Think Before Hitting Play

Posted in Uncategorized on November 17th, 2010 by abarlow3

Chapter 10 discussed an anthropological approach to examining imagery. The anthropological approach is different from the ethnographic approach discussed in chapter 9. As the book says, “Instead of being affiliated with sociology and making use of social theory like audience studies, the approach discussed in this chapter draws more on anthropology and some of its key theoretical themes.” Anthropology is is defined as a social science that studies the origins and social relationships of human beings. Although ethnography is a branch of anthropology it is still very different. Ethnography is defined as a branch of anthropology that provides a scientific description of individual human societies. Basically, anthropology studies us as individuals and ethnography studies us in groups. Audience studies are “concerned with social identity and its relation to the meaning of images”. We as humans are constantly effected by our environments. Audience studies focuses on how our environments shape our social identities in society and how that effects the way we see things. Audience studies is concerned with the “process of interpretation” where as anthropological studies are not and is out to examine “what happens when something is done with visual materials”. Audience studies focus on why we see images the way we do and anthropological studies focuses on how we respond to images as visual materials.

I am only 21 years old and I can remember a time in my lifetime where it was less than 7 dollars to get into a movie. To go to a movie now is almost 10 dollars, and that’s without the popcorn. So why do we go to the movies? Lets face it, there are just some movies that you have to see on the big screen. The surround sound, the gigantic screen and the whole movie watching experience is the only way to experience certain movies. The way a movie is presented in the theater and the way it is presented on the television screen in your living room are 2 totally different things, and like it or not it effects the way you view the movie. Stars Wars is not worth watching if you do not have surround sound and a minimum of 50 inches of screen to watch it on. The effect also changes with the physical presentation of the movie. Watching a DVD on BlueRay on a high definition television is not the same as watching a VHS on a bubble screen. There’s a difference. We have been exposed to this level of technology and the difference in experience forever changes the way we watch movies. V for Vendetta has explosions and fight scenes in it. It’s a violent and dramatic film and how you watch it, and what you watch it on, makes a difference. I do have to say I was extremely intrigued by this chapter. I have never thought of any movie I have watched as a visual object. However, it is and how that visual object is presented to me can have a huge effect on how I see it. I can only imagine how many more ways we will come up with to present these visual objects known as movies. Until then, don’t spoil the movie with bad presentation.

How do YOU see the world?

Posted in Uncategorized on October 23rd, 2010 by abarlow3

Chapter 7 discussed the topic of discourse analysis. In the most basic simple terms discourse analysis is how we see the world, why we see it that way and how we act upon that way of thinking. Discourse analysis has its differences and similarities to each of the methodologies we have examined in previous chapters. Content analysis can be used to examine a large group of images as can discourse analysis. However, discourse analysis is much more flexible because it allows your materials to guide your investigation rather than vice versa and it does not rely solely on quantitative methods. Like semiotics, discourse analysis can be used to examine what is embedded in the image through what is known as “intertextuality” which is, “the way that the meanings of any one discursive image or text depend not only on that one text or image, but also on the meanings carried by other images.” However, semiology is focused solely on what is underneath the surface of an image and the arbitrary relationships of symbolic representation. Discourse analysis is much more concerned with what is on the surface of an image, and how we react to it, rather than what is underneath it . Psychoanalysis is concerned strictly with the unconscious and how it effects individual interpretation and meaning. Although discourse analysis does focus on individual interpretation and meaning it also examines social difference and construction. Basically, discourse analysis is the loophole in the world of examining imagery. The downfall to discourse analysis is knowing where to stop. Discourse analysis is so broad and can allow for so many connections to be made that one can end up over examining. Over examination results in weak connections and poor results that are unrealated to the original topic.

As designers, discourse analysis is extremely important because it examines images on an entirely different level than the previous methods of examination we have studied. Discourse is an extremely volatile thing because it changes with every person. Discourse is the “particular knowledge about the world which shapes how the world is understood and how things are done in it.” We as people are products of discourse and consequently so “are objects, relations, places, and scenes: discourse produces the world as it understands it.” Thus we come to the issue of power and how much power discourse has over us and the images we create, examine and interpret. Therefore as designers discourse analysis is imperative because it helps us make connections. These connections give us power because they help us understand a specific way of thinking that we may not have understood before. tremendously

Discourse analysis is the wild card of image examination. In many ways you use your own discourse to find discourse. There really is no right or wrong way to do it. It does not require extensive background knowledge or the use of a calculator. Discourse analysis on the image of the water flame led me to some interesting results. Many people are drawn to fire, flames and lighters. I am not saying that the world is filled with pyromaniacs. I know a number of individuals that own a zippo lighter with no use for it whatsoever. They do not smoke, they do not go camping and they not set off fireworks on a daily basis. Why do they have a zippo lighter? Zippo lighters are aesthetically pleasing and they are fun to play around with. They also produce a flame, as do all lighters that work properly. If someone hands you a lighter you are going to trigger the flame at least once or twice because there is something oddly fascinating about it. Therefore, to take a flame and make it out of water, the very substance used to put flames out, would trigger a whole new level of fascination. The water flame is a visual oxymoron and it therefore should not make any sense. However, the water flame makes perfect visual sense and plays off an obsession that already exists. Pyromaniac or not, flames are cool.

