Barnard claims that there are two intellectual traditions from which stem all understanding [of visual culture]: the “structural tradition” (fairly self-explanatory) and the “hermeneutic tradition” (understanding and meaning as the business of individuals.) I’m wondering if anyone else finds this dichotomy bizarre or troubling in any way. While I certainly won’t argue with Barnard that these may be two of the most fundamental foundations for understanding [visual culture] I feel uneasy accepting these as the only two – especially since hermeneutic seems like a bit of a cop-out to me. After all, some structural interpretation is certainly subjective to personal perspective; but then again, Barnard even specifically cites that there is overlap, methods that inhabit both traditions.

I guess my problem is that he is saying we either understand because of the structures inherent [in visual culture] or because how we as individuals bring our unique perspectives to our perceptions and understanding of cultural norms and artefacts. Now, I’m as much an interpretivist as the next girl, but is Barnard suggesting that there is no discovery way of knowing, no real “Truth” that can be known? Where does Barnard draw the line between “knowing” and “understanding?” Can we truly ever “know” what visual culture means? In that case, as scholars, how do we reconcile the need for a class such as this, for an “understanding” or interaction culture, when there is no real truth?

I don’t have answers for all of these questions, but I think they open the door to some potentially interesting questions…

 

***I forgot to update my post last night, but I realized after completing the second (Cross) reading for this class that I had read the incorrect Barnard for today. By the time I realized this and rectified that reading snafu, I had forgotten about coming and updating my blog post to be more relevant. Sorry! 😛

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