237.130_A1_Wk1_Task #3_Reading Reflection

“Introduction”. How to See the World. London: Pelican, 2015. 1-11. Mirzoeff, Nicholas.


“This book is designed to help you understand the changing world… to help them and those trying to make sense of what they see”.

Three key ideas on visual culture can be taken from the “Introduction” to Nicholas Mirzoeff’s novel : How to See the World. Mirzoeff discusses how in the visual culture availability of knowledge allows understanding through imagination, the experience we have from “seeing” the digital/virtual world, and the impact of time bases on a visual culture.


  • In visual culture the availability of knowledge allows understanding through imagination.

Mirzoeff states: “Seeing is not believing. It is something we do, a kind of performance”. The suggestion is that we no longer need to see things to have an evident understanding, or yet, find them believable. Our experience on the planet that would once compound into ourselves, our culture, is positioned in composite to the information we ingest from photographic screens. It is of interest that, the study of visual culture “…is now the study of how to understand the change in a world to enormous to see but vital to be imagined”.  Asking the imagination to be a tool of understanding has come as a result of visual mediums. Our accessibility of the world will remain limited by whatever means of finance, health, political dispute but it is no longer that we must physically attend somewhere to have the same understanding about it to those around us. I believe this to be a complicated thing. Complex, in the moments we may view images of terrorism only a few tabs away from tonights casserole recipe, and in those which are never told from our voice, making information about the changing world filtered through an interpersonal lens that we mistake as our own. As Mirzoeff also considers this, phrasing how “we assemble a world-view that is consistent with what we know and have already experienced”, yet the context of this phrasing is taken from a moment Mirzoeff speaks as if this is something of the past.


  • An aspect of modern visual culture is the experience we have from “seeing” the digital/virtual world

“Introduction” ,furthermore, angles towards the use of social media and web networking to show the modern visual culture. To visualize and to see are possibly delivered as two separate things in “Introduction”.  There is a haphazard, inexistent and “airborne” personality to the idea of simply visualize , whereas “seeing” is addressed as “a sensory feedback from the whole body”. So, when we see an image online there is a certain level of visualization that also takes place as you have to imagine the circumstance in reality, or want to because your body is lacking that “sensory feedback” you’re only kind of getting.  Although, we are getting more and more used to digital photographs not being real, being “accepted..(to) be altered but not changed to be absurd”. Thoughtfully, Mizeroff describes this as a “flexible zone of viewing”, where we accept that photographs are ,to a degree, not real, because they are close to being so. These photographs are posted online because “you want people to engage with it”. Maybe we post online wanting that engagement of audience the same way Mizeroff describes the “sensory feedback” experienced from seeing but our senses are taken up by the actions we enforce when using technologies. For instance, in “Introduction” it says, the way we use computers/ phones means “our bodies are now extensions of data networks” because of the actions we carry out to use our devices. Seeing digital images also requires us to use digital technologies (physical experience) and the action of this is as much a part of the visual culture as the images we view. “Seeing” in digital and virtual worlds is both what we are “seeing” and how we are “seeing”.


  • Time in visual culture : the impact of time bases on a visual culture

In comparison to the single date stated on a painting at it’s completion, and the science that a photograph is one single instance, digital media is “time stamped”. To know when something visual was created is considered important in not only today but history as “the obsession with time based media is the attempt to try and capture time itself”. We can consider our own ability to track time that has been granted by technologies e.g: (Myself) Growing up with photograph albums, keeping old school journals (that had to be dated), and now an almost day to day visual collection of my life on Instagram. Mizeroff speaks of the shortening of both the process and engagement time visual images have is some sort of empowerment to society. The idea that “what once took centuries …millennia, happens in a single lifetime” is empowering to society because our immediate access mass representation of the past and the current allow us to see the changes that have occurred and all the digital information taken down in that visual image. Time based media is used in “recording and relieving our anxiety over time itself” , and to state an individuals existence in relation to the time they inhabit. On a global scale this is hectic, on an individual scale it there is something strangely comforting about keeping track of time.


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