Welcome to Eye Openers 2011 - Syllabus Walkthrough
California College of the Arts
INTRODUCTION TO VISUAL STUDIES
Fall, Semester, 2011
Prof. Matteo Bittanti
Meeting Place & Time:
San Francisco Campus, Graduate Center, Building 1, Room GC4
Tuesdays 4:00 - 7:00 PM
Start Date: September 6 2011
End Date: December 13 2011
Office hours by appointment-only:
Please contact Matteo Bittanti via email at mbittanti at cca dot edu
Table of contents
1. Course Description
1.1 Course Format
1.2 Learning Outcomes
2. Course Requirements
2.2 Course Content: Important Notice
2.3 Written Assignments
2.4 Weekly Blog Entries
2.5 In-Class Quizzes
2.6 Mid-term Project (paper and presentation)
2.7 Final Project and (paper and presentation)
2.8 Evaluation Criteria for Written Assignments
4. Measurement of Student Performance
5 Classroom Conduct & Attendance Guidelines
5.1 Policy on Academic Honesty
6.1 Important dates
1. Course Description
Eye openers are flashes of insight. As an introduction to Visual Studies, this course will relate the historical and theoretical study of visual culture - from painting, photography, graphic design, architecture, and film - to contemporary life, popular culture, mass media, advertising, and digital media. Some of the topics we will discuss in class include the effects of consumer culture on our habits and surroundings; the impact of communication technologies such as the internet and television on our understanding of and approach towards the world; the question of identity in subcultures and as it is expressed in visual media and the effect of the politics of art production, display, and criticism on contemporary artists. The goal of this class is to develop techniques of critical analysis and interpretation of visual phenomena and to learn to understand the complex social, cultural and political power structures that govern them, connecting texts and contexts.
1.1 Class Format
Classes will consist of lectures, screenings of videos and documentaries, in-class exercises and discussions, and student presentations. Students are required to read and discuss different texts, submit written responses, take two in-class quizzes, create and present in class a mid-term visual culture critique, write and present in class a final research paper.
1.2 Learning Outcomes
1. Students will develop a general understanding of visual studies:
a. Understand the vocabulary and methods of visual studies;
b. Understand how visual culture affects the representation of identity and difference;
c. Recognize the interdisciplinary nature of visual studies.
2. Students will develop skills for analyzing visual culture from a visual and critical perspective:
a. Ethics: Recognize visual studies as an ideological practice:
b. Critical Analysis: Use principles of visual studies to analyze works of visual culture:
c. Cultural Diversity: Develop an understanding of cultural diversity in relation to the representation and power.
3. Students will develop projects and class presentations using principles of visual studies:
a. Research: Engage in research and organize content in a clear, concise and logical manner;
b. Visual Literacy: Demonstrate the ability to analyze and compare works of visual culture using principles of visual studies;
c. Written, Oral, Visual Communication: Present projects in a professional manner as a final paper and an oral presentation with visual images;
2. Course Requirements
The main texts for Eye Openers are:
1) Marita Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-19-531440-3
=> Please note: We will use the second edition of Practices of Looking, published in 2009. The book was originally released in 2000.
2) Brooke Gladstone, The Influencing Machine, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. ISBN 978-0393077797
Additional essays/texts – both required and optional – will be provided by the instructor on a weekly basis via the class blog.
A Writer’s Reference (6th Edition) by Diana Hacker will be our style guide.
2.2 Course Content: Important notice
The visual culture artifacts we will be covering in this course include some works that are sexually explicit, culturally controversial and/or politically provocative. Some individuals may find these works disturbing or even offensive. Such works are included because they represent significant aspects of visual culture. They present important challenges to artistic conventions, social norms, standards of beauty, and definitions of culture. Students will not be asked to subscribe to any particular definition of visual culture, nor will they be required to like all the works shown. However, if you choose to take this course, you will be expected to understand the issues involved and why they are important. If you have any special concerns, please discuss them with the professor.
