Hello world. I’m going to take a stab at “short and a bit rough” by expressing the doubt tugging at the corners of my understanding of understanding thus far. After reading Barnard c. 2, “Approaches to Understanding Visual Culture” for the second time (I’m sure I’ve read this before… for Experience Design perhaps) I can’t help but wonder why the author chooses to examine only two ways of understanding. Wasn’t the point of the first chapter by the same author to assert that there are multiple ways of understanding visual culture? Technically two counts as “multiple” I suppose, but I wonder what other ways of understanding he might have encountered while doing research, and how he ruled these others out. Eaton talks about grouping theories according to:

  1. the maker
  2. the viewer or audience
  3. the object or event
  4. the context

Where Barnard speaks of hermeneutic/phenomenological understanding as focused on the individual and interpretation, I see this as a theory of understanding in Eaton’s first or second category. Barnard talks of structuralism as focused on societal structures and meaning, which I would call context. He seems to avoid discussion of understanding the object or event on its own terms. The points he makes in c. 2 are extremely well-reasoned and well-cited, so this must have been intentional. Can he really be saying the objects have nothing to contribute to understanding in and of themselves?

I think I might agree with this… I might argue that objects have value as objects of understanding only in their stories. As soon as the story is lost, the object’s existence depends entirely on its ability to form new stories. So we could understand something in terms of its stories. I guess this could be a structuralist understanding, since we are concerned with meaning. But isn’t meaning tied to interpretation?

Are there other ways we can understand visual culture?