Dr. Chris, Visual blogging turned me into this.




Week 12: Photojournalism

“Photojournalism…goes beyond the limits of imagination: It makes the unbelievable believable'(Warbuton, 1998, 133 ).

In Week 8,  my entry was regarding Photography and this week’s blog works in relation to it. Photojournalism is a combination of photography and journalism whereby the photojournalist ‘ Photojournalists distinguish their images from others in part by intention: the purpose of making and distributing the images is to show the truth, to the extent any human can discern and communicate, of stories significant to people’s lives'(Newton, 1990) .How to distinguish photography and photojournalism? Photojournalism uses photography to report ‘events’ as evidence and truth tellers.

Why does photography works well with photojournalism?

To answer this we must remember the characteristics of photograph:

  • Photograph captures and freezes event against time. (Zelizer, 2005, 168)
  • Photographs are treated as evidence (Warbuton, 1998, 132) and validates the experience of being there. Thus, photographs are depicted as truthful.
  • Photographs can affect our emotions as there are influential. (Zelizer, 2005, 168)

For example:

Romania, 1990 – An orphanage for ” incurables” by James Nachtwey

James Nachtwey took the photograph above to represent the situation of an orphanage for the “incurables” in Romania. In 1990, the world learned of the unsanitary and poor conditions of the orphanages in Romania. Thousands of children were forced to live in those conditions because, ‘after the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu, whose Communist Government operated under the philosophy that children were better off in the mean conditions of state-run institutions than in the care of impoverished families’ (Perlez, 1996).  This image send me chills as the expression of the boy connotes fear and distraught while the worn out cages connotes poverty. This picture is an evidence of what was happening.

Photography is often reflected as truthful. Hence, it is assumed that photographs depict the world as it is. It is due to the concept of seeing is believing and again, seeing validates our experience. Photojournalism uses this concept convey its visual messages to its readers. However, to rely on photojournalist are not always the best idea because they are the creators of the texts so photographs are ‘selected as well as the values and preferences of the photographer’ ( Zelizer, 2005, 169). In other words, photojournalists control what the photographs depicts and readers connote the meaning of the photographs  via the lens of the photojournalist. Sometimes, photojournalist manipulates photographs in order to connote meanings they desired from the photographs.

Take the 1992 photo illustrations of O.J. Simpson in Newsweek and Time for example:

Both magazines used the same picture yet the alterations done to the Time’s magazine had generated a different connotations compare to the Newsweek magazine. These magazine was published during the murder trial involving O.J. Simpson. The large amount of contrast done to Time has made O. J. Simpson looked guilty and show the bias nature of the magazine since publication could have influence the judgment of the readers of Time even before the verdict is decided.

‘ A large part of evaluating journalism when it comes through the camera eye takes shape in conjunction with what we think we know about how images work ‘ (Zelizer, 2005, 170).

Understanding of how images work can be used against viewers. Hence, there are ethics used to protect the people from manipulation. Trust between the viewers and photographs play a vital role in journalism. Once viewers’ trust are broken, suspicion will arises from photojournalism and the photojournalism institutions will lose its credibility.

The following are ethics taken from the National Press Photographers Association.

‘Code of Ethics

Visual journalists and those who manage visual news productions are accountable for upholding the following standards in their daily work: Visual journalists should:
1.  Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects.2.  Resist being manipulated by staged photo opportunities.3.  Be complete and provide context when photographing or recording subjects. Avoid stereotyping individuals and groups. Recognize and work to avoid presenting one’s own biases in the work. 

4.  Treat all subjects with respect and dignity. Give special consideration to vulnerable subjects and compassion to victims of crime or tragedy. Intrude on private moments of grief only when the public has an overriding and justifiable need to see.

5.  While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events.

6.  Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images’ content and context. Do not manipulate images or add or alter sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.

7.  Do not pay sources or subjects or reward them materially for information or participation.

8.  Do not accept gifts, favors, or compensation from those who might seek to influence coverage.

9.  Do not intentionally sabotage the efforts of other journalists.

1. Strive to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in public. Defend the rights of access for all journalists.2. Think proactively, as a student of psychology, sociology, politics and art to develop a unique vision and presentation. Work with a voracious appetite for current events and contemporary visual media.3. Strive for total and unrestricted access to subjects, recommend alternatives to shallow or rushed opportunities, seek a diversity of viewpoints, and work to show unpopular or unnoticed points of view. 

4. Avoid political, civic and business involvements or other employment that compromise or give the appearance of compromising one’s own journalistic independence.

5. Strive to be unobtrusive and humble in dealing with subjects.

6. Respect the integrity of the photographic moment.

7. Strive by example and influence to maintain the spirit and high standards expressed in this code. When confronted with situations in which the proper action is not clear, seek the counsel of those who exhibit the highest standards of the profession. Visual journalists should continuously study their craft and the ethics that guide it

(National Press Photographers Association, 2010)

From the ethics above, it shows that photo alterations is still allowed as long as viewers are not mislead and subjects are not misrepresented. Thus, the question:

What photo alterations are allowed?

