regarded as “frenzied pixilation” (Jewitt, 2008: 6, drawing on Bauman 1998 & Castells 2001) a decade ago is now a normal aspect of everyday digital living for some social groups, if only in the ubiquitous use of mobile phone image-making, -editing and -distribution.  However let us inform this societal swing with the insight of Mitchell (2005) who offers a historical perspective on ‘the visual turn’ or more pertinently ‘the audiovisual turn’ which:

“can be more usefully understood as a repeated narrative that marks ‘specific moments when a new medium, a technical invention, or a cultural practice erupts in symptoms of panic or euphoria (usually both) about the visual’” (Jewitt 2008:11, drawing on Mitchell, 2002:173)

Polarized debates around the educational uses and abuses of computer games illustrate how the visual can be alternately wielded as the dumbing-down pariah of non-linguistic communication or the panacea “rescuing education from anachronism” (ibid 2008:12). Despite the contested nature of this terrain, schools have an obligation to recognize that literacy and symbolic forms of representation have now moved beyond those narrowly bound up with individual linguistic accomplishment: “the time for that habitual conjunction of ‘language and learning’ is over.” (Jewitt, 2008:6) heralding the need to move towards a multimodal and social approach to literacy.

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