Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

Entries Tagged as 'Visual Literacy'

Response to Farmer article and discussion question for Seminar Lead

July 5th, 2014 · No Comments

Lesley S.J. Farmer’s article, “I See, I Do: Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy,” talks about the power of visual media to persuade its viewers. Farmer argues, “students need to know and apply technological visual principles and skills to become critical visual consumers and producers” (30).  In order to be critical visual consumers, students require extensive knowledge about the visual elements and principles used in visual media, such as line, dots, shapes, scale, direction, dimension, texture, value, color, balance, contrast, proportion, pattern, and variety (30-31). I think that learning about how to interpret these elements and their persuasive uses should be a part of all courses in grade school, not only those focusing on visual art or media.
Farmer’s argument is even more relevant now than when this article was written in 2007; now, in 2014, students have hundreds of encounters with digital and visual media every day. They need to learn the skills required to be able to decode the messages they see, and to be able to think critically about why and how they are receiving these messages. Without these skills, students will live their lives being subliminally convinced or persuaded by visual media, to an extent that can influence the world around them: “Digital tools also make it much easier to manipulate images in order to convince and persuade viewers. Even newspaper photographers have altered or combined different images in order to generate a more compelling story or editorialize about an issue; their efforts change election results, impact court decisions, and influence global politics” (32). Once students are able to unpack the messages they receive from visual media, they are better equipped to inquire further about the meaning of the image and its purpose. They can engage in more in-depth critical thought about a variety of topics pertaining to the image. I liken visual media literacy to some of the literacies required in an English class. In English classes, students are required to decode the messages that texts present, trace connections, identify themes, determine purpose and relate ideas to broader social and cultural issues and topics. To understand visual media, they need to decode the message of the image, trace connections between images and between form and meaning, identify themes, determine purpose, and relate the image to broader social and cultural issues. Thus, visual media literacy is a translation of English language literacy into the visual realm. Students need to learn how to “read” images just as they need to learn how to read texts. It will ensure that they are always in control of how they process the imagery they encounter on a daily basis, and it will ensure that they are also able to create compelling and convincing images themselves.

Discussion question for Seminar Lead:

How can we incorporate learning about visual elements and principles and understanding different cultures’ visual coding systems into subjects like English and Socials?

Rebecca Thomas

Farmer, Lesley S.J. (2007). I See, I Do: Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy. Internet @ schools, 14(4), p. 30-33.


Tags: Presentation · Visual Literacy

Response to Farmer’s Article “I See, I Do: Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy”

July 5th, 2014 · 2 Comments

Farmer’s article “I See, I Do: Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy” focuses on the tactics used in visual media to persuade viewers to perceive something in a certain way. He states that pictures can be a very persuasive argument. A main concern of Farmer’s is equipping students with the tools they need to discern visual messages. Advertisers use a variety of techniques to grab our attention. They are aiming to establish credibility and trust, to stimulate desire for a product. Their main goal is to persuade us to act through buying their product, joining their cause, supporting their product, etc. In order to help students protect themselves from these persuasive visual messages they need to be taught to be conscientious consumers. Farmer encourages teachers to integrate this type of learning into the curriculum through project based assignments, and states, “…young people often overlook the subliminal impact of those messages. Making visual messages an explicit academic inquiry helps students pay more attention to their environment and provides them with skills to respond critically to those visual messages” (32). Not only do students need to understand the typical visual techniques used in visual messages, they also need to go beyond learning facts and into more critical thinking. This notion is in alignment with Bloom’s Taxonomy as is coincides with higher order questioning. Farmer suggests that students should first analyze images around the school like yearbooks, publications, or newspapers. Students can then create their own persuasive visual message using various types of software. The whole goal is to make students question what they are viewing. One major goal as a teacher is to encourage life long learning. Teaching students how to question and decipher persuasive messages is going to aid them throughout their lives. This will not only help them decide what to buy, but also who to vote for and what bank to subscribe to. As a Home Economics teacher, Farmer’s article particularly resonated with me in relation to grocery shopping.  A goal of Home Economics is to teach students how to properly nourish their bodies through buying healthy food products. Many food products are advertised as “healthy” touting such phrases as “high fiber”, “lot fat”, and “low sugar”. However, with close examination of the visual techniques used students learn how misleading these messages are. Consumers often overlook examining the nutrition facts and simply take the products claims as truth. Teachers across all courses need to make their students critically question persuasive visual images. Students should all graduate from high school having learned how to properly decipher and analyze the visual messages that bombard them every day.


