Articles, Blog


September 29, 2019

friends today we are going to talk about the world of visual culture all these while we
have been briefly mentioning about visuals in one way or the other we have talked about
the significance of ah visuals in the context of presentations we have talked about ah the
relevance of multimedia as well but we are going back to all that again today in this
particular context because it is perhaps very very important to delve deep into the subject
of visual culture why is it that we have making use of visuals today to such a significant
extent now if we have to answer this question probably we need to look a little deeper into
how technology has changed how our world has changed how we look at the world how we experience
the world and understanding these things will definitely go a long way in developing sensitivity
to the use of visuals so in todays talk our focus will be on after the introduction the
relevance of visual culture changing role of visuals in our culture the key features
of visual culture that would be relevant in the context of soft skills ah followed by
the references so here we go now i will be talking this figures again and again but ah
if you look at this figures ah this particular figure you have find that ah certain things
look convex and certain things look concave to us ok now the point is that if we ask this
question why is that such a thing happens probably it will not be very easy to answer
this question easily because obviously the object that’s ah object that you saw were
neither convex nor concave they were on a plain surface they were photographs or the
objects that you saw was inside a photograph on a plain surface so why is it that we experience
this kind of a thing this is one dimension of visuals
here is another example of another image the first one on the left hand side is a chinese
script which we read from the top to the bottom and the other one is an Arabic script which
we read from left to the right what are the implications of the way we read things on
the way we look at things now this becomes very relevant in the context of advertising
because this will lets you what is known as scanning bias how we scan objects in which
direction by move how do we move from one side to the other side or from top to the
bottom how does that relate to the way we experience meanings of things when that link
to one another this is something which we will highlight when we look at the relationship
of images texts and music the overall which will be dealing with in the next few classes
but these are also relevant if you are looking at ah this image you find that ah ah it is
not a square frame but ah within a circle now what is the significance of a circular
frame as opposed to a square or rectangular frame what is a frame for that matter what
function does it play because framing is something within which we start looking the moment we
have a frame we tend to look within the frame rather than outside the frame when we break
a frame what happens you are looking at me through a computer monitor right now you are
looking at me through a oval or a circular frame what do this things really mean if you
looking at this particular image you can see you can experience distance things moving
away how do it is happening on a flat surface how do we perceive distance this is another
intriguing question which would be asking yourselves or the concept of illusion where
or a paradox for that matter where relationship between inside and outside is confused if
at some point of time this is the foreground and this clouds are the background if you
move in this direction at this point this is the background and this which apparently
was clouds a little earlier is the foreground so these are again issues ah which have interesting
problematic exciting and in this session and the next session we will be focusing on some
of these aspects of things more interestingly we will be also looking at how is that we
we experience ah worlds of the visuals we experience ah the worlds of visuals and then
we will be having a number of exciting interactive lets say surveys and activities through which
together we will try to find out how we do it so i am sure that ah you will find it interesting
and indefinitely include all of you to do those surveys because they are going to very
exciting the findings are also going to be equal exciting when we together share whatever
we have learnt about how we experience visuals how visuals ah manipulate our understanding
of meaning and be get it linked to some of the other things which will happen later like
persuasion manipulation and all those kinds of things which is very much significant component
of advertising which is essentially dominantly either visual if it is a print ah print media
if it is a tabular if it is a print media or it is dominantly multimedia if it is anything
else like the television the computer screen and so on and so forth now here for instance
you have something which is again known as illusion these this line looks much larger
than the line below why does it happen and these are questions that we may answer as
we proceed however before we go into the visuals and the way that ah visuals make sense for
us which is what ah will be doing in the next session we lets get a basic understanding
about visual culture because as i told you little earlier visual culture is something
which has dominated the twentieth part ah last part of the twentieth century and right
now we are in the midst of visual and multimedia culture i will just start of with a small
anecdote eighteen years back when i joined this institute at some point of time i heard
about ah a v g a card being installed somewhere and this gave us a glimpse into actually being
able to record edit and modify videos and to generate animations and those there is
