The General Education requirements for Davis undergraduates were revised in June 2008 to include a “visual literacy” component. A description of the new GE requirements and course approval guidelines are available from the UC Davis GE website.
Revising your course content to meet the visual literacy requirement may be a daunting task, but there are many resources out there to help you develop new curricula. The list of visual literacy and visualization resources below is by no means comprehensive, but it should offer information and inspiration to faculty interested in incorporating visual literacy into their coursework.
Definitions and Taxonomies
What is Visual Literacy? from the International Visual Literacy Association (IVLA)
Data visualization means different things to many people. To some it’s an analytical tool while to others it’s a way to make a statement. In my experience, those interested in data visualization fall into these five categories.
This basic, brief introduction geared at K-8 teachers, but has some utility as a distillation of why visual literacy is useful.
A definition and an overview of the elements of visual communication, including, among other things, dot, line, shape, hue, and motion.
This table provides examples of ~100 visualization methods, organized by type (e.g. data visualization, information visualization, concept visualization, strategy visualization, metaphor visualization, compound visualization).
An older but still useful site that aims to help the 80% of people who just want learning, information and communication technology to be easy to use and reliable. I believe the increased ease of use of digital cameras provide an incredible opportunity for teachers and students to make greater use of visual resources. Please take the trouble to offer ideas or suggestions – you will be acknowledged and others can benefit.
Technological advances, particularly in computing, continually increase the range of imaging techniques that are available to the scientific community. The burgeoning use of pictorial representation has implications for science and technology education. The capacities to both understand and generate technical pictures are fundamental to scientific and technological literacy for students at many levels, from school to university. We could describe these capacities as a form of visual literacy that involves the “reading “and “writing “of technical pictures. It is just as important for students to develop this visual aspect of scientific and technological literacy as it is for them to develop the general literacy required to understand the specialized verbal and mathematical languages they encounter in science. Successful reading of a highly abstract scientific diagram requires very different skills from those required for reading ordinary pictures of everyday content such as photographs in a newspaper or illustrations in a shopping catalogue. This means it is essential that today’s students develop the general visual literacy skills required for dealing with scientific graphics, but they must also learn about particular types of scientific pictures that actually form part of the content of a specific field of scientific or technological study.
Edward Tufte has written seven books, including Visual Explanations, Envisioning Information, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, and Data Analysis for Politics and Policy. He writes, designs, and self-publishes his books on analytical design, which have received more than 40 awards for content and design. He is Professor Emeritus at Yale University, where he taught courses in statistical evidence, information design, and interface design. His current work includes landscape sculpture, printmaking, video and a new book.
The link between images and intuition and the implied link between textual or numeric information and knowledge seems like a really good place to begin to construct what I can call an acceptable definition for “visual literacy”. Can images or pictures themselves be more than just stepping stones along the path to real knowledge? Can pictures directly facilitate knowledge without an intermediary format between their transference and perception?
I say YES they can, but the correct interpretation of imagery is embedded within its cultural context. This makes it easy to dismiss an image if you lack the cultural vocabulary to understand it. Imagery does initially appeal to one’s intuitive sense. It has its own grammar and punctuation, and is equally apt to communicate both fact and opinion. This is also the case with textual media, but because imagery appeals first to one’s intuitive reaction, the need for cultural comprehension is magnified.
IVLA is a not-for-profit association of researchers, educators, designers, media specialists, and artists dedicated to the principles of visual literacy.
IVLA was formed for the purpose of providing a forum for the exchange of information related to visual literacy. We are also concerned with issues dealing with education, instruction and training in modes of visual communication and their application through the concept of visual literacy to individuals, groups, organizations, and to the public in general.
Our members represent a wide range of disciplines including the arts, sciences, education, communication, business, videography, photography, instructional technology, health, and computer applications. We invite you to join us in the lively debates of our field, and we look forward to forming lasting professional and personal friendships.
The purpose of the IVSA is to promote the study, production, and use of visual images, data, and materials in teaching, research, and applied activities, and to foster the development and use of still photographs, film, video, and electronically transmitted images in sociology and other social sciences and related disciplines and applications.
Visual Studies, from the International Visual Sociology Association
Visual Studies is a major international peer-reviewed journal published on behalf of the International Visual Sociology Association. The journal publishes visually-oriented articles across a range of disciplines, and represents a long-standing commitment to empirical visual research, studies of visual and material culture, the development of visual research methods and the exploration of visual means of communication about social and cultural worlds. Visual Studies is a key resource for all disciplines that engage with images, society and culture, and sets the standard for the scholarly use of visual material.
The multidisciplinary character of the journal is reflected in its attention to visually-based research in sociology, anthropology, cultural and media studies, documentary film and photography, information technology, education, communication studies as well as other fields concerned with image-based study.
The Visual Sociology listserve was established by the International Visual Sociology Association to promote the study and use of visual materials as data, as complemetary information, and as illustrative material, in the pursuit of sociological work. We hope to establish a forum for the discussion of visual meaning, in which scholars and practitioners in any field might feel welcome. In particular, besides sociologists, we invite anthropologists, communications scholars, education practitioners and researchers, historians, photographers, photo-journalists, and psychologists to participate.
