Culture & Media / Images

A Culture of Vision

At a time when everyone is rightly asking about the freedom of expression and the political role of the media in our golf_visualizationsociety, it would surely be a good thing if we also asked ourselves about the individual’s freedom of perception and the threats brought to bear on that freedom by the industrialization of vision and of hearing. (96)

In a culture that is continually placing more importance on outward appearance and visual stimulation, it is not hard to understand what Paul Virilio means in his book Open Sky by the “pernicious industrialization of vision” (89).  Visual communication is certainly becoming more common, especially with the popularity of the Internet.  We do not go to the Internet to read; we go to see, to watch. YouTube, Pintrest, memes, news photos, online shopping, and the list goes on.   Websites and articles are designed to be scanned, advertisements on the sidebars are designed to catch the eye.

In fact, it can be argued that our eyes are assaulted on a daily basis, from television and the Internet to billboards and magazine ads.  Each image calls for our attention and then attempts to influence our perception.

Are we free, truly free, to choose what we see? Clearly not. On the other hand, are we obliged, absolutely forced against our will to perceive what is first merely suggested then imposed on everyone’s gaze? Not at all! (95)

However, as Virilio points out, no image can control our perception.  While we may not be able to avoid the visual bombardment, we can be educated viewers and be aware of underlying messages many images are trying to subconsciously enforce.  In the end, it is the viewer who ultimately determines how an image will be interpreted.


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