Cropping and contrast are the least harmful as long as there is no agenda to influence perception. If too much editing is done to a photograph, it is consider as a photo illustration not an ethical photojournalist photograph. Yet, to put a barrier between what is allowed and what is not allowed is difficult because every photojournalist has his/her own ethics and not everyone see eye to eye.

‘A photograph is always a decontextualized representation of reality recorded by a human being who makes conscious and even unconscious choices based on his or her cultural upbringing, experiences and biases’ (Share, 2003).

Photojournalism uses visual to tell a story; to tell the truth. Audience placed their faith in images shown by photojournalist because these images report events that are the truth in the eyes of the viewers even though it is just a representation of a situation.These images are the reflection of the world. Photojournalism has path a way for the unheard voices and brought attention to them. Despite the fact that photo editing has become more widespread and audience has become more skeptical about photojournalism, photojournalism is still influential with its denotations and connotations.

Kristen Ashburn uses photojournalism to tell the stories of AIDS.



Newton, J. (2009). PHOTOJOURNALISM. Journalism Practice, 3(2), 233-243. doi:10.1080/17512780802681363. From ESCHOST

Retrieved on 4th November 2010, 7.46pm



National Press Photographers Association, 2010, retrieved on 5th November 2010 from http://www.nppa.org/professional_development/business_practices/ethics.html

Perlez, J (1996) The New York Times, Retrieved on the 4th November, 2010 from http://www.nytimes.com/1996/03/25/world/romanian-orphans-prisoners-of-their-cribs.html

Zelizer, B. (2005). Journalism through the camera’s eyes. In Allan, S. (ed.), Journalism: Critical issues (pp. 167-176). Berkshire: Open University Press. Retrieved November, 4th, 2010 from UBD Ebrary Website

Warburton, n. (1998). Electrical photojournalism in the age of the electronic darkroom. In Kieran, M. (ed.), Media ethics (pp. 123 – 134). London; Routledge. retrieved from November 4, 2010, from UBD Ebrary Website.

Share, (2003) In Carlson, M. (eds) (2009). THE REALITY OF A FAKE IMAGE News norms, photojournalistic craft, and Brian Walski’s fabricated photograph. Journalism Practice, 3(2), 125-139. doi:10.1080/17512780802681140. Retreived on November 4th, 2010 from Eschost

Week 11: Infographics

Information graphics make lives easier!

When I was in secondary school, Mathematics used made me cry because numbers confused me entirely. I only looked forward to charts and graphs section in Statistics since I found reading graphs to be very easy. Bar graphs, line graphs and Pie charts are straightforward with information, visually simulating and requires less time to read. These graphs are infographics that ‘combine the individual satisfication of words with the emotional power of visual’ (Lester, 1995, 194). Infographics is a hybrid of graphics and information gathered from numbers and words  to display data.

For example;

Histogram and Statistics from GTP iCommerce


The Histogram taken from GTP iCommerce is much more attractive to look at compare the list of numbers beneath it. The bright colours will grab a longer length of time for eyes fixation for readers to gather information from the difference in length of the bars and labels will indicate the amount.

‘The power of a graphics representation of empirical data lies in its explanation of complex processes by an immediate visual image, ‘ (Lester, 1995, 195)

As Lester mentioned, visuals play an important role to simplify empirical data. Hence, charts and graphs uses semiotics and anchoring to transmit their message. Infographics function similarly as visual rhetoric as the graphics act as visual enthymemes since it is up to the audience to interpret the meaning. Infographic designers should always keep audience in mind  so the readers, ‘should never have to guess the meaning of particular in infographic’ (Lester, 1995, 199). Therefore the visuals should be clear.

For example;

Information gathered:

The different colour bars shows the different type of cards are used to compare. Similar colours indicate similar card brands. The numbers indicate the amount in millions. The line below the graph that separates the cards differentiate the area where the users are at.

This graph provides so much information in just a short glance. The bars act as signifier while the numbers and words act as signified. Audience can just put the signifier and signified together in their heads quickly and evaluate the meaning. From what we can see is that, there are more Visa cards compare with other cards.

This is so much convenient compare to reading reports of numbers that provides the similar information given as this graph.


These charts and graphs are types of Information Graphics that is ‘presented through the purposeful integration of text, pictures, and graphics design into clearly delineated and structured areas, i.e., a’ functioning whole’ (Petterson, 1993). In other words, pictures accompanied with words and numbers that uses artistic graphic designs. Infographics functions as a whole like Gestalt effects whereby ‘the whole is different than the sum of its parts'(Werthemier,1910). Parts of the infographics differ from the whole as the whole of the graph connotes different meaning than individual intervals.