How can teachers teach students about what makes an image persuasive in relation to their particular teaching subject?

Anna Fenn

Farmer, Lesley S.J. (2007). I See, I Do: Persuasive Messages and Visual      Literacy. Internet @ schools, 14(4), p. 30-33.


Tags: Visual Literacy

Robb Ross Commentary 1: Messaris Visual Literacy article

July 5th, 2014 · No Comments

This is a thought provoking article in which any number of elements could be explored in 400 – 500 words. One critique is that some of his terms could be more explicit. For example, even the term ‘visual literacy’ is limiting. ‘Media Literacy’ or ‘Critical Media Literacy’ is more accessible and encompassing of what he’s writing about. Similarly, ‘semantic and syntactic properties of language’ is somewhat opaque. Perhaps ‘content and form’ is clearer, and would certainly be clearer conveying to high school students.

I also thought he could have expanded on what drives the structure and production of visual literacy. The producers of such texts are concerned with persuasion and power: to influence how we think, what we believe, what we buy, and how we act. Granted, Messaris’ focus is on the visual and so this critique may be beyond the scope of his paper, but I’m not sure how we can separate the use of language, color, and choice of diegetic and no-diegetic sounds in any discussion of visual literacy. There is invariably a crafted synergy among them to achieve an intended effect in order to persuade the target audience, a technique known as ‘clustering’ (Allison & Chanen, 2011, p. 172). Non-diegetic sounds work in tandem with how images are sequenced (Consider the music that plays when Darth Vader enters the room, for example). While the manipulation of sound is not visual with paraproxemic elements it does follow a “well-developed, fixed set of rules” (Messaris, 1998, p. 75) that contribute to meaning.

An interesting feature of his article is the use of camera angles to objectify women in movies. This reminded me of the work of the sociologist Ernest Goffman (genderdisplays, 2014) who argued that in the field of advertising, the women portrayed are often dismembered (with only parts of their body showing), in which the men are shown in positions of dominance over women. Invariably the woman (or women) also gazes longingly at the man as he stares imperiously or indifferently into the camera or beyond. In real life, of course, most men are not nonchalant while having supermodels draped over them, but I believe Goffman’s issue is how women are represented in advertising, and for what ends. That’s for another essay.

I’m taught a course in Language, Culture, and Mass Communication in the high school IB program and am more familiar in approaching this from a semiotic perspective that considers aspects of Structuralism, Post-Structuralism and the role of the audiences of media texts.  In this regard it seems as if Messaris considers a more Structuralism view, in that we as media consumers are potential victims in interpreting and responding to visual texts the way the producers of these texts intend us to. In suggesting that the role of education is to “’denaturalize’ the ads’ visual syntax” (Messaris, p. 77) he is urging that we as educators teach students how to deconstruct visual texts so that students are more aware of the producers’ agenda.

Works Cited

Allison, R. & Chanen, B. (2011). English A: Language and Literature Course  Companion. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

genderdisplays. (2014). Goffman: Gender Advertisements. Retrieved from

 Messaris, P. (1998). Visual Aspects of Media Literacy. Journal of Communication, 48, 70-80. (UBC Electronic Holdings)

PLEASE NOTE: This website’s format altered the indent of each Works Cited entry and I can’t correct it.

Tags: Visual Literacy

Visual Texts in the Classroom

July 4th, 2014 · No Comments

The use of alternative genres in the classroom can be a powerful tool for students to develop their literacy skills.  Texts such as graphic novels are motivating to read for reluctant readers, providing manageable amounts of texts while at the same time presenting complex issues and ideas.  Graphic novels contain many of the same literary elements as their written counterparts.  In addition, the analytic skills that students develop in thinking critically about the visuals in the text can be applied across all disciplines.  Gene Yang, the author of American Born Chinese also explains that since most students are immersed in visual media in their day-to-day lives, visual texts resonate more strongly with them.  Graphic novels, then, serve as a way to “bridge the gap between the media we watch and the media we read” (Yang 187).  It is an effective way to connect readers with a text while developing literacy skills.