Taxonomy of Visual Communication and a Bibliography, from the IVLA
Joel and Irene Benedict Visual Literacy Collection (1970s – 1990s)
Archives and Alternative Textbooks
For years we have been dissatisfied with the large expensive art history textbook. We found that they were difficult for many students, contained too many images, and just were not particularly engaging. In addition, we had found the web resources developed by publishers to be woefully uncreative. We had developed quite a bit of content for our online Western art history courses and we had also created many podcasts, and a few screencasts for our smARThistory blog. So, it finally occurred to us, why not use the personal voice that we use when we teach online, along with the multimedia we had already created for our blog and for our courses, to create a more engaging “web-book” that could be used in conjunction with art history survey courses. We are also committed to joining the growing number of teachers who make their content freely available on the web.
Contemporary introductory rhetoric classes are often (understandably) ordered around the exploration and promotion of the “common ground” model of civic discourse. Students are encouraged to look for continutities among various perspectives in order to demonstrate that they understand and can synthesize various points-of-view. Furthermore, students are encouraged in such pursuits with a particular purpose in mind: so that they might, as a kind of capstone project for any given course, produce well-written, well-reasoned arguments of their own–including fair prolepses demonstrating that they can respect the arguments of their opponents. While in a partisan society this model is both desirable and healthy, it may sometimes foster either a tendency to overlook forms and methods of persuasion that eschew such approaches altogether, or privilege the “civic/civil” discourse surrounding public controversies while ignoring other, perhaps more pervasive forms of rhetoric, such as advertising, “spin,” or propaganda.
When it comes to visual literacy, understanding the culture and context of a picture of is of utmost importance. Above, I intentionally have placed next to each other several advertisements for Coca-Cola from across a spectrum of years. Based off of just a quick glance, it is immediately apparent that the ads are different and reflect the available technologies and culture of the time in which they were produced. Trying to understand these pictures requires a working knowledge of the historical context. Conversely, however, it is important to understand that all these ads have the same purpose: promote Coca-Cola. Consequently, there are several similarities and differences between them, and I will discuss each of the ads in turn.
Many Eyes is a new tool created by IBM Research that allows users to create visual representations of data and information, like charts, maps and other graphic presentations. This version of Many Eyes, known as Visualization Lab, is specifically designed for The New York Times.
With Visualization Lab, NYTimes.com users will be able to visualize and comment on information and data sets presented by Times editors, share those visualizations with others and create topic hubs where people can discuss specific subjects. There is also a separate site, Many Eyes, run by IBM Research at http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/. Please feel free to participate and contribute in both places.
Worldmapper is a collection of world maps, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest. There are now nearly 600 maps. Maps 1-366 are also available as PDF posters.
Flowgram allows you to create interactive guided presentations by combining web pages, photos, PowerPoint and more with your voice, notes, and highlights. Viewers can control the pages, scroll, click on links, view videos and more.
An amazing tool. VUVOX gives you the power to create one of a kind stories in an instant. All you need to do is provide whatever cool content that you have. Take pictures, video, audio and text. Mix it up. Choose backgrounds, colors, textures that create your vibe and then you are ready to share your piece with the world.
Create stunningly beautiful timelines on your Mac. Film makers, museum curators, professors, novelists, grad students and business leaders use our software to create elegant timelines. Join them and create your masterpiece today!
Present your timelines in full screen interactive 3D or export your timelines as PDF to include in your documents, movies, or websites.
Stellarium is a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. It is being used in planetarium projectors. Just set your coordinates and go.
EveryTrail is a global web2.0 platform for geotagged user generated travel content that is changing the way millions of people share their travel experiences and plan their trips. EveryTrail users create valuable content, for themselves, their family and friends, and for the broader community, by uploading GPS data and photos in order to create visual interactive trip reports of their travel experiences.
The KM process is rooted in the idea that your thinking begins with sensation and proceeds to imagery then to metaphor and later (only milliseconds later) to explaining and intellectualizing your experience: from visceral to conceptual. If you can just get back to that first take on something that is important to you, you have a shot at getting beneath the knee jerk intellectual categorizing that we all do, especially in a crisis. KM literally gets people unstuck. The more hidebound they are, the better it works.
Inspiration for faculty and students alike.
Infographics are a form of concentrated nutrition for data consumers. They are multi-vitamins, fulfilling basic info requirements in a simple hassle-free way. Like a pill, knowledge is condensed into essential components, enough to satiate your basic informational needs. They give you a general overview, one you can convert into talking points and social currency.
The amount of information they convey and the style used will vary depending on its purpose. Who is the intended audience of this piece? What specific frame or idea angle do you want to emphasize? How much abstraction and simplification is necessary for data to make sense?
You can see more great infographics at Conversation Agent.
A must-see site! VisualComplexity.com intends to be a unified resource space for anyone interested in the visualization of complex networks. The project’s main goal is to leverage a critical understanding of different visualization methods, across a series of disciplines, as diverse as Biology, Social Networks or the World Wide Web. I truly hope this space can inspire, motivate and enlighten any person doing research on this field.