which was exciting thing and in our entire institute there were just one or two places
were this facility was available now lets come first forward eighteen plus
years and look at our generation next mobiles and we that the entire concept of generating
an image manipulating that image editing that image is a rather generating a motion motion
picture so generating an animation [gen/generating ] a video and manipulating and playing around
with that video using that small device is something which is childs play even our young
kids can do that so the technology has significantly come forward ah its rapidly exponentially
increasing and growing and there must be some underlying reasons for that so in todays talk
which will be slightly ah brief it will be brief compared to the next one where we will
be elaborating ah the things that we saw just a minutes back we will be asking this question
as to what is happening in today’s culture which is to begin with visual and gradually
becoming more and more multimedia so some of the statements that i am making over here
based on the ideas evolved a many theorists who talk about visual culture are of some
of this concepts we will just quickly touch upon and lets see what they tell us about
ourselves one of the things that happens is that modern life takes place on screen what
exactly does it mean it means that our experience of the visual to a very great extent is were
mediated or interfaced by either a television screen computer screen or digital mobile screen
or whatever so we experience the visual directly through our eyes but to a much greater extent
we are spending time by looking at the screen and experiencing various other kinds of visuals
which obviously we would not have access to sitting over here through this screens so
tv screens pc s screen real life and there is a calvin and hobbs ah cotton strips where
you see that ah one of the small tiny characters a young boy spends entire day watching tv
and then the evening he goes out and looks at the world and then makes a comment to to
the effect that the world is very much like what we see on the tv but much less exciting
and colourful you see that this kind of a reversal is something which we are experiencing
to a certain extent even today where some of our students even in ah the ii t system
ah spend is such a huge amount of time playing games that they gradually lose touch with
reality but in the new case what is the reality reality is something which is mediated by
our senses and today we find that ah beyond our senses although they are mediated by senses
our senses again ah have something else blocking them ah on the way to reality which is the
computer screen or various kinds of screen so another layer of mediation is taking place
which is the mediation of visual culture which is experiencing the reality second hand through
some kind of a screen or magazine or paper or whatever
so you see that ah marcel mcclains ah famous statement the medium is the message is something
which ah is to be understood in the sense that different kinds of cultures depend on
different modes of communication and todays culture essentially depends on the culture
of ah visuals and that has its influence in the way we communicate now the fact that ah
we are in a technology oriented world for instance ah makes it understandable that ah
and in a world which is busy and where using a very small screen we have to communicate
our messages ah has resulted in different kind of a language the language of texts sms
the language of sms where there are a lot of abbreviations there are a lot of use of
short hand because the space is limited the screen is limited you are using a single fingers
may be one single hand for writing or typing whatever the implication is that this particular
technology this particular kind of medium which is being used has modified the way that
the message is [communiticated/communicated] communicated and in the process the meaning
of the message to a very great extent as well the fact that we have smileys the fact we
have emoticons the fact that we have images which go viral on social media tells that
images now play a very significant role a messages which were communicated through texts
now are translated into ah image based symbols the emoticons ok especially emotion based
things so you see that these transformations definitely point to the fact that visuals
have taken over in a significant way so i have talked about mediation and ah mediation
is about something which stands between you and the reality or me and the reality lets
say that what is stands between me and ah you today as you are listening to this talk
is your computer screen or your mobile screen or whatever it is through which you are listening
to this lecture so this mediating surface presupposes that beyond this surface there
is a real me with whom you are talking and it also [pe/presupposes] presupposes that
beyond this screen ah the camera at which i am looking right now there is a real you
to with whom i am talking but you see that ah with the advent of technology we reached
a point ok where this simulation of reality becomes so significant ok that you don’t need
a real and sometimes you are not even sure whether there is a real
so the only reality that becomes available to us is the reality of mediating screen what
guarantee is there that i am not fiction in todays digital age we can make characters
ok known as avatars in computer language which can interact with human beings ok some of
our researchers are working i am also involved in some of this work where you see that you
try to identify the facial expression of the person who is communicating with the computer
you have an avtar who tries to emulate or mirror those ah responses and talk in a intelligent