While there seems to be an increase in the use of alternative genres in the classroom, it still often feels as though visual texts such as films and graphic novels are often overlooked in the curriculum in favour of written texts.  Perhaps there is still a stigma attached to genres such as the graphic novel, which may appear to some as merely a comic book with inherently less value than a traditional novel.  Particularly when an iconic, classic work of literature has a graphic novel equivalent, some tend to still place a higher value on the written form.  I think that these different versions of the same text offer an opportunity for effective differentiation.  I remember teaching Romeo and Juliet to a class comprised of English Language Learners, and using the graphic novel version of the play was an effective way of teaching many of the same concepts while at the same time exploring the interplay between text and image, and how the images supported the text and conveyed meaning.  When the students felt like the text was manageable, they were much more motivated and engaged with it.

Works such as Shaun Tan’s “The Rabbits” is also refreshing in that it provides students with a complex idea and presents it in the form of a beautifully illustrated text.  Introducing students to different forms of representation is a key aspect of literacy and encourages greater creativity.  I think that challenging students to use the same analytic skills used in reading novels and applying them to different genres of texts creates a more well-rounded literacy program.

In conclusion, visual literacy is a powerful skill that encourages critical thinking and deep analysis.  As an educator, I would definitely like to continue to learn how to incorporate a wide range of visual texts in a meaningful way in the classroom to promote literacy.

Adrienne Law

Questions for discussion

  1. How have you or might you use graphic novels in the classroom?  Consider also texts that have a graphic novel counterpart.  What are the benefits, and what might be some potential challenges?
  2. What skills would students develop with visual texts that would help them to succeed with other forms of literature?


Works Cited

Frey, Nancy. and Fisher, Douglas.  ” Using Graphic Novels, Anime, and the Internet in an Urban High School.”  The English Journal.  93.3 (2004).

Yang, Gene.  “Graphic Novels in the Classroom.” Language Arts.  85.3 (2008).

Tags: graphic novels · Seminar Prompts · Visual Literacy

Media Project #1 – Hyperlinked Text: “Hiroshima” by Sarah Kay

July 4th, 2014 · 2 Comments

For our Media Project 1 on visual literacy, we chose to create a hyperlinked version of the spoken word poem “Hiroshima” by Sarah Kay. Our rationale for this can be found here: Media Project 1 – Ashley and Co. And our rubric for assessment can be found here: Media Project #1 Rubric – Ashley and Co.

Here is our product:



When they bombed Hiroshima, the explosion formed a mini

supernova, so every living animal, human or plant that received

direct contact with the rays from that sun was instantly turned to ash.

What was left of the city soon followed.
The long-lasting damage of nuclear radiation

caused an entire city and its population to turn into powder.

When I was born, my mom says I looked around the whole hospital room

with a stare that said, This? I’ve done this before.

She says that I have old eyes. When my Grandpa Genji died


I was only five years old, but I took my mom by the hand

and told her, Don’t worry, he’ll come back as a baby.

And yet, for someone who has apparently done this already,


I still haven’t figured anything out yet.

My knees still buckle every time I get onstage.

My self-confidence can be measured out in teaspoons,


mixed into my poetry, and it still always tastes funny in my mouth.

But in Hiroshima, some people were wiped clean away leaving only

a wristwatch, a diary page, the mudflap from a bicycle.


So no matter that I have inhibitions to fill all my pockets,

I keep trying, hoping that one day I’ll write the poem I will be

proud to let sit in a museum exhibit as the only proof I existed.

My parents named me Sarah, which is a biblical name.

In the original story, God told Sarah she could do something

impossible and she laughed. Because the first Sarah?
She didn’t know what to do with Impossible.

And me? Well, neither do I. But I see the impossible every day.

Impossible is trying to connect in this world; trying to


hold on to others while things are blowing up around you; knowing

that while you are speaking, they aren’t just waiting

for their turn to talk. They hear you.