2.3 Written Assignments
Students will be required to different several kinds of written assignments. Specifically:
- Weekly assignments (1 page blog entry)
- Mid-term project: 5 page essay (+ oral presentation)
- Final project proposal: 3 page paper
- Final project: 10-12 page essay (+ oral presentation)
Finally, students will be required to take two in-class written quizzes.
2.4 Weekly Blog Entries
Students are required to contribute to the online discussion that supplements in-class participation.
Such contribution will take the form of written entries to the Eye Openers blog.
Each contribution will consist of a posting of approximately 1 page (at least 400 words) reflecting thoughtfully and critically upon the weekly assignment and applying that knowledge to a specific case study provided by the instructor. By thoughtful and critical I mean that your analysis of a text or cultural artifact (e.g. image, website, installation, artwork, advertising, billboard, video etc.) should make full use of the concepts and ideas expressed in the readings. Therefore, evaluative comments (“I like this”, “I think it’s boring”) are strongly discouraged.
Additionally, the posting should not be a summary of the reading. Rather you should use this opportunity to construct a solid, convincing argument closely related to the topics explored and discussed in class. In other words, your entries should accomplish two main objectives: 1) they should demonstrate to the instructor that you are effectively analyzing the visual examples you are encountering, and 2) they should indicate that you are connecting ideas or information found in the readings, lectures, and/or class discussions to the case studies.
The written assignments must be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org on Mondays no later than noon in typed, double-spaced, and spell-checked with complete references (footnotes, bibliography, and illustrations, if available) formatted according to a writing manual of style. The text must be a) embedded into the main body of the email and b) attached to the email. All contributions will be posted and the blog to encourage transparency and to foster the conversation. Late submissions will receive a lower score.
Evaluation: Blog entries will not receive individual letter grades. Each submission will be given one of the following grades:
- √+ [above average]
- √ [average]
- √- [below average]
- I [incomplete/late/missing]
At the end of the semester, each student receives one letter grade for their contributions as a whole.
Any student who receives an "I" grade for more than three submissions (and has no legitimate medical excuse) fails this assignment for the entire semester.
The blog will be a central feature of this class. Do not underestimate the importance of these assignments.
2.5 In-Class Quizzes
Each student will take two quizzes during the course of the semester. Each quiz will cover course vocabulary terms from Practices of Looking and other course readings. A study list of terms will be provided in advance. No make-up quizzes.
2.6 Mid-Term Project: "Me, Myself, and I"
Each student is required to produce a Visual Culture Self-Portrait. This self-portrait should include aspects of visual culture (artworks, images, advertisements, objects, places, spaces) that you find compelling, exciting, frustrating or provocative – aspects of visual culture that you feel helps inform and constitute your sense of identity. This self-portrait can take the form of a collage, book, song, poem, webpage, video, infographics, or whatever else you can create and present in class.
Write a 5 page explanation and visual analysis of this work. This writing should describe what is happening in the self-portrait and analyze the messages and meaning conveyed by the image(s). The paper should also include a printed representation of the self-portrait.
Each student will bring in their visual culture self-portrait a give a 5-minute presentation of it in class. If the work is a digital image or a website, students must email the image or website link to the professor at least 24 hours before class presentation. No make-up presentations.
Students will submit a printed hardcopy of paper and presentation AND copies of the paper and presentation burned on disc (CD-ROM or DVD) with their name (alternatively, it students can use online services like Dropbox, YouSendIt etc). Late submissions will be penalized per day. No make-up midterms.
The Mid-term project & presentation is due October 18 @ 4 PM
2.7 Final Project
Over the course of the semester, students will complete a research paper of 10-12 pages (excluding bibliography and footnotes). The paper is designed to help you reflect, analyze, and discuss core themes and ideas encountered in Eye Openers, practice dealing with primary and secondary materials, and develop a background in the area that will allow you to pursue more in-depth research projects in the future, e.g. a thesis or a dissertation. The final paper require a mid-term proposal and a literature review. It is essential to discuss your ideas with the instructor before developing a full proposal. It is also a very good idea to look ahead in the syllabus and get started early
The theme of the final project is “The medium is the Message/The Medium is the Massage”.
