Sunday, January 3, 2010

potential pitfalls of visual culture in the classroom: the oddly-specific reference

story time!:
there was a student in my sequential art class who, during every critique without fail, would grind the conversation to a screeching halt by comparing someone's comic to some hyper-specific, highly obtuse cultural reference, usually to an 80's video game or d-list superhero that next to no one in the class was familiar with. while the comment was meaningful and likely illuminated the comic under discussion to those in the know, everyone else was instantly excluded and disconnected from further dialogue about the work at hand.

and there it is! visual culture pitfall number one, "the oddly specific reference."
so, how can we use visual culture in the classroom, when each and every student will have a different frame of reference?
1. level the playing field: bring in and share content with your class (so everyone is informed!) as it relates to your lessons.
2. show and tell: have students bring in and share their own ideas about content that relates to classwork. you can expand your own frame of reference this way, too, and challenge students to think differently about the way they engage with and consume media culture.
3. visual culture as content: further ask students to explore the role visual culture plays in their lives by having them make art about visual culture, rather than using it as a lens through which to examine other content. consider olivia gude's principles of possibility and postmodern principles, both of which directly address many of the themes and issues that surround visual culture and its role in our contemporary lives. more on that later, since i, ahem, love olivia gude.

are there other practical ways you see visual culture playing nice with the whole class and leading to inclusive, informed dialogue?