In information graphics, there are two types; ‘statistical’ and ‘non statistical’. ‘Statistical’ graphics are similar to the ones before, i.e. charts and graphs that shows empirical and quantitive data while ‘non statistical’ graphics display visual qualitative information in a pleasing arrangement for the eyes. The bottom information graphics are examples:

Take this for example:

The picture above shows a map but filled with tags with information on purchases made around the world. This takes a new spin on classic information graphics. Instead of charts and graphs, the picture uses maps, shopping tags and symbolic signs. The statistics are strategically placed at different countries to show the data of that country. The icons represents the type of goods bought while the shopping tags box that holds the information in it represents purchase made. The connotation of this image thus, is the amount and type of purchases made in selective countries. This creative approach is definitely more eye catching and easily understood.

With the advancements in graphic technology (and human creativity), classic statistical information graphics such as bar charts, line graphs and histograms are now turning to be more interesting.

Another information graphic:

The information graphics above shows the statistics of US economy. From the graph, it shows 7 line graphs compiled together neatly without interference within the 7 line graphs. The difference between the classic line graphs and the information graphic the colour of lines are represents the American flag to indicate the country that the graph is representing and again, it is more visually stimulating that readers will be able to remember this graph than the classic line graphs. (images linger longer, find quote)

However, there are limitations to second information graphic. The line graphs only show certain amount of statistics, like for example, statistical figures are only shown at lines with dots so readers only know those information. Information graphics are persuasive so omitted information plays a part in influencing judgment of the audience. In addition, missing information is quite unethical for statistics and can cause unfair reading which leads us to:

Misleading Statistics

For example;

Can spot the error?

It is obvious there are errors in the graphs on the left. The numbers do not match the length of the data. This date is an unfair information graphics due to its errors that are trying to manipulate the audience to the see  USAirways Shuttle in a more favorable position than the other three aircrafts.


Statistics are not always presented truthfully and hence, ethics in statistics are important. But why are do we commonly see errors in information graphics?

‘1. Few infographic producers have much experience with statistical information

2. many inforgraphic producers believe that if the sole purpose of inforgraphics is to grab the reader’s attention, presentation errors and decorative flourishes can be overlooked. ‘ ( Lester, 1995, 208)

Hence, infographics designers should be knowledgeable in their provided information because grabbing reader’s attention is not enough but to provide accurate information especially since, ‘consumer of graphics are often more intelligent about the information at hand than those fabricate the data decoration…Disrespect for the audience will leak through, damaging communication’

(Lester, 1995, 210)

Thus, ethics are essential to infographics. According to Tufte, ethics of an infographic designer should be:

1. have an important message to communicate

2. convey information in a clear, precise, and efficient manner

3. never insult the intelligence of readers or viewers, and

4. always tell the truth” (Lester, 1995 p 208)

Truth in the infographics are important since ‘ images generally have a greater emotional impact than words, the potential to mislead with visual messages is higher’ (Lester, 1995, 208).

In summary, Information Graphics are more entertaining to read than just numbers and wordy statistics because images display more information and are more attention-grabbing. It more convenient and easier to read in a short amount of time. However, infographics can be manipulated to one’s advantage so infographics should follow ethics to provide fairness and truth.

This video shows infomation graphics at work with its application of Geslath effects that uses squares to represent data. Watch the video to show how the pictures unite to create an persuade effect on the audience.



Lester, P. M. (1995). Informational graphics. Visual communication: Images with messages (pp. 187 -211). California: Wadsworth Publishing

Werthemier, M. (1910). Gestaltists and its corresponding problem. In Weiner, I. R., Borman, W. B., Ilgen, D. R., Klimoski, R. J. (eds.), Industrial and organization psychology (p105). New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. Inc. Retrieved November 2, 2010 from Google Books Website: http://books.google.com/books?id=mC8bIA1M-nkC&pg=PA105&dq=max+wertheimer+1910+’the+whole+is+different+from+the+sum+of+its+part&hl=en&ei=PDXUTLiqDI7-vQPooaj-BA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CD8Q6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

Petterson, R. (1993). Visual information (2nd ed.) (pg. 173). New Jersey: Educational Technology Publications.

Week 10: Cyberculture

I like my Avatar better than myself…

Modern technology also has provided us with a new world, the cyberspace or virtual world. The cyberspace has become the new alternative to reality due to the characteristic it inhabits that allows users the freedom to explore their own  identities and escape to a world away from reality.

What are the characteristics of the cyberspace that benefits its users?