In one of his most famous works, Understanding Media. The Extension of Man (1964), Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan boldy proposed that “the medium is the message”. At the risk of over-simplification, this means that the ostensible content of all electronic media is insignificant; it is the medium itself that has the greater impact on the environment, a fact supported by scientific studies (e.g. neuroscience) that the technologies we use every day begin, after repetitive use, to alter the way our brains function, and hence the way we experience, understand, and navigate our world. The ostensible content of a film is not as important as the fact that you are watching the film on a big screen. Similarly, ignore the ostensible content of an MP3 song. All that matters is that you are acessing that music via an iPod (an experience which is substantially different from listening to the "same song" on record player or on a CD player etc.).
According to McLuhan, a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself, thus media scholars should focus more on the environments created by media (and technologies) than their messages. McLuhan loved language games and frequently punned on the word "message", changing it to "mass age", "mess age", and "massage". A subsequent book, The Medium is the Massage (1967) was originally to be titled The Medium is the Message, but McLuhan chose the new title, which is said to have been a printing error. Media are messages that massage our brain and create messy situations, as they create new environments, often disrupting the previous ones.
It is important to remember that McLuhan used "medium" in a broad sense. In his vocabulary, "medium" refers to technologies and tools as well. For instance, a light bulb, according to McLuhan is a medium. All media have effects on society. A light bulb creates new spaces during nighttime that would otherwise be immersed in darkness, thus introducing new opportunities and conditions. A light bulb also creates new temporalities, times that would otherwise been used for other activities (e.g. sleeping). The invention of the light bulb - and, in general, electricity - has dramatically changed our world. McLuhan suggests that the light bulb is a medium without any content. McLuhan states that "a light bulb creates an environment by its mere presence".
The electric light is pure information. It is a medium without a message, as it were, unless it is used to spell out some verbal ad or name. This fact, characteristic of all media, means that the "content" of any medium is always another medium. The content of writing is speech, just as the written word is the content of print, and print is the content of the telegraph. (151)
[more information about McLuhan's theories is available on the class blog]. In Understanding Media, he wrote:
In planning and crafting your essay, you should focus on your medium of preference — the medium that you find most compelling, exciting, useful, powerful, frustrating or provocative — a medium that you feel helps inform, constitute, or dispute your values and ideas on society, culture, and art. The medium which allows you to see, shape, transform the world. The medium that extends your abilities to do things, produce, consume, share content and/or connect with others.
The essay should be 10-12 page long (excluding footnotes and bibliography) and must be critical in nature, that is, analytical and interpretative and not merely descriptive. Use the essays read and discussed in class as a starting point for a poignant investigation. The paper must be handed in typed, double-spaced, and spell-checked with complete references formatted according to the CCA writing manual of style. The final project is due on December 15 2011 by 4 PM.
The final paper must be submitted in two ways: 1) as a printed document - yes, on good old fashioned paper! - handed brevi manu to the instructor and as 2) an electronic file, sent to the instructor via email. Most formats are accepted (e.g. .DOC, .RTF) but not .PDF. Students can include up to six images in your final paper, but only if properly credited and used to make a point. The use of images for mere decorative purposes is highly discouraged.
Final Presentations will take place on December 8 and 15
During the last two weeks of class (December 8 and 15), students will give 10-15-minute* formal presentations of their final projects. These presentations should include visual material and will be followed by questions and class discussion. Students are required to make appropriate arrangements for showing visual material in advance. All students are required to attend the presentations. If the work is supplemented by a digital image, video, or website, students must email the supplemental material at least 24 hours before class presentation or submit the material on CD-ROM/DVD before the deadline. No make-up presentations.
* Exact duration of presentation TBD - based on overall number of enrolled students.
Final Project Proposal due November 16: Students must submit a 3 page proposal that provides a detailed description of the final project and outlines plans for research as well as relevant questions and concerns. Like any solid proposal (for a grant or exhibition), this proposal should be persuasive and demonstrate why this project is innovative, compelling and worth pursuing. The essential elements of the proposal are:
1. A title, subtitle, and description of your object of study, its significance, and the key issues or questions ou want to address in your research. Do you have a novel approach or hypothesis? If so, describe it.
