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COURSE NAME: "Introduction to Visual Culture"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2023

EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 8:30 AM 9:45 AM

From photojournalism to Instagram, 21st century communication is primarily image-based. Whether its mass media, individual expression, social media or alternative media, images are used for promoting ideas, products, information and political discourses. In this course students investigate the role of visual culture in daily life, exploring fine art, popular culture, film, television, advertising, business communications, propaganda, viral social media and information graphics. As a critical introduction to visual communication, this course mixes theory, analysis and practical activities for an applied understanding of key issues, including the relationship between images, power and politics; the historical practice of looking; visual media analysis; spectatorship; historic evolution of visual codes; impact of visual technologies; media literacy; information graphics literacy; and global visual culture.
The course will be divided into three main sections: In Part I – Visual Theories (Week 1-5) the course will focus on exploring and gaining an initial understanding of the main visual theories relating to visual communication; Gestalt Theory, Semiotics, Iconology, Formalism and Hermeneutics. In Part II – Visual Elements (Week 6-9) students will directly apply the theories covered in Part I to the analysis of various visual texts, while gaining more in-depth knowledge of key visual elements. In Part III – Visual Media (Week 10-14) the course will focus on exploring the development of visual culture through Fine Art, Photography, Film, Television and emerging forms of New Media, and assess how these media effectively construct meaning.




The course’s content and activities are meant to prepare students for future studies in communications and media studies. By the end of the course, students will be able to:


· Describe key theories and concepts of visual studies

· Identify and clearly communicate (verbally and in writing) how visual texts are constructed

· Perform image analyses on a variety of visual texts, including advertising, social media posts, and information graphics

· Distinguish communication strategies in visual media

· Assess and critique the role of visual media in shaping political & cultural discourse

· Produce a variety of visual texts that reflect key themes and theories from the course


Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberCommentsFormatLocal BookstoreOnline Purchase
Visual CultureHowells and NegreirosPolity0745650716     

AttendanceMore than three (3) Absences will result in the loss of a letter grade if not adequately excused. Two (2) Late marks (more than 10 minutes late to class) is equal to one (1) Absence.10%
Weekly assignments + readings + active participation in classClass participation consists of true, regular and thoughtful contribution to class discussions and other activities. Students are required to come to class having completed the assigned readings and weekly forum assignments which are integral to our class discussions.35%
Midterm ExamThe Midterm Exam will assess students' understanding of the key visual theories, covered in Part I of the course. 20%
Visual DiaryStudents are expected to keep a visual diary throughout the semester and post it during the final exams week. Possible forms for the visual diary will be discussed in class.15%
Final ExamThe Final Exam will assess students' understanding of visual media, covered in Part III of the course. At this stage, students' will be assessed on their ability to reflect upon and write about a variety of visual texts, and their ability to explain how visual media influences and shapes contemporary culture. 20%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.




 WEEK 1: Introduction


Lesson 1.1: Monday 4 September 

Introduction I 

Sensing + Selecting + Perceiving = Seeing


Lesson 1.2: Wednesday 6 September 

Introduction II


 WEEK 2: Visual Theory I


Lesson 2.1: Monday 11 September

Basic Visual Principles

Color Theory

Gestalt Theory


Lesson 2.2: Wednesday 13 September

Semiotics I


 WEEK 3: Visual Theory II


Lesson 3.1: Monday 18 September

Semiotics II


Lesson 3.2: Wednesday 20 September



 WEEK 4: Visual Theory III


Lesson 4.1: Monday 25 September

Iconology Workshop


Lesson 4.2: Wednesday 27 September



 WEEK 5: Midterm Exams


Lesson 5.1: Monday 2 October

Art History + Ideology


Lesson 5.2: Wednesday 4 October 

Theory Recap and preparation

Deadline for MIDTERM – 7 October





 WEEK 6: Visual Elements I


Lesson 6.1: Monday 9 October



Lesson 6.2: Wednesday 11 October

Graphic Design I


 WEEK 7: Visual Elements II


Lesson 7.1: Monday 16 October 

Graphic Design II


Lesson 7.2: Wednesday 18 October

Introduction to mass media

Newspapers, Magazines, TV News 


Lesson 7.3: Friday 20 October (make-up day)

Advertising & Advertisement


 WEEK 8:  Visual Elements III 


Lesson 8.1: Monday 23 October

Visual Elements: recap and in-class workshop


Lesson 8.2: Wednesday 25 October

Introduction to Part III: Visual Media 





 WEEK 9: Fine Art


Lesson 9.1: Monday 30 October

Fine Art 


NO CLASS on 1 November


 WEEK 10: Photography


Lesson 10.1: Monday 6 November

Fine Art II + Photography I


Lesson 10.2: Wednesday 8 November

Photography II


 WEEK 11: Film


Lesson 11.1: Monday 13 November

Film I


Lesson 11.2: Wednesday 15 November

Film II


 WEEK 12: Television 


Lesson 12.1: Monday 20 November

Television I


Lesson 12.2: Wednesday 22 November

Television II


 WEEK 13: New Media 


Lesson 13.1: Monday 27 November

New Media I 


Lesson 13.2: Wednesday 29 November

New Media II


 WEEK 14: Final Week  


Lesson 14.1: Monday 4 December

Visual Diary Presentation (in groups


Lesson 14.1: Wednesday 6 December

Visual Diary Presentation (in groups)

DEADLINE for submitting Image Analysis





* The contents of this outline are subject to change at the discretion of the instructor.