They feel exactly what you feel at the same time that you feel it.

It’s what I strive for every time I open my mouth:

That impossible connection.

There is a piece of wall in Hiroshima that was burnt black by the

radiation. But on the first step, a person blocked the rays from hitting

the stone. The only thing left is a permanent shadow of positive light.


After the A-bomb, specialists said it would take seventy-five years for

the radiation-damaged soil of Hiroshima to ever grow anything again.

But that spring, there were new buds popping up from the earth.


When I meet you, in that moment,

I am no longer a part of your future.

I start quickly becoming part of your past.


But in that instant, I get to share a part of your present.

And you get to share a part of  mine.

And that is the greatest present of all.


So if you tell me I can do the impossible, I will probably laugh at you.

I don’t know if I can change the world. Yet.

Because I don’t know that much about it.


And I don’t know that much about reincarnation either,

but if you make me laugh hard enough,

sometimes I forget what century I’m in.


This isn’t my first time here. This isn’t my last time here.

These aren’t the last words I’ll share. But just in case,

I’m trying my hardest to get it right this time around.


Tags: e-literature · Visual Literacy

“I See, I Do: Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy” Seminar Prompt

July 7th, 2013 · 4 Comments

YouTube Clip (a mystery until tomorrow!)


We thought this short clip an appropriate lead-in as the article considers the way advertisements (among other visual media) are constructed and how the deliberate construction of visual media influences viewers often subliminally, as the advertising agents fell prey to in this short clip.

In brief: The article’s goal is to raise awareness about the constructedness of visual media and to promote visual literacy in students and their practice of the critical reading of visual forms. 

Manipulating visual media to achieve the desired effect on the viewer – advertisers take advantage of this all the time.

This article stresses the importance of students gaining critical skills to be able to work through visual media.

SOME PRINCIPLES OF BUILDING VISUAL IMAGES (these are important to the construction of visual art, says Farmer)

“- A dot implies a focus or location.

– A line signifies borders and movement. Lines may be strong, dynamic, tentative, wavy, erratic, etc.

– Scale shows relationship of size between two objects, with the larger one usually connoting more power

– dimension suggests three dimensions and perspective; well-executed images may seem more real and credible

– texture generated tactile and visual sensations: of roughness, luxury, softness, age, and even revulsion

– value shows the lightness or darkness of an image; light is often associated with goodness and airiness while darkness may connote power and doom.”

Interesting to keep in mind is cultural difference especially in terms of the use of colour in a visual piece:

– In some cultures, yellow may be the colour of royalty – in others, it may be the colour of cowardice

– In some cultures, black may be the colour of death – in others, white may be representative of death

— without a knowledge of another culture’s visual coding system, it is possible that students may mis-read the image

It is now possible, with technology, to easily manipulate and change an image:

– cropping images to manipulate the context of the image

– changing the value and saturation of an image to change the emphasis of the image

– altering the hue of the image to mislead a viewer’s interpretation

– changing the relative size of the image to change it’s relative importance and perceived power in a frame

– adding or eliminating images to distort the truth

— the author stresses that students must be aware of how an image is constructed and how an image can be manipulated

— it is necessary to have learning activities that help students read visual images, analyze the producer of the image’s intent and just what the image is trying to convince the viewer to do/think

– think analyzing propaganda (this is a direct example of image construction, which seems obviously biased and forcefully persuasive as we analyze it in hindsight), similarly advertisements and other forms of visual media have been constructed with directed intent to manipulate a target audience

Suggestions for Activities (pg. 31):

Farmer suggests a range of activities, most of which have somewhat political explorations. Most of these can be easily used in an English, Socials, or Art classroom.

• Ask students to critique the visual images found in school and local publications: newsletters, yearbooks, and videos. What content is represented or omitted (e.g., gender, ethnicity, subgroups)? What perspectives are represented? What messages are being conveyed? What visual principles are used to convey those messages?

• Teach students how to manipulate images using photo editing software. Ask student pairs to manipulate an image to send opposing messages (e.g., one pro and one con). Ask peers to analyze the resultant visual images in light of the visual principles used.