Cyberspace is a stage that allows users to act out their ‘mystic realities'(Robins, 2000, 80). Users can be who ever they desire to be and thus, cyberspace is virtual world of renatchment of fantasy. Cyberspace is describe as, ‘ a combination of the objectivity of the physical world with the unlimitedness and the uncensored content normally associated with dreams or imagination’ (Robins, 2000, 81). In reality, achieving dreams and acting out fantasy are not always possible and easy but in cyberspace, users can just adopt cyborgian identities and start playing along with their identity without revealing their own true self. Moreover, users ‘receive all the gratification that we are entitled to, but have been deprived of; in this world, we can reclaim the…illusion of magical creative power’ (Robins, 200, 81). In other words, cyborgian identities promote confidence that is absolutely gratifying to the users which it lacked in reality.  Cyberspace is world of wish-fulfillment and provides an escape from reality.

‘The exhilaration of virtual existence and experience comes from the sense of transcendence and liberation from the material and embodied world,'(Robins, 2000, 79)

Real life is not perfect and contains of limitations where as the virtual world in cyberspace can be describe as an Utopian space where, ‘social and political turbulence of our time – ethic conflict, resurgent nationalism, urban fragmentation – had nothing at all to do with virtual space’ (Robins, 2000, 79).  Thus, many users choose to escape to cyberspace. However, the Utopian space is an illusion can has caused blurred lines between fantasy and reality.

Cyberspace is perfect! What is so bad about it?

Despite the wonders of the wish-fulfilling cyberspace, it is not reality but an imitation of reality. In virtual games, the virtual world replicates real life with its settings and users replicating their lives based on reality. Boundaries between reality and fantasy get blurred especially when virtual reality becomes more favorable.

‘… the reality of the real world is disavowed; the coherence of the self deconstructed into fragments; and the quality of experience reduced to sensation and intoxication’ (Robins, 2000, 84)

When reality becomes the less favorable, users will start to lose them in cyberspace since it provides virtual empowerment by ‘encouraging a sense of self-containment and self-sufficiency; and involving denial of the the need for external objects’ (Robins, 2000, 85). This is very much dangerous as it starts to cause alienation from reality, neglect external objects and dependent on the gratifying aspects of cyberspace.

Take the following video as an example of the addiction of virtual gaming caused the death of a baby.

Moreover, there is still the issue of identity.

No doubt the technological advances in 21st century has made our lives easier especially with its gadgets. These technological gadgets, such as telephone, mobile phones, internet and so so…, gave us so much convenience that we have become absolutely dependent and attached to them like barnacles onto rocks. We are humans but our attachment with technology makes us machine as well, hence we are half human and half machine; i.e.  Cyborg.

‘A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of friction’ (Haraway, 2000, 291).

Being half machine allows to experiment with ourselves especially in cyberspace whereby our identities are not fixed but created based from what we desired ourselves to be. Thus, the self in cyberspace is a ‘fluid and polymorphous entity’ (Robins, 2000, 80). Users can create identities to fulfill their ‘ideal ego’. However, these cyborgian identities can cause the confusion with one’s self. Fantasy are illusions that people love to indulge in but for users who overindulge in their cyborgian identities, they would have problems with identifying themselves between the identities in real live and fantasy. Moreover, overindulge users will have problems coming in terms with their own identity and prefers the virtual avatar.

‘The loss of ability to give meaning to reality is also the product of psychos protection, the desire of the individual not to put himself at risk by exposing himself to the stimulus of a reality he can no longer interpret,’ (Robins, 2000, 83)

The movie Surrogates best illustrate this quote.

The movie deals with the problems of relying on machines and  alienation between human contact and reality. It questions the viewers’ need of machine and the artificial cyborgian identity we hide behind. Cyborg allows, ”a manifestation of the self beyond the realms of the physical, existing in a space where identity is self-defined rather than pre-ordained’ (Reid, 328)

‘The simulacrum is never which conceals the truth- it is the truth which conceals there is none. The simulacrum is true.’ (Ecclesiastes, 342)

Cyberspace and our cyborgian identities are simulacrum. Although those are imitations but we cannot denied their existence derives from our participation. We are considered as cyborgs nevertheless there is a distinction between reality and cyberspace for us to live life.



Robins, K. (2000). Cyberspace and the world we live in. In Bell, D. and Kennedy, B. M. (eds.), The cybercultures reader (pp77-95). London: Routledge

Haraway, D. (2000) A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and Socialist-Feminism in the late twentieth century. In Bell, D. and Kennedy, B. M. (eds.), The cybercultures (p 291). London; Routledge Retrieved October 30, 2010, from Google Books Website:

Reid, E. M (1996) Text based virtual Realities:Identity and the Cyborg body. In Ludlow, P. (eds.) High noon on the electronic frontier: Conceptual issues in cyberspace (pp327-346). Sabon: Massachusetts Institution of Technology. Retrieved October 30, 2010, from Google Books Website: http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=xI_Um3dTTeYC&oi=fnd&pg=PA327&dq=cyborg+identity&ots=iUOdTvlPaq&sig=eZ9U9LW9akN5DbXkiaTD9bvZEGA#v=onepage&q=cyborg%20identity&f=false

Ecclesiastes (N.D.) The Precession of Simulacra. In Natoli, J. P. and Hutcheon, L. (eds.) (1993), The Postmodern Reader(pp342-375). New York: State University of New York Press. Retreieved on Octover 30, 2010 from Google Books Website: http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=SarqLoTt2usC&oi=fnd&pg=PA342&dq=simulacrum&ots=zcl74QKqVC&sig=bX1maMe1HGf1wTqIbO-PHT9c2e4#v=onepage&q=simulacrum&f=false

Week 9: Cinema and television

Have you ever watch a film or series and went like, ” What?”

