Visual culture

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Visual culture is a field of study that generally includes some combination of cultural studies, art history, critical theory, philosophy, and anthropology, by focusing on aspects of culture that rely on visual images. Among theorists working within contemporary culture, this often overlaps with film studies, psychoanalytic theory, gender studies, queer theory, and the study of television; it can also include video game studies, comics, traditional artistic media, advertising, the Internet, and any other medium that has a crucial visual component. Because of the changing technological aspects of visual culture as well as a scientific method-derived desire to create taxonomies or articulate what the "visual" is, many aspects of Visual Culture overlap with the study of science and technology, including hybrid electronic media, cognitive science, neurology, and image and brain theory. It also may overlap with another emerging field, that of "Performance Studies." "Visual Culture" goes by a variety of names at different institutions, including Visual and Critical Studies, Visual and Cultural Studies, and Visual Studies.

Early work on visual culture has been done by John Berger (Ways of Seeing, 1972) and Laura Mulvey (Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, 1975) that follows on from Jacques Lacan's theorization of the unconscious gaze. Late nineteenth-century practitioners of visual knowledge, such as Georgy Kepes and William Ivins, as well as iconic phenomenologists like Maurice Merleau-Ponty also played a role creating a foundation for the discipline.

Major work on visual culture has been done by W. J. T. Mitchell, particularly in his books Iconology and Picture Theory and by the art historian and cultural theorist Griselda Pollock. Other writers important to visual culture include Stuart Hall, Jean-François Lyotard, Rosalind Krauss and Slavoj Zizek. Continuing work has been done by Lisa Cartwright, Margarita Dikovitskaya, Chris Jencks, Nicholas Mirzoeff and Gail Finney. Visual Culture studies have been increasingly important in religious studies through the work of David Morgan, Sally Promey, Jeffrey Hamburger, and S. Brent Plate.

Several major universities now either house or are developing graduate programs in Visual Studies. They include: Coventry University, Duke University, University of Wisconsin, Madison, University of Rochester, University of California, Irvine, University of California, San Diego, University of California, Santa Cruz, University of Southern California, State University of New York, Buffalo(MFA program), The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MA only, not PhD), California College of the Arts, Goldsmiths, University of London, University of East London, Kingston University, New York University, Middlesex University, Chinese University of Hong Kong, University of Art and Design Helsinki, Pori Department of Art and Media, University of Copenhagen, University of Pennsylvania (undergraduate only), Grand Valley State University (undergraduate only), University College, London and the University of Lisbon. Cornell University has been offering an undergraduate degree in Visual Studies, but as yet has not established a dedicated graduate program.

Northern Illinois University offers programs in studying visual culture in art education at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate levels. The university of limerick, Ireland offers under graduates the option to study modules in visual cultural studies. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Visual and Critical Studies, in which academic writing coexists with artistic production as a legitimate mode of research. They are currently working on developing a PhD in Visual and Critical Studies with a similar interdisciplinary structure. Duke University's Visual Studies Initiative is highly interdisciplinary, with collaborators not only in the humanities but also in the sciences, social sciences, and engineering.

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