Analyze Your Inner Psycho

Posted in Uncategorized on October 19th, 2010 by abarlow3

     Chapter six discussed the topic of psychoanalysis. The first part of the chapter focuses heavily on Frued’s theories surrounding scopophilia, subjectivity, unconcious, sexuality and castration complex. The second part of the chapter focuses on Laura Mulvey’s theoires surrounding Frued’s work and how his thoeries effect the way we view movies and images. I feel that psychoanalysis does have an effect on the way we view certain films and images. 

     When we as people watch films we, most of the time, do not psychoanalyze them. We do not question why we feel certain emotions toward certain characters, or how specific scenes are carefully constructed to evoke a certain kind of emotion. But unbeknownst to us as the movie audience all of these things are occuring because, “Films manipulate the visual, the spatial and the temporal and, as Laura Mulvey says, by ‘playing on the tension between film as controlling the dimension of time (editing, narrative) and film as controlling the dimension of space (changes in distance, editing), cinematic codes create a gaze, a world and an object’” (page 108).  Mulvey makes a solid argument about film in general. Although Mulvey’s theory does not apply to my specific scene from the movie V for Vendetta, her theories do apply to the movie has a whole. There are numerous scenes where the dimensions of time and space are manipulated. As a result the character Evey Hammond is seen as a women in distress that is saved by the more dominant and powerful male known as V.

     According to Freud we begin to develop our sexuality when we are infants based on the castration complex. “Masculinity is constituted by the boy-child feeling threatened by the father with castration if he does not give up his closeness to the mother” (page 113). Femininity “is produced by girl -child seeing themselves as lacking – as already castrated – and transferring their attachment from the mother to the father” (page 113). Mulvey argues that Frued’s thories could be accurate if he was refferring to a visuality rather than vision.  Mulvey discusses how “The boy child must already be seeing through a visuality that asserts that the masculine position is to look, the feminine is to be looked at, and that the feminine is to be seen as lacking” and argues that, “visuality is structured in this gendered way” (page 115). As a result we view characters as “active/male” and “passive/female”.

     Out of Mulvey’s theories on the castration complex came the concept of “voyeurism” which is “a way of seeing that is active; it distances and objectifies what is looked at.” In other words, it places the spotlight on the active/male role while leaving the passive/female role to be either punished or saved. In V for Vendetta this concept is illustrated. The character Evey Hammond who is playing the passive/female is both saved and punished. The spotlight is placed on the active/male role V because he is not only the hero to the people, he is also a hero to the girl. V for Vendetta is one of countless films where the idea of gendered visuality and traditional roles of masculinity and femininity are expressed.

     It is interesting how we as movie watchers and interpreters of the visual do not always notice the way films manipulate time and space to evoke a specific mindset. However, when we really begin to analyze films we begin to see how the idea of sexuality and the castration complex come into play. Although I do not agree completely with all of Freud’s theories, I do think there is some level of truth to some of them. I agree with Mulvey’s theories on the way we view femininity and masculinity, and why we view them the way we do. Sexuality is a huge factor when it comes to visuality and that is something that cannot be ignored.

What’s the Hidden Message?

Posted in Uncategorized on October 5th, 2010 by abarlow3

When it comes to the examination and interpretation of images there are numerous forms of analysis. Three examples are compositional analysis, content analysis and semiology. Although these methods do share similarities they are also very different in both their approach and analytical methods. Compositional analysis is the examination of an image’s formal compositional elements. It relies heavily on the background knowledge and critical thought of the viewer. Content analysis is a much more research based method. It often examines a large body of images, and it uses quantitative methods to deduct meaning. It requires no background knowledge, and can be done by following a step-by-step procedure.  Both content analysis and compositional analysis are great methods to use when examining images. However, they really only examine what is on the surface of the image. Semiology examines what is “embedded” in the image. What we often do not see or think about is the river of social practices and stereotypes hiding underneath what makes up the images and advertisements we see on a daily basis.

In the scene from the movie V for Vendetta there are several signs that play an important roll in the overall effect of the scene. Two such signs include the mask that the character “V” wears, and the falling dominos. This scene is a very dramatic and chaotic and it is a crucial part of the movie. In many ways it sums up the entire movie into one scene. The mask that V wears is a sign throughout the entire movie because it never leaves his face. Therefore, you are constantly reminded of the symbolic meaning behind it. In the movie, the mask is given power and meaning through association, stereotyping and social understanding.  The falling dominos are another sign representing V and his ideals. They stand for social injustice, inequality and the power that lies in the hands of people when they unite behind an idea.

