MEDIA100-18A (HAM)

Understanding Visual Culture

15 Points

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Division of Arts Law Psychology & Social Sciences
School of Arts
Screen and Media Studies


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Paper Description

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Our lives are dominated by images and by visual technologies that allow for local and global communication of information and ideas. In an increasingly visual world, how do we best decipher and understand the many ways that our everyday lives are organized around looking practices? In what ways are we affected by the many images that we encounter? How do we impression manage our identity with images?Images are used to represent our worlds - real, imagined, or possible. They can be trivial, profound, persuasive, confronting or disturbing. Some images possess a universal appeal while some are censored for their (perceived) harm. This paper will seek to cover visual texts in the broadest sense, ranging from drawings, paintings, photographs, moko, film and television, to new media forms. It will constitute a key first step in learning to utilize the image by beginning to understand how they work and their impact and influence on us. It also draws on a broad range of theories that will deepen students understanding of images and guide image creation and manipulation.
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Paper Structure

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PART 1: Learning the Value of Theory and Analysis

PART 2: Interpreting Imagery

Week beginning:TOPIC
PART 1: Learning the Value of Theory for Analysis
127 FebruaryIntroduction to the Paper: Answers to practical questions
206 MarchMethods of Visual Analysis 1: Iconology & formTutorials Begin
313 MarchMethods of Visual Analysis 2: Semiotics & HermeneuticsAssessment 1a
420 MarchMethods of Visual Analysis 3: Multi-modality
527 March

Guest Lecture: The Anime Aesthetic (Dr Alistair Swale)

603 AprilWriting an Academic Essay
724 AprilThe Body: A Semiotic Resource (Tattooing)
801 MayClothing: Music Subcultures
908 MayCities: Environmental Storytelling in Digital Games
1015 MayDeath & Dying: Expressing the Intangible
1122 MayPreparation for the Test
1229 MayClass Test

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Learning Outcomes

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Students who successfully complete the paper should be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of socio-cultural contexts past, present and future
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  • Demonstrate ability to apply knowledge and understanding in informed and critical responses
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  • Demonstrate methodologies in decoding, deconstructing and reading images, converting tacit knowledge and experience into a visual literacy.
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  • Demonstrate the language of image construction and composition and apply this language in analysis, description, and interpretation
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  • Assimilate images into academic arguments, linking text and image in academic argumentation that exploits theory and research on aesthetics and visual culture
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  • Demonstrate historical understanding and knowledge of images and their changing roles and function in culture
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Assessment Components

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The internal assessment/exam ratio (as stated in the University Calendar) is 100:0. There is no final exam. The final exam makes up 0% of the overall mark.

The internal assessment/exam ratio (as stated in the University Calendar) is 100:0 or 0:0, whichever is more favourable for the student. The final exam makes up either 0% or 0% of the overall mark.

Component DescriptionDue Date TimePercentage of overall markSubmission MethodCompulsory
1. Seminar Portfolio
13 Apr 2018
No set time
  • Hand-in: In Tutorial
2. Essay
4 May 2018
12:00 AM
  • Hand-in: Assignment Box (FASS)
3. Test
29 May 2018
11:30 PM
  • In Class: In Lecture
4. Art Portfolio
25 May 2018
11:30 PM
  • Hand-in: In Tutorial
Assessment Total:     100    
Failing to complete a compulsory assessment component of a paper will result in an IC grade
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Required and Recommended Readings

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Required Readings

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Any required and recommended reading will be available online via Moodle.

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Online Support

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There is an online Moodle community for this course. Moodle can be accessed via iWaikato and at

Lecture support material, tutorial information, assignment details, important dates and the paper outline are all available from this site.

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It is expected that students will attend ALL LECTURES as well as ONE Tutorial per week. Please note that attendance may be monitored. University study is reliant on self-discipline and sustained engagement with the coursework. It is advised that these work habits are developed early.

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Linkages to Other Papers

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Restricted papers: SMST101

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