Then you turn to the person next to you with a confuse face but the person looks at you with a pitiful expression because you could not understand the movie.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what happens when we lack cultural literacy.

Cultural literacy is defined as ,”a knowledge of meaning systems and ability to negotiate those systems within different cultural contexts. It is virtually impossible to describe and analyse what is happening in any communication context or practice without using the concept of cultural literacy.” ( Schirato and Yell, 2000, 1)

Textual tradition in television studies is the ‘ways of understanding television: how television was taught’ (Hartley, 1999, 59). Textual tradition is important to understand how we gain cultural literacy. ‘Traditional’ can be described as habits that we have grown accustomed to that we ‘manipulate the controls of the mechanism without the conscious effort’ (Hartley, 1999, 60) . It becomes part of us. Textual tradition is the obtaining of knowledge while cultural literacy is the knowledge obtained.

The larger amount of Cultural Literacy we obtained, the easier for us to understand the text. We become more familiar and have a nuanced for understanding without much cognitive struggle. However, viewers must keep in mind that the information put out in television and cinema are controlled and authorized by formal educational institutions such as researchers, government institutions  and critical institution such as media communities that functions to provide, ‘an occupation ideology to cement and cohere profession…, and it offers tose in the know a shorthand system by means of which people and products can quickly…be placed and judged…’ (Hartley, 1999, 63)

Information provided is controlled to make viewers have an uniform thoughts  derived from ideology. Hence, viewers need to be more critical and obtain cultural literacy to understand and question the representatives provided because usually, there will be a struggle of meaning generated from what we see.

Thus, cultural Literacy is the foundation of our understanding. It contains rules and conventions that form our framework of understanding of language.  It is also a shared knowledge that enables us to understand a context of a discourse better. Television and cinema are the mediums which we gain knowledge and improve our cultural literacy.

To elaborate further, I will use the movie trailer of Mean Girls (2004) to illustrate cultural literacy of youths.

How do we know it is a movie for youth?

Using signifiers: The setting of an American high school filled with teenagers, blackboard and classroom, the characters are young teenagers (backpacks, cars, cheerleaders) and few teachers.

Signifiers functions as representation of how youth culture should look like while the signified gives the meanings and produce a sign that represents the youth.

Contains discourses: Teenage love , friendships between true friends , betrayal of friends.

All these fits into the genre of teenage movie. To understand the movie, we need the cultural literacy to identify the elements such as the characters, plot, language, and setting in order to understand the themes and movie well.

However, this is only just one representative of youth culture in an American context. Is this the only representation of of youth culture? Counter representations based on youth movies should be brought in. This causes politics in representation that challenges the stereotypical representation.


Schirato, T. and Yell, S. (2000) Communication and Culture, Communication and Cultural Literacy: An introduction (2nd ed) (pp1-3) Victoria; BPA Print Group
Hartley, J. (1999) Knowledge, television and the ‘textual tradition’. Uses of Television (pp66-70) KY: Routledge

Week 8:Photography

Take a picture, It’ll last longer…

Thus, the popularity of the camera lies in its ability to capture a moment in a photograph and freeze it against time. Photographs last longer than our biological memory and acts as a ‘prosthetic memory’ that stores our “memory” in a piece of paper. In fact, photographs are like a piece of evidence (Wells, 1997, 30)  that validate our experiences. Every time we snapped a picture, we do it because to immortalize the scene and memory for us to remember in case our biological memory fails us.

‘Photograpghs…give us an unearned sense of understanding things, past and present, having both the potential to move us emotionally, but  also the possibility of holding us at a distance through aestheticising images of events, ‘(Wells, 1997, 30)

Photograph is seen to carry truth values be cause ‘we ritually verify what is there and disposed it to call it reality…with photographs, we have concrete proof that we have not been hallucinating all our lives,’ (Kozloff 1979, 101)

Nevertheless, photographs can be altered especially with the brilliance of technology. For example;

In 26th March 2009, Complex.com released non  retouch photograph of Kim Kardashian before it was  supposed to be released.

Check out the left and right photos of Kim Kardashian,  notice the picture on the left, Kim looks darker and her  thighs have cellulite whereas the one on the right, she  looks fairer and has smooth cellulite-free thighs.

Why the concealment?

If complex.com did not pre-released the photo, would believe she looked exactly like the picture on right?

