Defining “culture”

August 24, 2011

There is no one definition of culture, but any definition should take into account that culture isn’t fixed, that it is something we do, something we make, something we negotiate with. In short, that it is a process, a fluid, interactive, negotiated, ongoing process.

With that in mind, I’d like us all to wrestle with the terms “culture” and “visual culture”. What are they? What are they to you. Importantly, what are they NOT?

Post your response to these questions by 9am, Friday, August 26.


Listening Posts: What is architecture saying?

August 22, 2011

Before we meet on Wednesday, I want you to visit one of the buildings on main campus (Memorial Library, The Cage, College Chapel, Morgan Deerfield). Standing outside, walking around the structure, listen to what that building is saying. This will be our only opportunity to see visual rhetoric in its natural habitat. After this safari, what we catch, contain and bring into the classroom will be, because it is contained and removed, somewhat artificial, or steps removed from its intent and original context.

How to listen to buildings:

  • What is the building’s vocabulary? (What is it made of? Its materials.)
  • What is the building’s grammar? (What is its form? What is its function?)
  • In what style is the building designed and made? What tradition? Why that style and not another style? (Think about the decisions the builders made.)
  • What is purely functional (grammar) and what is merely for effect (rhetorical flourish)? How did function limit the architect?

Visual communication is a transaction. What do you bring to this transaction? Think about:

  • How the building makes you feel
  • Your own cultural biases and orientation
  • The intent of the builders in sending a message (How choreographed is the message you are receiving? Intentionality)

Your assignment: Do the safari, then post your observations and reactions to this post. Do so before 9am, Wednesday, April 24.