2. A concise, tightly-focused review of the scholarly literature on your topic. What are the most significant scholarly contributions in your area of investigation? You must explain how your work will relate to the works you cite.
3. A brief discussion of research methods. What kind of research methods will you use to answer the questions you have posed or to test your hypothesis? Textual analysis? Archival research? Interviews? Why are those the best methods for this case? What will they allow you to discover? Do you need any special resources to complete your research? And are they available locally?
4. A timetable. What are the key parts of your project (research, writing, etc.) and by when will you have them completed? What are the milestones?
On November 30, we will have an in-class discussion, workshop and individual meeting related to your final project. Please bring your essay drafts and work-in-progress material for review.
2.8 Evaluation Criteria (Written Assignments)
Written assignments - e.g. blog entries, mid-term papers and final essay - will be evaluated on the following criteria: thorough research; clear, logical, and original arguments; critical and creative analysis of visual material supported by visual examples; serious effort, preparation, and engagement in the subject matter. The written component of the mid-term and final projects must be handed in typed, double-spaced, and spell-checked with complete references (footnotes or endnotes, full bibliography, illustrations) formatted according to the CCA writing manual of style. For additional information about the assessment criteria, please consult the "evaluation criteria" page on the blog.
Visual Literacy and Communication: evidence of the ability to look critically and express one’s own ideas in the form of expository writing.
Attendance is mandatory. Students are required to attend the full length of all classes, turn in all assignments, participate in weekly discussions, and contribute to the blog. Try to think of class meetings as a resource session in which you can get your questions answered and at the same time, learn what concerns are driving your colleagues.
4. Measurement of Student Performance
The final grade for the course will be determined by evaluation in the following are:
- Attendance and Participation 15%
- Written Assignments & In-Class Quizzes 25%
- Visual Culture Self-Portrait Presentation & Paper 20%
- Project Proposal 10%
- Final Research Paper/Creative Project 30%
Students are expected to read all assigned texts and be prepared to discuss them in class. All papers, assignments, presentations, and final projects must be completed on time and in full.
A 93-100 Clearly stands out as excellent performance
B 83-86 Grasps subject matter at a level considered to be good to very good
C 73-76 Demonstrates a satisfactory comprehension of the subject matter
D 60-66 Quality and quantity of work is below average, marginally acceptable
Failing 59-F Quality and quantity of work is below average and not acceptable
5. Classroom Conduct & Attendance Guidelines
1) Promptness is a basic requirement. Persistent lateness lowers your class participation grade considerably.
2) The use electronic devices - including smartphones - during class is not permitted. Note-taking on a laptop is not allowed. Please wait for the break to make phone calls or use the internet. Computers may only be used for in-class presentations.
3) Sleeping, chatting in the back of the room, reading external materials, working on external projects during the class session - any of these can result in immediate ejection from the class.
4) If more than one class is missed due to illness you must submit written verification from a physician and notify professor via e-mail or in writing immediately. Written medical documents must be submitted within two weeks of an absence. Any student with more than two unexcused absences during the semester will find that each additional absence, after the second, lowers his or her class participation grade by one full letter. In other words, the third unexcused absence would lower a B+ to a C+; the fourth would result in an F.
5) Students are not allowed to eat during class.
6) There are no make-up presentations or assignments.
7) Students who miss a class must collect the material discussed in class. In most cases, such material will be available on the class blog. At any rate, always make sure to contact me via email about the availability of such materials.
Thank you for your cooperation!
5.1 Policy on Academic Honesty
The reputation of a university and the value of its degrees rest upon the study and research carried on at that institution. The policy for maintaining academic honesty is:
A. Each student is responsible for performing academic tasks in such a way that honesty is not in question.
B. Unless an exception is specifically defined by an instructor, students are expected to maintain the following standards of integrity:
1. All tests, term papers, oral and written assignments are to be the work of the student presenting the material for course credit.
