Research Title: An investigation into possibilities for encouraging effective socio-political engagement through the manipulation of visual culture.
Start Date: October 2011
Visual communication design is big business, and growing, as our society becomes ever more visually literate and demanding. However, within the fields of professional image creation, comparatively little thought is given to the designer’s responsibility for the societal impact of their manipulations of visual culture. The unspoken and often unquestioned assumption is that visual form is merely a vessel for content. Any socio-political impact on the viewer derives from the received content of the message; therefore responsibility lies with the client not with us: “Don’t shoot the messenger!”
My research seeks to challenge this assumed separation of form and content. One cannot exist without the other. Form is not neutral. To this end I am interested in the theory, history and practice of using various techniques of visual manipulation to ‘defamiliarise’ the conventional experiences of visual culture, seeking ways to bring the content communicated by the experience of visual form onto a footing of equal validity with that of content communicated by reading text.
I am investigating the use of techniques of reflexivity designed to draw the viewer's attention to the constructed, manipulated nature of the visual form. The aim of this is to encourage the active engagement of the viewer in critically considering the complete experience of the content set before them. This goal is pursued by placing obstacles and inconsistencies in the way of the viewer's effortless consumption of ‘data’, forcing them, to some extent, to engage in critical thought as to what the content is, and what their response to the subject will be.