21.3 Visual Literacy

Bournemouth 054ARCLIB 2015 Conference. Presenter – Georgina Dimmock

Georgina began by examining what Visual Literacy is – the critical decoding of visual messages and encoding of images to communicate effectively with others. We encode and produce our own diagrams, images & films. Classic simplified images like the London Tube map help us to understand things better.

Visual literacy is of growing importance in a now visual world. Children need to be prepared – they can unconsciously recognise simple images like Mickey Mouse by the age of one. They can be aided to understand text better and ultimately improve their employability. Librarians and Educationalists have a role in this, a field previously studied under the aegis of Art and Design. Librarians deal with Information, which is simply arranging things/facts in a sequence. Traditionally this was mainly with text, but the use of images and symbols and their meaning is increasing.

We need to be cBournemouth 067ritical of visual data; the media, especially, use pictures which are not always what they purport to be; for example, IS smashing ancient artefacts, and a newspaper photo of 50,000 anti-austerity protestors in London, 2014 was actually taken in 2011. Tracing pictures to their source is often more difficult than with text.

Georgina pointed out that online BBC News now provides less text about events (unless you request it under read more), but presents instead more images and short video clips. However, text can present arguments more effectively. Different professions have different attitudes to visual literacy – Georgina cited an interesting 2010 IVLA conference she attended which helped her realise this. She ended by encouraging Librarians to be more involved with images, not just text, and explained current course developments at Northampton University.

Review and photographs by Norman Ashfield



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