way so what it basically means is that these avtars are this computer graphic images which
looks so real life like ah talking and what you are talking doesn’t really exists so if
there is a reality beyond well what is that we don’t really that in in that sense we see
that the only which exists is the surface of the screen and nothing beyond that the
examples of many fantasy movies like Godzilla ah and ah Jurassic park movies and all that
i tell us about this aspect of life where the beyond simulation of reality probably
there is nothing there is absence of reality the surface is all the meaning that we have
so that’s what i was talking about ah which is known as the problem of simulacrum this
is the term to indicate that simulation if realities the only realities which is sometimes
presented to us because human beings have a tendency of searching for meanings and when
we search for meaning the language at the communicating medium becomes the surface through
which we try to penetrate and reach to some ultimate meaning but in todays world very
often this surface is the only meaning that is available to us this can have [vi/valid]
valid in [con/consequences] consequences i just as i just shared with you that some of
our students ah very few luckily are so addicted to ah lets say multi user games that ah they
have to go for a de addiction they have to meet psychiatrists or counselors because they
are disoriented and they live in a different world a world which does not exist outside
of the the real mobile television or the computer in which they are playing the game
so these are interesting things that image here is an example of simulacrum absolutely
life like an image which looks more real than any photograph that’s possible but which is
actually an animation i am sorry a creation which is ah it is it’s a its an illustration
created using light wave eight and it is it is more than almost ah eleven or twelve years
old at that point of time you find that we could generate such life like images which
are more real than real images ok so now having discussed all these things if you ask the
question what is visual culture then the the immense amount of visuality that we are involved
with and have to interpret to make sense of make everyone from critics to sociologists
interested in it what emerges is visual culture visual culture is something within which we
submerged we experience it every day of our lives without being conscious of it however
if you develop a certain degree of sensitivity to certain aspects of visual culture then
it gives us a certain insight into how we communicate through visuals and obviously
we are in a better position and we can make a more effective communicators and thus it
would help us without soft skills in various ways
now you see that ah as i told you little earlier during the introduction we will be looking
at certain elements of visual culture one of the interesting element about contemporary
visual culture is sometime seeing is not knowing and this has direct implications relationship
with the concept of simulation as well as the fact that very often ah the image is not
the truth the image cam lead to deception to [illu/illusion] illusions so examples there
are many examples ah smart bombs of gulf war ah which ah kind of look like ah ah the smart
gulfs bombs of gulf war bombarded many tankers bunkers and various kinds of things which
were actually rather floats ah rather blow ups so what basically happens was that ah
an illusion of actually destroying things was what was created in the early phase of
the war and actually nothing was being destroyed so you see that if you have if you have even
if you do not go this far if you are looking at just the newspaper and the television when
we see something through the heighten intense colour and drama of the television reports
and the newspaper reporters or the television reporters dramatizing it just to draw our
attention over the kind of reality which is painted may not have much to do with actually
it which exist over there so you see a city being presented in particular way and you
feel that city is very much like that but when you go to that city you find that it
is very different from what has been painted through the media screen ok through the television
through advertising and things like that so we see that ah we had traditionally very strong
belief that what you see is what you believe we have an phase which tells us seeing is
believing on the other hand todays reality seeing is not believing we live in a world
of illusions ok so this becomes very very important for us to realize
one of the other things ah which i would to touch upon is that someone is always watching
or recording we live in a visual culture where we have perpetual being watched this watching
could relate to varies into pleasure it could relate to surveillance where people a conscious
ah citizens are watching one another capturing ah videos of anything which is suspicious
so that every time some untowardly things happens on news in the news you can see some
mobile phone having captured the event may be a crafts or planes or whatever so perpetually
everywhere visuals are being documented with our knowledge and without our knowledge so
how we are not only visible ah we kind of ex indulge in this visibility and we we use
it in two different ways one for pleasure in visualizing ourselves and visualizing others
and other one is for surveillance in watching ourselves and in watching others ok so this
has interesting implications now you find that ah seeing is related to power and knowledge
because in the earlier tradition you see that visibility of things if you are in a position
to see things ah you are powerful but more important in the earlier tradition if other
