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Visual Culture

The Visual Turn

While it is arguable that this visual turn is indeed the metaevent that might show the deep interrelationships and common logic of the other periodizing categories mentioned above, it is true that the conditions of possibility for the emergence of the idea of visual culture were a long time in the making. As noted, culture always and necessarily has had a visual component. However, the shift in emphasis toward an increasing importance of the visible (and its manipulation) is due principally to two related factors: the organization of economies and societies with and by images and the related hyper-development and intensification of visual technologies. Of course, this claim raises more questions than it answers. Image technologies from photography to cinema, television, and computerization are more and more deeply woven into the very fabric of reality. Such interweaving is imbricated to the point where the function of images has become inseparable from any consideration of what might be called the contemporary human condition, including the situation of other categories of analysis central to the humanities including race, class, nation, gender, and sexuality. What might be thought of as an industrialization of the visible is not, strictly speaking, a natural emergence, any more than it is natural that there be skyscrapers or music television. Rather, the visual turn is the contingent result of a matrix of historical and economic forces. In particular (and this is an argument, not a mere statement of fact), the rise of visual culture is a response to the need to efficiently organize and manage huge populations composed of disparate cultures and/or races, in multiple locations and with varying degrees of economic power in what has become the capitalist world-system. The emergence of visual culture is the historical answer to a complex set of organization questions posed at the scale of the human species.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Verbena Family (Verbenaceae) - Tropical Hardwoods In The Verbena Family to WelfarismVisual Culture - The Visual Turn, Visuality, Historical Emergence Of The Field Of Vision As A Site Of Power And Social Control