Critical Analysis of Visual Culture Texts

Visual culture is the study of visual forms in a postmodern society. The cultural shift to a world of visual rather than textual. The visual comes in many forms, such as art, video, the Internet, fashion, even architecture. The topic references the different cultural forms of visual culture, for example, ‘low’ cultural forms include communications and media, and the ‘high’ cultural forms include architecture, fine art and design. “The criteria used to interpret and give value to images depend on cultural codes, or shared concepts, concerning what makes an image pleasing or unpleasant, shocking or banal, interesting or boring.” Sturken and Cartwright (2009).

Semiotics comes into practice here. The audience (members of society) has to decode the meaning of the images all around them, like signs and subjective art. What the creator wants to get across may not be what the audience interprets from the visuals. Re-appropriation can then be referenced, as an image or piece of footage can be taken and twisted to mean something completely different than what had been intended by the producer.

“Meanings are produced through the complex negotiations that make up the social process and practices which we produce and interpret images.” Sturken and Cartwright (2009).

Another point that was made in the text was that viewers can be influenced by the visuals that they see, like television advertisements and videos, for example. The audience bring cultural associations to what they have seen, thus affecting their ‘individual interpretations’ of what they are seeing. “Meanings are created in part when, where, and by whom images are consumed, and not only when, where, and by whom they are produced.”

As with the cyberculture text, the information relating to this text was very confusing to read, and I had to, once again, go and research more myself so that I could grasp the theories and meanings of visual culture. In my additional research, I discovered a quote from William Gibson: “The experience of everyday life can be described as code-switching or hacking the visual codes around us to navigate and negotiate meaning.” This links in with the decoding of the visuals around us in our postmodernist world.

In my personal opinion, the text was difficult to understand, as many different arguments were introduced. However, this would be a good source of information for someone studying media, sociology, and even art, as research relating to all of these areas is touched upon in the text. The writers use theorists research to back up their statements, but too many were used and audience understanding could get lost in information overload.


Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright. Practices of Looking (2009).

I found a quote by William Gibson from his work Pattern Recognition when I researched the topic myself.