people see you they get an idea about your power so you find that ah the huge buildings
huge monuments which were built if you are talking about egyptian sphinx if you are looking
at the qutub minar if you are looking taj mahal display of grandeur display of things
which are very significant which are powerful which are big on the other hand in todays
culture another kind of power has come the power of watching others without yourself
being watched you have ah various kinds of surveillance cameras all most everywhere today
today you can even get a surveillance camera ah for four to five thousand rupees which
you can plays inside your home to watch may be a specific room and what is happening there
so this ability to be invisible yourself while watching others is a new kind of a power which
has certainly emerged as very very powerful if you remember a j wells story about the
invisible man you would also realize that in that particular novel the man after his
invisibility turns evil because invisibility gives him an immense amount of power when
nobody can see him nobody can see him do things which you see that in a in a society would
be taboo which somebody would stop him from doing and the same thing is taken forward
into ah films ah when we have the hollow man where the same thing is again repeated how
invisibility leads to power and power leads to evil so that dimension of things is also
which is very much there however i would like to quickly share with you that such a tradition
is fairly recent may be last forty to fifty years prior to that we had a tradition of
texts where texts is dominated and images where subservient and still before that if
you are looking at the indian tradition we had a we had a strong interdependency again
if you are looking at the on smriti on hearing on the auditory senses on memory remembering
while listening to things and memorizing things and you find that it was in tradition that
the wave that’s transmitted by word of mouth known as the overall tradition so that was
a tradition where things happen in a different way in a overall tradition history ah got
ah i would say transmuted transformed into wisdom which was timeless a temporal so we
have been lot of difficulty in identifying dates when we look our ancient scriptures
even stories history if you can call it history or itihas you can call it that its very difficult
because if the in the olden traditions ah the absence of written documents dating and
other kinds of thing i mean techniques were not considered significant
on the other hand if you are looking at the written tradition of the greeks there you
find a distinctive ah temporal approach to things where time and linear time where things
happen one after the other are documented systematically and we have a strong sense
of a history european sense of history which is essentially a linear chronicle of what
events happen one after the other on the other hand if you are looking at the indian tradition
it’s a tradition of recurrence so the points which are noted down points which are jotted
down are not unique but the ones which are persistent which are cyclic which are will
come back again and again ah dealing leading in the direction that these things are within
quotes universal which persists so having talked about that let us quickly talk about
few other things the first being seeing versus visualizing when i see something that thing
has to be visual that is i am seeing you i am seeing the camera i am seeing the power
point right now this is seeing but if let us say that heart is experienced ok ah where
ah the heart beats are translated into waves or if the various activities of the brain
are translated into waves then you see that ah other senses are getting transferred into
visuals so what exactly is happening over here we find that things which are not visual
that are also translated into visuals the heart beat is not a visual thing but we visualize
things which are not visual so the difference between seeing and visualizing i hope becomes
clear here we live in a culture where almost everything
we tend to visualize all the medical devices use various kinds of things like ultrasound
another kinds of ah technologies so that you can finally see some kind of a graph or an
image ben brain scanning method do that and egist or e c g record the measure of different
impulses whether they are vibration or there electrical impulses as i have already shown
you on the screen so this is the difference between this is where you see that visual
step today become so so dominant that we are visualizing or translating into visual things
which are not necessarily visual the computer screen and the entire technology behind it
is in fact an example of that because when windows came ah prior prior to that we had
dos we had we had inputs which were textual inputs but with windows we had visual inputs
we had iconic inputs and that kind of totally transformed way that computers came down from
the higher citadels of universities and have become so common place so powerful that even
the youngest of kid uses the processor and machine which is may be ah hundred or a thousand
times as powerful as some of the early machines of the nineteen sixties and seventies which
you should take many rooms in universities where computers are where computer science
was being taught now another thing which i would bring to your
notice is that if you are looking at the recent past we find that we lived in a textual kind
of a society society which dominantly predominantly was text oriented the hangover of it still
there still communicate a lot with texts but the way that we communicate with texts is
gradually changing it is becoming more visually oriented as i told you little earlier it is
becoming abbreviated and grammatical a new kind of texts emerging in the world earlier