Not all projects shown here are genuine complex networks, in the sense that they aren’t necessarily at the edge of chaos, or show an irregular and systematic degree of connectivity. However, the projects that apparently skip this class were chosen for two important reasons. They either provide advancement in terms of visual depiction techniques/methods or show conceptual uniqueness and originality in the choice of a subject. Nevertheless, all projects have one trait in common: the whole is always more than the sum of its parts.
Gain inspiration and knowledge from these virtual poster sessions. Topics include, but are not limited to,
collaborating with colleagues to promote visual literacy across the curriculum, visual and information literacy in the study of costume, reading online scholarly content through students’ eyes, the application and incorporation of visual literacy principles to instructional design, and analyzing dynamics of race and racism with information and visual literacy.
Scientists at the University of Nottingham have made videos and demonstrations relevant to all the elements on the periodic table.
This technology is mind-bending; using your computer’s webcam and microphone, it creates an interactive digital hologram of Smart Grid technology in your hands. Click on “See how it works” for a demonstration.
The Urban Simulation Team at UCLA is a research group exploring applications for real-time visual simulation in design, urban planning, emergency response, and education. Check out their simulations of contemporary urban environments as well as reconstruction of historic environments. A favorite: A boat ride through the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.
Visualize the development of major world cities across the centuries, using a mashup of historical data and markers with historic and Google maps.
“On the Edge of the Internal Fringe” took place at the intersection of GPS and art, and was sponsored by the Center for Land Use Interpretation, the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts, and UC San Diego’s Media Center and Department of Visual Arts.
Tufte examines how bad, text-heavy, bulleted PowerPoint slides contributed to bad decision-making regarding whether it was safe for the space shuttle Columbia to return to Earth in 2003. This is an excerpt from his work The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint, which may be purchased online for $7 or checked out of the UC Davis library (Shields Library P93.5 .T848 2006).
Designed with businesspeople in mind, this book’s advice has many applications for university faculty.
Presentation software is one of the few tools that requires professionals to think visually on an almost daily basis. But unlike verbal skills, effective visual expression is not easy, natural, or actively taught in schools or business training programs. slide:ology fills that void. Written by Nancy Duarte, President and CEO of Duarte Design, the firm that created the presentation for Al Gore’s Oscar-winning film, An Inconvenient Truth, this book is full of practical approaches to visual story development that can be applied by anyone.
This book is readable online if you’re logged into the campus nework or anywhere else if you’re logged into the UC Davis library’s virtual private network.
Errol Morris’s long, insightful essays on photography for The New York Times are not to be missed. Errol Morris is a filmmaker whose movie “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara” won the Academy Award for best documentary feature in 2004. He has also directed “Gates of Heaven,” “The Thin Blue Line,” “Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control,” “A Brief History of Time” and “Standard Operating Procedure.” A book of his essays (many of which have appeared here) will be published later this year. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science.
Maureen Taylor is the author of Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs. Through PhotoDetective.com, she’s dedicated to helping those who share her infatuation with discovering the stories behind images of the past. In addition to tips on interpreting and analyzing photos, she offers advice on photo preservation.
Sociological Images: Seeing is Believing is designed to encourage all kinds of people to exercise and develop their sociological imagination by presenting brief sociological discussions of compelling and timely imagery that spans the breadth of sociological inquiry. Please also visit our YouTube channel, Sociological Images: The Big Picture.
WHY: The sociological imagination is a woefully under-utilized tool. We hope this blog encourages all kinds of people to exercise and develop their sociological imagination and that, between all of us, public discourse will increasingly include a sociological lens with which we can all learn about social processes and mechanisms, critique social inadequacies, and design functional and equitable alternatives.
Also, if you are a professor, we hope that these images will be useful for your classes. What with the kids these days being all media-saturated, a good image is often more effective for getting a point across than all the citations, repetition, or jumping up and down and saying “really I swear” will be.
The goal of this site is to explore the ways in which rhetoric, visual culture, and pedagogy interact with and inform each other. In keeping with this mission, the viz. blog is a forum for exploring the visual through identifying the connections between theory, rhetorical practice, popular culture, and the classroom.
Viz. is maintained by the Computer Writing and Research Lab, which is led by the Department of Rhetoric and Writing at the University of Texas at Austin.
Analysis of information graphics has largely been left to graphic designers, advertising staff and increasingly by electronic user interface developers. The design and implementation of coherent, compelling information graphics as tools to represent social science data is left largely to individual practitioners. Graphic Sociology analyzes the visual presentation of social data from the perspective of social science practice. Each blog consists of a chart, table, interactive graphic or other visual display of sociologically relevant data and an analysis of the success of the graphic in terms of being clear, comprehensive, compelling and an accurate portrayal of the written content.
Christine Martell, who runs a company that offers facilitation through visualization methods, writes a blog that frequently provides food for thought for university instructors. Of particular note is her visual language series, in which she shows how to deconstruct images in order to better learn how to construct them.
This webpage has been translated into Haitian Creole. Click here to read.