We can see that power of a photograph lies in the hands in the creator of the photograph.

Hence, audience should be skeptical and be more aware with images shown by anyone. Photographers should keep the trust of the readers in mind.

‘.., advent of digital imaging where we can no longer be sure that the image we see document anything at all. At best, photographers need to be aware of the issues determining his or her approach to the subject as well as the ethical implication and the representational consideration,’ (Terence, 1999, 61)

The relationship between the photographer, photograph and audience:

The photographer finds a target, chooses its frames and shoots from his/her perspective. The image can be edited to fit the message that photographer wants to tell. The photography is the medium which is used to represent the visual narrative he/her wants to tell. From the photograph, the photograph conveys the message of the photographer to its audience. The audience interprets it from their own perspective . Their interpretation is derived from each of their own culture and social conventions.

Based on tutorial question, we asked to take pictures. This photograph was taken by my friend when he visiting a zoo last year.


The forgotten

How is this a cultural critique?

It shows the Orang Utan climbing on to the cage, living in poor and unsanitary situation. It depicts the poor treatment towards animals in a zoo. I was told that the zoo lost its funding by the government and now it’s struggling just to feed the animals, let alone maintenance towards these animals.

The gaze of the Orang Utan stopped me and as if it was pleading to free him from the cage.

The green algae filth infested water is appalling but with poverty, how can you save them? Orang Utans are meant to live in the wild but the Orang Utans leaving in that zoo had been there for their whole lives. Releasing them would not save them because they have been domesticated but these conditions are fit for living. It’s terribly heart wrenching to see the zoo neglected especially the animals. The government and public should lend a hand to help.

‘Photographs…give us an unearned sense of understanding things, past and present, having both the potential to move us emotionally, but  also the possibility of holding us at a distance through aestheticising images of events, ‘(Wells, 1997, 30)

Are you moved by the picture?



Wells, L. (1997). Thinkning about the photography. Photography: a critical introduction (pp. 24- 54) London: Routledge

Wright, T. (1999). Photography as a cultural critique. Photography handbook (pp.135-151). London and New York: Routledge.

Week 7:Visual Narrative and the Media


A picture is worth a thousand words…

Like words, pictures tell a story. Remember as a child, we were told of stories? Through verbal stories from the voices of our parents? Even from visuals that we watched through the our eyes that were usually glued onto the TV?  The cartoons, animations and movies we watched are visual narratives. Narrative is the art of story telling and it ,’involves the recounting and shaping of events,’ (Lamarque, 1994, 131). Since most of us have exposure to the narratives, we are capable to understand stories effortlessly and even have certain expectations towards narratives due to the different genres. For example, in the genre of romance, audience are expected to find a love story.

Narratives are told in so many ways that it has become either predictable or unpredictable. The same story can be told so many times but changes in the certain elements of narrative can give a new outlook. This is extremely important to visual story tellers in the film and media industry as “new” stories are needed to attract consumers. Hence, analyzing visual narratives gives us understanding of what elements can make a movie profitable.

Before we start with our analysis, there are few terms and concepts we should know:

Aristotle’s ‘three act’ Dramatic structure

Todorov’s  five stages of narrative structure
Beginning State of Equilibrium at the outset
Middle Disruption of the equilibrium by some action
Recognition  of Disruption
Attempt to repair the disruption
End Reinstatement of the equilibrium

(Lacey, 2000, 23)

Narrative contains Paradigm and Syntagm. Paradigm are, ‘continuum of events, positions, relations reflecting a fundamental set of constraints regulating the generation of story’ (Jones, 1990, 205).  In other words, Paradigms acts like slots that can be changed with another paradigm in the narrative structure. Syntagm acts in contrast to paradigm whereby it cannot be substitute with another element because altering the syntagm would alter the meaning and the flow of the narrative. Adaptations of narratives are ideal to explain paradigms and syntagms.
















I will use Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night(1996) and She’s the Man(2006) to illustrate my paradigm and syntagm. Twelfth Night(1996)is a movie model closely to the original 1602 play while She’s the Man(2006)  is a modern adaptation of Twelfth Night.

Twelfth Night(1996) She’s the Man (2006)

