In his speech, Bryan Kennedy defines visual literacy as “the ability to construct meaning from images.” In the textbook, International Visual Literacy Association (IVLA) provides a definition complied by Debes, which notes that in visual literacy an individual develops a meaning based on the observed images with the integration of other senses, it adds that a visually literate individual can comprehend images and this way participate in communication with others (Ryan, 2012).
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The definition proposed by Kennedy is rather brief and describes visual literacy generally. At the same time, the definition provided in the textbook by Ryan is much deeper and includes different aspects of visual literacy, such as the role of other senses in visual literacy and how it enables the individuals to communicate with each other and serves as an excellent way of self-expression. Yet, even though the definition gives by Kennedy in the speech is much shorter, it reflects the main point of visual literacy, namely – its function as a constructor of meanings based on the perceived images.
Generally speaking, images do not have a language. People from several different countries may see the same image and comprehend it identically, but this is mainly true for the simpler images, the ones that are common and familiar to everyone, the ones that do not require deeper understanding (Veldes, Vries & Vaicaityte, 2007). Examples of such images are objects such as food items; they are frequently applied in the advertisements of the food industry. Their main purpose is to communicate the quality of food and attract consumers. This way, the same image or advertisement may be launched in a number of different countries and become successful. At the same time, more complex images require intellectual comprehension, and their interpretation often depends on the personal background or way of thinking of the viewer.
While simple images can serve as a universal language for individuals from various parts of the world, complex images are not easy to employ as they have many interpretations and meanings, and communication might turn out unsuccessful. At the same time, complex images put into a certain context of simpler images can be emphasized in a certain way and communicated properly. A good proof of that is silent advertisements of social character.
Due to the process of globalization, the world has become more open for traveling, relocation, migration. As a result, people from different cultures have been thrown into situations where they are to communicate with each other. The contemporary world is in need of a language available for everyone, accessible and easy to learn. Visual literacy could become such a way of communication. This would be a great addition to English as an international language, and it would require much less time to learn as images are easy to employ and are familiar to the vast majority of people. Besides, visual images are gaining popularity in the contemporary world.
For example, they are regularly employed in education carried by a variety of different media (Sims, O’Leary, Cook & Butland, 2002). Compared to earlier, text-based teaching materials, the contemporary visual presentations can carry more information in briefer forms, express emotions apart from dry facts, and be generally more useful as means of communication of information. In the contemporary world, where information and speed are two of the most valued variables, visual images, and the carriers of knowledge and meanings are extremely useful and can significantly change the way we communicate.
Ryan, W. (2012). Visual literacy: Learning to see. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Web.
Sims, E., O’Leary, R., Cook, J., & Butland, G. (2002). Visual Literacy: What is it and do we need it to use learning technologies effectively? Web.
Veldes, T., Vries, S., & Vaicaityte, L. (2007). Visual Literacy and Visual Communication for Global Education. Web.