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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Visual Literacy and Education: Seeing the World Meets Critical Thinking

  • Author(s): Lehman, Barbara
  • Advisor(s): Kellner, Douglas
  • et al.

The abundance and complexity of information now being delivered visually demands that we become visually literate, as well as verbally literate. We need to understand better a process we have taken for granted. In an age increasingly dominated by images – a media culture, it becomes imperative to develop an understanding of how our visual processing system works; how visual cognition is shaped by social, political, and cultural conditioning; and how visual messages are created to elicit specific responses. One of the chief goals of visual literacy education is to encourage critical analysis of visual communication by developing tools that help us understand and manage this complex activity. “Seeing” needs to become an actively conscious, not a passive activity for us. This thesis illustrates the importance of critical visual literacy, provides an historical overview of the visual literacy movement, and suggests a foundational approach to teaching the basics of visual literacy.

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