2. Any paraphrase, quotation, or summary (that is, any use of words, ideas, or findings of other persons, writers, or researchers) requires explicit citation of the source.
3. Deliberately supplying material to another student for purposes of plagiarism (to take and pass off as one's own ideas, writings, or work of another) is dishonest.
C. Each instructor is responsible for a learning environment supportive of academic honesty.
1. If a faculty member has reason to suspect academic dishonesty in or out of class, the faculty member should require additional and/or revised work that is unquestionably the work of the student.
2. A faculty member who has proof that academic honesty has been violated should take appropriate disciplinary action, which may include refusal of course credit.
3. A faculty member shall bring to the attention of the Vice President, Academic Affairs, all violations of academic honesty. The Vice President may place on probation, suspend, or expel any student who violates the policy on academic honesty.
This schedule is tentative and may change as needed.
Links, audiovisual material, and additional texts will be added on the blog on a weekly basis
WEEK #1: 9/6
What is Visual Culture? And Why Does it Matter?
WEEK #2: 9/13
Images, Power and Politics
Required Reading: Marita Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. 9 -47 (chapter one);
Jonathan Silverman, Dean Rader, "How Do I Write About..." in The World is a Text. Writing, Reading, and Thinking about Visual and Popular Culture, Section 1, London: Pearson, 2009. 30-71.
=> Assignment #1 (Photo review: Due Monday Sept 12 by noon)
WEEK #3: 9/20
Viewers Makes Meaning
Required Reading: Marita Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. 49-91 (chapter two);
=> Assignment #2 (Due Monday Sept 19 by noon)
WEEK #4: 9/27
Modernity. Spectatorship, Power, and Knowledge
Required Reading: Marita Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. 93-140 (chapter three);
=> Assignment #3 (Due Monday Sept 26 by noon)
WEEK #5: 10/4
Realism and Perspective. From Renaissance Painting to Digital Media
Required Reading: Marita Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. 141-182 (chapter four);
=> In class quiz#1: Course Terms
WEEK #6: 10/11
Visual Technologies, Image Reproduction, and the Copy
Required Reading: Marita Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. 183-222 (chapter five);
=> Assignment #4 (Due Monday Oct 10 by noon)
WEEK #7: 10/18
Media in Everyday Life
Marita Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. 223-261 (chapter six);
=> All Mid-term Projects and Papers (digital + hardcopies) @ 4 PM
WEEK #8: 10/25
Advertising, Consumer Cultures, and Desire
Required Reading: Marita Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. 265-306 (chapter seven);
=> Assignment #5 (Due Monday Oct 24 by noon)
WEEK #9: 11/01
Postmodernism, Indie Media, and Popular Culture
Required Reading: Marita Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. 307-345 (chapter eight);
=> Assignment #6 (Due Monday Oct 31 by noon)
WEEK #10: 11/08
The Global Flow of Visual Culture
Required Reading: Marita Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford Press, 2009. 489-430 (chapter eight);
=> In class quiz#2: Course Terms
WEEK #11: 11/15
The Medium is the Message
Required Reading: Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964, excerpts.
Required Reading: Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is The Message. An Inventory of Effects, New York: Penguin, 1967, excerpts.
Required Reading: Kevin Kelly, "Becoming Screen Literate", New York Times, November 23, 2008.
Due: Final project proposals by 4 PM
WEEK #12: 11/22
Visual Studies & Sequential Art
Brooke Gladstone, The Influencing Machine, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. ISBN 978-0393077797
Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, New York: Harper, 1993. Excerpts.
WEEK #13: 11/29
In-Class Final Project Workshop and Individual Meetings
=> Bring drafts of final project for in-class discussion, workshop, meetings, and exchange
WEEK #14: 12/6
Final Project Presentations (1 of 2)
Students are required to attend all final presentations.
WEEK #15: 12/13
Final Project Presentations (2 of 2)
Students are required to attend all final presentations.
=> All Final Projects and Papers are due on Tuesday December 15 2011 at 4 PM.