  • Has two plots; one on main characters; another on minor characters

1.  Viola is shipwrecked and strained in Illyria

2.  Viola dressed up as a man to seek employment with Duke Orsino.

3.  Viola woos Olivia for Orsino’s behalf but Olivia falls in love with Viola disguised as a man.

4.  Viola falls in an unrequited love for Orsino and a love triangle forms. Conflict forms

5.  Confusion is created when Sebastian, Viola’s twin brother returns.

6.  In the end, Sebastian marries Olivia while Viola marries Orsino and return to her feminine form.


  • Single plot

1.  Viola is not allowed to have a girl’s soccer team

2.  Viola disguised up as a boy and her brother to prove that girls can play soccer as good as boys

3.  Viola helps Orsino with his affections for Olivia

4.     Viola falls in an unrequited love for Orsino and a love triangle forms. Conflict forms

1.  Confusion is created when Sebastian, Viola’s twin brother returns.

2.  In the end, Sebastian dates Olivia while Viola dates Orsino and return to her feminine form.

Setting:   Illyria, in 17th century at old English countryside. Setting: Illyria, American boarding High school
Narrator:    Viola Narrator:  Missing narrator
Genre:  Shakespearean comedyTargeted audience: mostly fans of Shakespeare’s plays. Genre:  Teenage comedyTargeted audience: Teenagers and youth
Temporality: Chronological order Temporality: Chronological order
Duration: Real time Duration: Real time
Paradigm: Setting, narrator, Genre                     Syntagm : Plot, Temporality, Real time

As you can see, even with different genre of the narratives both movies can be seen as identical as well as different due the paradigms and syntagms. The genre alteration is quite interesting as Shakespearean’s plays usually attract a more mature audience due to the Shakespearian English but the change in genre causes a different appeal to younger audience. It is due to these changes that  keeps the narrative “young” and “new”. After the release of She’s the Man (2006), few years later  in Japan and Taiwan released their own television version of Twelfth Night by keeping the fabula of woman disguised as a man but with their paradigms such as languages, genres, settings, plot and etc.

It is interesting how narratives are kept “fresh” but actually are the same story being reused. I cannot helped but wondered if that is how morals and ideology are kept alive? Every story carries discourses. Through discourses, we learn the meanings attached to them which are similar to semiotics. If the stories we had read are actually similar, are we rereading the morals and ideologies attached to it in order to implant it to our schema and perception? Visual narratives have been said to have a more stronger visual rhetoric effect than verbal and written narratives. Hence, visual narratives are perfect tools of persuasion to reaffirm our social values.

It is due to question of social values, gave birth to narratives of post-structuralism. There are two type of narratives, Structuralism and Post-structuralism. Structuralism follows the traditional story structure with order and obeys Aristotle and Todorov’s narrative structure which is different from post-structuralism since it opposes the tradition story structure by breaking the typical rules and convention.

Example of structuralism would be Taylor Swift 2009 video.

It is the classic love story told in a chronological order despite several flashbacks. It follows Aristotle and Torodov’s narrative structure where there is a beginning and ending. The characters are also the convention beautiful princess and handsome prince. All these fall upon the structuralism where there is a typical order.

This an example of Post-structuralism

Linkin Park’s video is is not told from a chronological order but from the end to front. It breaks away from traditional chronological order. Moreover, the hero is seen as anti-hero due to its suicidal thought. This breaks away from the traditional hero whereby he is perceived as strong, handsome and rescuer.

This animation does not consists of  traditional Disney-like characters, but counter-characters. Shrek the main protagonist whom is an unpleasant but kind hearted ogre who gets the princess. The princess choose to remain an ogre and not lived in the castle but in a swamp with Shrek in the end. The villain is the handsome character, Prince Charming who did not get his happy ending. This movie goes against social expectations of the Structuralism such as the characters and even make a parody of the plot.

Here i leave you with a video that uses the power of visual narrative to tell a story of war and pain.


Lamarque, P. (1994). Narrative and invention: the limits of fictionality. In Nash. C. (ed.), Narrative in culture (pp. 131-153). New York and London: Routledge

Lacey, N. (2000). Todorov and narrative structure. Narrative and Genre: Key concepts in Media Studies (pp23- 45). New York: Palgrave.

Jonnes, D. (1990). Family paradigm, story sequence. The matrix of narrative: family systems and the semiotics of story (p205). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter &Co. Retrieved on November 6, 2010 from Google Books Website: http://books.google.com/books?id=0dBsMrc9-MMC&pg=PA205&dq=the+set+of+paradigms+begin+to+define+a+continuum+of+events,+positions,+relations+reflecting+a+fundamental+set+of+constraints+regulating+the+generation+of+story&hl=en&ei=Of3UTO6ZJIagvgPQoLzvCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=the%20set%20of%20paradigms%20begin%20to%20define%20a%20continuum%20of%20events%2C%20positions%2C%20relations%20reflecting%20a%20fundamental%20set%20of%20constraints%20regulating%20the%20generation%20of%20story&f=false

Application of Geslalt effects

I was going to through my stippling artwork and realised that this structure relies on Geslalt effects.

The dots are specifically placed together in order for the Brain to create the picture. Hence, “‘The whole is different from the sum of its parts’, if not the parts would be just dots and lines.
This is my application of Geslalt effect on the Malaysian actress, Lee Sin Jie.

What do you think?

Week 6: Rhetorics

Rhetorics is an interesting topic that has been studied since the years of Aristotle.  Antony’s speech in The Tragedy of Julius Ceasar started my exploration of persuasion as it is a powerful tool possessed especially for politicians. I often wondered how the use of words is able to so persuasive but how a picture can arouse emotions.

