John Berger was an English art critic, novelist, painter and poet. In 1972 he produced his seminal 4-part television series for the BBC titled Ways of Seeing, which functioned as an introduction to the study of contemporary imagery. The ideas that Berger presented will be relevant to the entirety of this course.
In this illuminating first episode, Berger introduces the idea that images are no longer confined to a specific physical place of presentation, that the camera has made it possible for artworks like paintings to “travel” around the world in the form of reproductions.
Berger wrote this in 1972, so “traveling” meant in the print form of a book or newspaper or magazine, or the moving images of film & television. Through the evolution of these mediums, Berger concludes that the interpretation or meaning of an image or video can change – and be manipulated – based on the context in which it is presented.
So sit back and enjoy a classic from British television and freshman art classes alike. While you’re watching, think about how the concepts that Berger introduces can be applied to your experience of present-day online culture. Your experience does not need to be related strictly to art, it can be related to images of any kind.
How is the content of what you look at on your phone or computer affected by the relationship to what is going on around it, or who is presenting or endorsing it, or what came before it, and what comes next? How is its meaning – and potential power – altered by the context in which it is presented?
In the discussion thread below, I would like each of you to pick one of the concepts that Berger presented – something that resonated with you – and relate it to your present-day experience of being online.
You will see the post of your classmates once you have submitted a post of your own. Please respond to the post of one other student (or more if you like). What interests you about their comment?
Please refer to the rubric for grading explanation.