The Future Of Visual Culture And Visual Studies
It seems clear that visual culture is not about to disappear but, rather, with the growing perception that visuality is one of the profound operators of our times and therefore a site of the twenty-first century's most important questions, we may expect critical approaches to visual culture to develop quite rapidly and with tremendous diversity. The American theorist Lisa Cartwright has written about medical imaging and its sociocultural implications in Screening the Body: Tracing Medicine's Visual Culture. The legal scholars Kimberle Williams Crenshaw and Garry Peller have written on the evidentiary character of amateur video and the way in which racist, state, and aesthetic ideologies overcode the image. Writers from Raymond Williams to Lynn Spigel have analyzed television's reorganization of social space. Linda Williams considers pornography to be of central importance. Political scientist Armand Mattelart and sociologist Manuel Castells discuss the manner in which media and information flows are linked to the movement of capital and the restructuring of imaginary and built environments. Still others (such as the philosopher Douglas Kellner) have written on the connections between commercial television, ideology, and the waging of war. The theorist and artist Lev Manovich has written on the possibilities and implications of digital cinema, and Cubitt has broached the questions of digital aesthetics with tremendous insight and erudition. The media theorist Lisa Parks has written on "satellite and cyber visualities."
Looking toward the future and toward possible forms of the institutionalization of what he pointedly calls visual studies, the art historian James Elkins suggests that visual literacy courses should include history of Western art and mass media, but also an understanding and analysis of multicultural as well as multidisciplinary image making processes, including non-Western aesthetic productions, and scientific and satellite imaging. This author's view is that visual studies will amount to little more than an accommodation to shifting conditions of domination and the intensification of global inequality unless it is also imbued with the commitment to demonstrate both the preconditions for the production of images as well as the consequences of different modes of reception of these images.
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