Reflections on Visual Culture by M. Ryan (ENG3)

In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves
beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.
— Eric Hoffer
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Ryan, M (2010) Cultural Studies: A Practical Introduction, Chapter 11

Culture can be both national and transnational. It is often seen as national as we use it to distinct ourselves from “others”creating identity through othering. Traditions, political culture, religion, food, tastes, languages, literary and musical traditions are all aspects of differentiation and seperation of cultures. But similarities are easy to find as well, even in cultures separated by thousands of miles; We watch the same television shoes, import the same goods, wears the same brands and listen to the same international pop music. Hence culture is both national and transnational as local production and traditions mixes with the international flow.

    We can use this line of thinking to help the students create a solid identity around themselves, endorsing their traditions and values, and by letting them explain their world view on a daily basis, with the other students trying new things from their culture. It is also helpful to find out what connects us apart from the box we are put in, as the following example shows:

Stereotyping often derives from cultural nationalist thinking mixed with large culture thinking:

  • Cultural nationalist endorse the belief that states are politically sovereign entities with clearly defined borders, a unified political and economic system that affects all similarly, and a set of legal and cultural practices shared by its citizens."
  • Large culture (essentialism) can be defined by ‘Landeskunde’ for example by demographic facts, closely linked to stereotypes when not talking about pure facts, whereas small cultures (non-essentialism) are cultures inside the large culture e.g. Indian tribes within the US.

Thus in my teaching it is essential to think critically about the learning materials I implement and are open to discussion about Landeskunde, stereotyping and prejudice.

Globalisation

Globalisation means a world of ‘constant motion’. But, the movement of capital, migrants, goods, or information is not inherently free-flowing, libratory, or progressive, as neoliberal (pro-free market) ideology would have it. It operates within particular power structures and frameworks. The flow of good is subject to international tariff and agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

A good example of cultural Power structure was when Google and Yahoo infamously entered the Chinese market under the condition that they ban access to all human rights-related sites or redirect the Internet traffic to pages favouring the views of the government.

Post-colonialism

Colonialism refers to the domination of a nation, peoples, or society by another nation through political, military, and economic interventions; territorial expansion/occupation; and various strategies of cultural oppression and coercion (via language, cultural practices, control of media, knowledge, etc.).
— M. Ryan

The post in postcolonial implies the enduring effects of colonial domination, rather than the end of colonialism. The postcolonial approach in cultural studies acknowledges the power of such cultural exclusion and its lingering effects on cultures worldwide. To colonise is to deprive of land and resources, but also to control the representation of that experience.

Cultural Blindness

Blindness is the the term used when the media creates a reality that is often one-sided, as the leader/oppressor controls the representation of the experience of being colonised for everyone involved. The “blindness” is the absence of the oppressed point of view in media. Our cultural experience is controlled by media, and no matter how much we think of ourselves as free, we will always be somewhat controlled by the opinions of the government, and media outlets. International and national television are available all the time through satellite and internet which creates a common world experience, juxtaposed to local cultural differences, has emerged. The “look” of cities in China is increasingly the same as that of cities in the West, as entire old cities are razed to make way for buildings considered to be more modern.

Visual Culture and Representations

Unless we don’t have the ability to see, we mostly experience our life through visuals. visual culture encompasses television, films, advertisements, photographs, comic books and anything that relays its story primarily through pictures and images rather than text and words.

A skeptical eye is to be critical and not believe everything you hear or see in the media. The media often creates a narrow sighted view of the reality, in which some people takes for a fact. It is therefore important as a teacher to give a divers explanation to the students, so they understand that it is a dominated narrative. Having a skeptical eye on’ digital media (news, videos etc) is important to identify the sender of the message and understand the background and context of the dominant narrative represented.

In visual culture, the values that structure dominant narratives are often circulated through mythical stories that condense the complexities of existence into simplified conflicts between good and evil.
— M. Ryan, p. 139
Emil Alexander Holm Thorsen