if you are looking at the early part of the twentieth century even when way beyond that
into the sixteen seventeen century the illustration was supplement to the text to the text is
a supplement to the illustration ah sorry the illustration was ah ah supplement to the
text yes the text is a supplement to the illustration so here is an example of a poem by William
blake and ah you can see the poem over here and you have illustrations obviously the poem
is very important and you have this printed elsewhere and the illustrations is what you
find ah is ah incidental even without illustrations you can read the poem but look at this particular
advertisement where calvin klen where you see that the only thing that is highlighted
is a watch and nothing else the text is subservient so the roles have been substituted
so lets take it a study of two advertisement to make this point little more elaborately
if you are looking at this nineteen twenty five advertisement ah of lux then you find
that there is a huge amount of text the text is in the form of a narrative a story telling
and the illustrations supplement the story what happens to thomas edison the young thomas
edison is elaborated over here on the other hand if you are looking at the nineteen eighties
you find that the image dominates and the text is just one line and this small text
which you cannot read so what is significant amount of difference has happened today and
ah if you are looking at this spot arts today most of them tells stories ok and ah certain
things related to the advertisement we will not discuss here but the point that i am trying
make is that visuals and then multimedia dominant and spot ads dominate today and in many cases
even the print ads kind of refer to the spot ads so if you have seen the spot ad if you
are looking at the print ad you will be able to make sense of it that is the degree of
linkage between a print and the multimedia that happens today in our daily lives
the other interesting thing about visuals today is interactivity we can interact with
the visuals and the visual can be animated ah getting an additional dimension to it even
texts can be animated thus hm developing a visual quality about them and ah you see that
ah interactivity have become a key motto so this is another dimension of ah the visual
culture today that the visual is not passive ah as it was in nineteen eighties or nineties
today it is something where you see that interactivity ah is very very important you are able to
pause or play you are able to repeat whatever i am i am speaking right now you are able
to stop it go to go back to another lecture or move forward to another lecture these interactivity
the the playfulness of the entire thing in a visual medium is another distinctive feature
which we find in the visual culture today now you see that ah i would like to touch
upon just a few issues quickly one of them being that the image is everything today the
image in the early traditions was holy sacred sanctified and precious portraits used to
be painted then photography which mechanize the entire process and today you see that
ah even today process of photography and the delay in developing a photography is no longer
there photographs have become instant they are captured instantly they are transmitted
instantly so the image has become a part of everyday life very often people used to take
notes today i have find that many people start recording either the through use of audio
video a talk which is taking place rather than taking notes rather than listening carefully
where memory plays an important role so you see that that is where we are moving with
that is the direction in which we are moving i will skip this you can see it in slides
that the functions have been transformed from holy it has become common place from sacred
it has become ordinary this changes have taken place
but the last point i would like to make is that in this particular context ah the the
matrix trilogy kind of drives on the point ah of taking us to an extreme where somebody
lives in the world of virtuality what i am trying to share you with you friends is that
the visual world has gradually given way to virtual world and we have started emerging
in the virtual world being an i being in the i i t system being an being an part of one
of the oldest i i t s in the country we are getting exposed to new technologies and people
coming ah with concepts of immersive technologies which even they are planning to set up in
different places which implies that we live in a virtual world or a virtual world is created
for you for instance we were exploring that for our Nehru museum ah where you see that
ah your experience of the the visual or the experience of the virtual is so life like
that you forget that it is a virtual medium you become emerged in that virtual medium
this is the new immersive technology which is coming something which your are is shown
in at most mature and extreme form in a film in a movie like the matrix where you see that
your virtual identity and your real identity cannot really be segregated or separated its
fine that we need we aware of these issues we are aware of these interesting dimensions
of visual and from visual the virtual culture but it was also important to know that these
are leading us innovatively in a direction ah which is very very different from the the
world that ah we experienced as young kids and ah more we proceed the more we move in
the world of immersive world however how to make sense of this immersive world how to
make sense of this visual world how to play around with it experience it manipulate it
to make it more effective communication more impressive communication is something which
we will touch upon in the next talk thank you

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