Learning Skills

Visual Knowledge


Web Resources for This Assignment

For General Education 110

Chinese Landscape Painting

I Just Look at the Pictures   Up until now, you've been asked only to discuss ideas, concepts, and world view linguistically. Most if not all of your learning and intellectual activities in school will be oriented around language and writing. Most ideas and concepts in a culture, however, are non-linguistic. You get exponentially more information about your culture from visual information, such as architecture, advertisements, television shows, magazines, and so on, than you do from language. This visual information is all representation, that is, its visual qualities are predetermined by the world view of the culture we live in. Unlike language or writing, however, we frequently aren't conscious of this world view and even less frequently examine and question it.
   Your essay on Chinese landscape painting, however, has forced you to look at a visual representation and discuss the world view contained in that representation. If this class is a real success, however, you will never be able to look at anything the same way again, but you'll always be asking the question about what world view is being communicated in the visual representation. We will do this a couple more times in this class, that is, where we look at a human construction and discover the world view that is being visually communicated.


I Just Read the Articles   In order to bring visual information and visual rhetoric to the front of your consciousness, I'd like you to apply the same project to visual information that you're bombarded with here at school. Most of your textbooks are a combination of text and pictures; if you're like me, you love the pictures because that means less text to read. So, if you're like me, you also skip the pictures; your job, after all, is to read from point A to B, not to linger over the scenery. I want you to stop for a moment, however, and really think about the information being presented in the pictures in one of your textbooks. (If you don't have a textbook, go to the library and find one). Not only that, I want you to examine not just the information, but the world view that's being represented in the pictures.
   So I want you to take one of your textbooks and explain the world view that's being communicated in that textbooks use of visual information; for brevity's sake, I want you only to focus on one or two pictures. In order to answer this question, you need to determine what overall argument or view of the world that the textbook is trying to convince you of. Then consider why the textbook has given you visual information on one topic, but not on another. While the visual is meant to demonstrate one piece of information, it also contains other information. For instance, in a criminal justice textbook, you may find most of the pictures are of African-Americans. While the ostensible purpose of the picture is to show, let's say, an arrest procedure, it's also telling you that criminals are . . . African-Americans. In other words, what excess information is being provided in the visual? Focus on these two questions:
  • Why has some information been presented visually and not others?
  • What excess information is being presented in the visual?
  • How does the composition of the visual convey information?
  • How does all this communicate the world view of the textbook authors?

   Make sure that you indicate what textbook you're using and describe the picture (or pictures) that you're using.

Richard Hooker



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1996, Richard Hooker
Updated 9-29-97