• Ask students to photograph or videotape their schools or neighborhoods, and then compare their photos in terms of subject matter choice, perspective, and visual principles used. They might focus on people and compare their images. Then ask them to edit and sequence the images to communicate a persuasive message (e.g., athletic recruitment, real estate enticement, clean-up campaign).

• Ask students to locate online images about a social issue, and then analyze images in light of the disseminator’s perspective and intent. Ask them to identify how visual elements and principles are used to convey the underlying message.

• Ask students to locate online images about an international issue; each student (or small group) might choose a different country or culture. Ask them what visual principles appear to be universally applied or culturally defined. To what extent does culture impact the message?

• Consider visual representations of Canadian History. Which perspectives are present? Omitted? Do any of the images seems propagandistic? How might the pictures be different if they were from an alternate viewpoint? (Based on gender, race, socioeconomic status, etc.)

• Download a video of a public event or political rally. Ask students to edit that raw footage to create a 30-second advertisement or political announcement that intends to persuade the viewer to respond in a specific way. Each student (or small group) could be assigned a different audience (e.g., single mothers, rural poor, big business, senior citizens) to target his or her message.

Tips for students (how to critically analyze images):

The article includes a list of suggestions as to what teachers can do to help their students be more critical viewers. The author draws on Silverblatt (2001), who has created a framework that prescribes the following questions for viewers to consider:

1. What is the premise? Is it logical? What assumptions are made?

2. What is the explicit or implicit content?

3. What is the historical and cultural context? What worldview is being represented?

4. What is the emotional response? (I would say what is your response and what is the desired response, do you think?)

5. What genres or conventions are being used?

6. What is the conclusion or inference? Is it logical?

Farmer also includes the Centre for Media Literacy’s suggestions (2005) for how to be an analytical, thoughtful audience for persuasive instruments.

1. Who created the message?

2. Why was the message created and disseminated?

3. What visual techniques are used to draw attention to the message?

4. How might people experience the image differently?

5. What values, lifestyle, points of view are represented or omitted?

Both these are useful frameworks to consider. The second one is a bit more intuitive, as it follows the “who, what when, where, why?” model that students may already be familiar with.


     intro activity by showing imgur variations on a picture challenge to make posters for different movie genres:

original image:

as rom-com:

as a novel:

as horror:

     give groups of students different pictures/ ads from various magazines

     challenge students to manipulate/ change the photos to target a different demographic of their own choosing (e.g. male vs. female, kids vs. adults, teens vs. 40somethings, etc.) — OR to change the ad so that it’s advertising a completely different product/ idea

Discussion Questions:

1. Is it possible to overcome the power of subliminal messages? If not, what danger to the individual, if any, might this imply?

2. Do you think you would use any of these activities in your own classroom? Have you ever used activities like these in the classroom before?

3. How do you empower students to take visual literacy tools with them from the classroom into their daily lives? How do you ensure that building an awareness of visual image construction doesn’t stop with classroom learning?

4. How might you introduce your students to the “tips” for critical viewing we’ve covered? Do you think they’re worth sharing?

Works Cited

I See, I Do: Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy. By: Farmer, Lesley S. J., MultiMedia & Internet@Schools, 15464636 Jul/Aug2007, Vol. 14, Issue 4


By: Allison Dixon, Ashlee Petrucci, Ilana Finkleman, Shannon Smart

Tags: Presentation · Seminar Prompts · Visual Literacy

A Response to: “I see, I do: Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy”

July 7th, 2013 · 1 Comment

The issue of visual literacy has always been of interest to me, particularly because its power is often overlooked in our everyday lives. As an English teacher, I feel that I am more aware of the power of language, but the multi-layered efforts behind imagery is less clear. While reading Lesley Farmer’s article, I was amazed by the level of construction that every advertisement employs. From the effects of text selection, to line placement, and perspective between objects, I feel I had never really considered visual text in such detail. As Farmer states, “In order to convince the viewer of a specific idea, mass media producers who under-stand the language and connotations of visual literacy can manipulate images to elicit desired responses – a strategy that is used increasingly with the advent of digital tools (30)”.  To a certain extent this is rather disconcerting because I’d like to believe that I am educated enough to be conscious of such manipulations. The truth? Without a course in media production, I am likely missing some key elements… How am I then to  properly guide my students to become critical of mass media? Yikes…