Rhetorics is the art of persuasion. It focuses on how the delivery of persuasion is done rather than the content(McQuarrie, E. F. ; Philips, B. J. 2007) In rhetorics, enthymeme playa an important role in persuasion especially in visual rhetorics. But what is enthymeme?

Enthymeme is ‘is an argument in which the arguer deliberately leaves unstated a premises that is essential to its reasoning’  (Blair, 2004).  For example;

Premise 1:  God will reward nonviolence.

Premise 2: We are pursuing our dream nonviolently

Conclusion: God will grant us our dream.

It uses logic to persuade. But as you can see, rhetorics focuses on how strong your argument is rather than the real truth especially in advertising (McQuarrie 2007). Truth values is not the priority but style of delivery is especially when it comes to advertising.

Visual rhetorics still uses elements from oral rhetorics such as enthymeme but its premises are build from imagery and words rather than just words.

Using the advertisement below, I will demonstrate how visual rhetoric in advertising persuades:

Case study of PSP

To analyse a visual rhetoric in advertising, we asked these questions:

  1. What is the unstated premise?
  2. What is the enthymeme and as audience, what gaps must be we fill?
  3. How do the visuals supports this argument? What emotions do the visual argument arouse from the audience? Do the words and images mesh each other well?


Unstated Premise 1. Handcuffs keep you lock up so you cannot escape.

Signifers: Policemen, police car and the body language of the PSP player.

Signified: A crime scene and a criminal is captured.

This creates a schema of a crime scene. The top level schema.

Unstated Premise 2. PSP is so fun to play that you cannot let go.

Signifer: The PSP’s hands holding onto a PSP with the presence of policemen.

Connotes: Addictive

This is the teminal of schema whereby, a PSP is used rather than a handcuff.

Conclusion that is left fore audience to fill: Like handcuffs, PSP  keeps players locked onto it and cannot escape.

The advert is trying to persuade the audience that PSP is so fun that you will be so addicted to it that you are unable to put the game down. However, the truth value revolves around the addictive and entertainment aspect. It is uncertain if the truth values are true but that is not the concern because audience will be persuaded by the meaning attached to the advert.

Besides advertising, visual rhetorics also play a role in comics. In comics, audience again takes an active role to denote and connote.

Premise 1: In case of fire, you break glass to get the employment ad.

Conclusion: In case of fire, get a new job to save yourself; don’t save the office.

It uses the schema of an office equipped with a fire safety box but the lower level of schema is a newspaper in the glassbox rather than an Axe or fire extinguisher. This contradiction in comics needs both visuals and words to create the laughter.


Week 5: Gestalt effect and Schema theory

You are tasked to provide a presentation to a group of children between the ages of 8-10 years old. Your topic is about fire safety and how to prevent fire accidents in the home. The context of this presentation is in a Primary school.

1) Provide 2 visual schemas that will frame your topic for the children.

2) Why did you choose those schemas?

3) Explain the Top and Lower level of schematic process.

4) Is the schema chosen incongruous or congruous?

Before I start with questions, I will elaborate more on schemas. Schema is

the means by which similar experiences are assimilated and aggregated in such a way as to be quickly and easily remembered”  (Marshall, S 1995)

In others words, schema is a knowledge framework or memory of what we know.  As we all are different individuals, we all have different schemas (Tracey, D; Morrow, L 2006). Therefore, we must understand the schemas of children before attempting this question.

Firstly, I will choose what schemas before elaborating on the reasons of my choice. I will use a uniformed firefighter and a fire truck  as my schemas. We often associate firefighters and fire trucks with protection from fire.By using these two schemas, the children will learn to form  a framework of fire safety. Nevertheless, schemas can have alterations. Hence there are top level schemas and second level schemas.

‘The “top level” of a frame are fixed, and represent things that are always true about supposed situation. The lower levels have many “slots” that must be filled by specific instances or data.’ (Minsky,M 1974)

In other words, the uniform firefighter and fire truck will be the top levels of schema. However, firefighters and fire trucks can vary due to geographical reasons.  The uniformed firefighters and fire trucks may vary in colours, shapes and sizes so the colours, shapes and sizes will be the second level of schemas.

The schemas I chosen are congruous as it more suitable for children from the age of 8 to 10 years old. Children from 8 to 10 years old will be a the concrete operational stage whereby they can only form logic from what they see (Piaget, J 2003). In other words, incongruous schemas which requires more than just simple logic will not be suitable for children at that age.

Take the Snoopy Fire safety book for example;


Dog in wearing a fire safety helmet, a coat holding a water hose standing on a red house.

Connotes: Fire Safety

Top level schemas: Red helmet, hose, fireman unifrom, red house.

Lower lever schemas: Shape of helmet, color of uniform, Snoopy as the firefighter, Shape of the red house.


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