As a precursor to a discussion of propaganda during the Holocaust, (I taught Maus) my grade nine English classes investigated stereotypes in advertising. I divided the class into six groups and presented each group with a series of photos. Some groups looked at women in advertising, others at men, teenagers, teachers, and so forth. While the students were quick to identify the stereotypes at play in the pictures and perhaps why these stereotypes prevailed, one area which we did not touch on at all, (now I feel it would have deepened our understanding) was some of the finer artistic choices.

I can only blame my own naivety for not providing my students with this opportunity, but after reading this article I am thankfully, more informed. I suppose as with any teaching endeavour, one must arm themselves with the necessary knowledge to at least begin a dialogue within the classroom. As our group will explore in our presentation, this awareness begins by examining the minute details behind advertisements and their implications. Being conscious of selection choices and editing procedures (especially helpful when considering issues of body image…) on behalf of the producers, provides a strong starting point for critical analysis. Farmer’s article is very useful and breaks down the elements of visual literacy into manageable pieces. Hopefully, in my future classes, I can help my students navigate through the maze of imagery that saturates their lives. Wish me luck!


By: Ashlee Petrucci (Blog Post #1)

Works Cited

Farmer, Lesley S.J. (2007). I See, I Do: Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy. Internet @ schools, 14(4), p. 30-33.


Tags: Visual Literacy

Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy

July 7th, 2013 · No Comments

Blog Post #1

What struck me most about Farmer’s presentation (and some of the other authors we have read thus far) of the concept of visual and digital literacy, is that she asks us to examine it through the same lens that we would a piece of text.  This lens reveals that each of the visual elements and principles (shapes, lines, colours, textures, balance, contrast, proportion and pattern) “constitute the vocabulary of visual art.”  In the linguistic framework that Farmer is imposing on visual literacy, this would be considered elements of the syntax.  Of course, one must understand all elements and principles in order to avoid misinterpreting a text; and as we know in the study of linguistics, syntax is often examined in tandem with semantics.  Therefore, just as we are asked to explore the contextual connotations of a sentence (or a full text) in studying semantics, students must also strive to unpack the background and context of a visual piece to derive its true meaning.  However, the digital world has further complicated this puzzle.  For instance, techniques such as cropping may change or manipulate the context of an image; changing the saturation or size will change the emphasis within the image; and removing pieces or altering the arrangement of the image will skew the viewer’s perception of the content.  Students more than ever must be aware of the fact and the manner in which images can be altered, and be equipped to look for inconsistencies.  This is especially important considering the amount of images they are bombarded with every single day.

The Farmer article presents a lot of strategies in tackling visual and digital literacies with students.  For starters, it suggests that students must understand the idea of persuasion.  Many images are created with the intent to persuade its viewer.  Farmer writes, “in order to convince the viewer of a specific idea, mass media producers who understand the language and connotations of visual literacy can manipulate images to elicit desired responses–a strategy that is used increasingly with the advent of digital tools.”  The producer must understand the aforementioned concepts of visual syntax and semantics in order to fully engage and persuade a viewer.  In teaching media and visual literacies, the article suggests having students engage with the idea of persuasive visual literacy first-hand, through project based learning.  For example, in my practicum I taught a media studies unit with a heavy focus on advertising.  Within that unit students had to analyze a series of advertisements, both print and audio-visual commercials.  However, despite front-loading/scaffolding the students with the relevant information, they had difficulty identifying which elements of each ad was the root of its persuasive argument.  This activity was later followed by an assignment where students themselves had to produce an ad.  They had to choose from a variety of persuasive advertising appeals, utilize them in their ad, and have to explain them.  In doing so, the students would have had to consider – according to Farmer’s viewpoint – each of the syntactic and semantic components that create meaning.  Students really enjoyed creating their own ads, and were able to demonstrate their critical thinking and understanding of persuasive language at a much deeper level.


Works Cited:

Farmer, Lesley S.J. (2007). I See, I Do: Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy. Internet @ schools, 14(4), p. 30-33.


By: Christa Wolbers

Tags: Visual Literacy

Developing Practices for Visual Literacy

July 7th, 2013 · 1 Comment

The article “I See, I Do: Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy” by Lesley S. J. Farmer that my group and I are presenting on offers a number of strategies for teaching digital literacies, cautioning that the media that surrounds us in the technological age is in large form visual and without the proper tools to deconstruct this form of media, we might find ourselves falling prey to the content of visual material. Farmer writes, “While persuasive images surround students daily, yonng people often overlook the subliminal impact of those messages. Making visual messages an explicit academic inquiry helps students pay more attention to their environment and provides them with skills to respond critically to those visual images” (n.p.). Teaching students how to analyze advertisements and raising awareness to different strategies for telling whether an advertisement has been constructed are interesting and definitely important to the modern students’ education, but I wonder whether its possible to always bring a critical awareness to our new (online) visual landscape as well as to the print images that we observe (and absorb) daily. When taking the time to analyze a select image, perhaps it is possible to pick out where the image’s focus is, and which part of the image appears most prominent (in the article Farmer suggests using principles from visual art to determine the way in which the image is constructed and how the image’s deliberate construction is supposed to appeal to the viewer as consumer), but how about when images are coming at a viewer very quickly and he/she does not have time to dissect the construction of the image and its potential subliminal effects on him/her. This article helpfully sheds light on viewing single images, but does not thoroughly address the wash of images we often get when browsing online landscape or when bombarded with advertisements.

Also – when on my practicum, I did a lesson on analyzing advertisements, and although it was fun and the students really enjoyed it and great discussion came out of it, I’m not sure that the lesson left enough of an impression on students to make analyzing ads in their daily life their new raison-d’être. In hindsight, I should have done a follow-up or assigned an additional take-home part of the project where students had to seek out an ad and analyze it themselves (we did our work in a group), to extend the practice into their daily lives. I’m wondering whether anyone has any other suggestions as to how to bring a classroom practice of analyzing ads into students’ daily life?

By: Ilana Finkleman

Tags: Visual Literacy

What about Internet Memes?

December 3rd, 2012 · 1 Comment

“An ‘Internet meme’ is a form or concept that spreads via the Web, whether through email forwarding, viral videos or blogs.… Although they may recede from view, memes never fully cease to exist, surviving … in the ever-expanding network of servers that make up the Internet. In the realm of digital memory, what seems to have disappeared may simply be lying dormant in the recesses of a hard drive.” (Copeland, 22)

Internet memes come in many different genres. Like the quotation says, they can be email forwards, videos, blogs, and other things. These days, photo memes are everywhere. This is partially because they are so easy to make and distribute.

For example, I downloaded a meme creator onto my phone and made a meme in about 10 minutes. This meme is one of the “first world problem” memes. I used a situation that happened to one of our classmates… and she agreed to model for the picture.

Furthermore, to emphasize just how quick and easy memes are to use and how important it is to teach students to use and create memes carefully, here is a little story. For those of you who are familiar with meme characters, you may know that there is one meme character named “bad luck Brian.” Brian is a normal kid from a high school who happened to have an awkward school photo taken. One of his classmates got ahold of his photo and created an internet meme out of it. Brian never agreed to be in a meme, but now his face is known by millions of people and there is no way for him to change that. Here is one of the memes about him:

Actually, there are many meme characters already in use. Here is a photo of some of them… it is inviting you to use the characters to create your own memes.

And here is a video of where some of these faces came from:

Where did the Meme characters come from?

If you are interested in creating memes for possible classroom use (or even to teach children appropriate use of memes) here is a website you could use:

And the iphone app I used to create Melissa’s “first world problem” meme is called “just meme it”


COPELAND, C. (2011). MUTATING MEMES. Afterimage, 39(3), 22-23

Funnyjunk contributor: TexasChainsawDisco (2011). Meme Faces. Funnyjunk.

Mobil contributor (2012). Bad luck Brian. Mobilbeta.

Youtube contributor: Duffbeer96x (2012). The origins of meme. Youtube.

Tags: Uncategorized · Visual Literacy