At the beginning of the movie V for Vendetta a story is told about a man by the name of Guy Fawkes who attempted to blow up parliament on the fifth of November in 1605. The character Evey Hammond states at the beginning of the movie, “We are told to remember the idea, not the man, because a man can fail.” In the movie the country of England is being controlled by a semi-totalitarian government on it’s way to becoming a completely totalitarian government. The mask V wears was made to look like the face of Guy Fawkes and therefore represent his ideals, which were to live in a country that recognized and respected the power of the people. As stated before, V never removes the mask. The mask gains power and meaning because of the story and stereotypes surrounding Guy Fawkes that have been passed down in England for generations. Throughout the entire movie you are constantly reminded of what V is after. After all the dominos have fallen the camera shows V and he gives a subtle nod looking directly at you. The shot is entirely black except for the white face of the mask leaving you once again to think about who Guy Fawkes was and what he did.

This scene in V for Vendetta flashes back and forth between the falling dominos and images of riots and war. The falling dominos are the most dominating element in the scene. The fact that they are falling adds to the chaotic feeling that the scene emits. Dominos are associated with the “domino effect“ which can be associated with losing control. The domino scene is meant to illustrate what happens when people unite behind an idea. The effect is a “domino effect”. At the end of the scene all of the dominos fall together and there is one left standing. The one domino is representative of the idea, which is the backbone of the revolution. It shows the power than one idea can have.

Alan Moore, the creator of V for Vendetta, could have chosen any mask. Instead he chose to use the face of Guy Fawkes, a revolutionary. Using just any mask would not have had the same effect on the viewer or the concept. The stereotypes associated with Guy Fawkes bring power, meaning and particular ideals together behind a mask. As a result, V becomes the ideals making him more than just a character and a man. The same principle applies to the dominos. Any other object other than dominos would not have illustrated the concept. Dominos are associated with the “domino effect” which was needed to foreshadow the pandemic events that would take place. An image can have an entirely different effect when you begin to examine the “embedded” meanings. As designers we must be aware of this when we are designing and interpreting because in order to achieve the perfect effect there has to be a subconscious balance between implicit and explicit meanings.

Content Analysis

Posted in Uncategorized on September 12th, 2010 by abarlow3

Content analysis and compositional interpretation share a small amount of commonality. They both require you to set aside any kind of bias when interpreting and viewing an image. However, the difference between the two is that content analysis does not require you to have a “good eye”. Content analysis is performed by following a set of rules and procedures and is therefore “methodologically explicit”. As a result, the data produced is much more factual and accurate.  Content analysis is very useful in numerous situations because it does not require any kind of art background, or education. It can be used for examining everything from magazine advertisements to movie scenes.

Image list


  • Fire flame
  • No flame
  • Other kind of flame
  • Image heavily enhanced/ altered
  • Text in image
  • Lighter standing up
  • Lighter laying down
  • Lid open
  • Lid closed
  • Lid open left
  • Lid open right
  • 1 lighter in image
  • Multiple lighters in image


  • Fire flame: 3
  • No flame: 4
  • Other kind of flame: 3
  • Image heavily enhanced/ altered: 4
  • Text in image: 2
  • Lighter standing up: 8
  • Lighter laying down: 0
  • Lid open: 9
  • Lid closed: 1
  • Lid open left: 6
  • Lid open right: 3
  • 1 lighter in image: 10
  • Multiple lighters in image: 0

When I began this week’s assignment, I did not expect to find much correlation between images of zippo lighters. Never the less I set out on my quest anyway. After performing content analysis on 10 images of zippo lighters I have reached a number of conclusions. One in particular was the lid position. In 9 out of the 10 images I examined, I found that the zippo lighter lid was open. Only one image had a closed lid. Therefore, based off this data set, in images of zippo lighters the lid is open 90% of the time. Obviously, it would take hundreds of images to thoroughly determine whether this conclusion is accurate, but these results are very interesting.

I do not know the exact reason why most of the images had an open lid position, but most all of the 9 images that had an open lid position had something coming out of the lighter. My best guess is that the lighter is positioned like that so that something can be coming out of it. Whether that be a flame of some kind, smoke, or design, etc.. It makes sense because the essence of the zippo lighter is the flame, it is the reason they exist and that is what we think about when we see them. Therefore it is in the image creator’s best interest to capture the zippo lighter’s essence, in action, and this is done with the lid open.

Use Your Good Eye

Posted in Uncategorized on September 6th, 2010 by abarlow3

As graphic designers, and interpreters of the visual, we must be able to view an image for its formal compositional elements. We must be able to put aside our bias, our beliefs, our mindsets and even our moods to view and interpret an image for what it is regardless of how it makes us feel. For some, depending on the image, this can be extremely difficult because we as humans are so affected by our emotions and beliefs. However, chapter 3 shows us how to put all of those things behind us so that we can think about, examine, and in this case discuss, how an image looks visually. It covers; content, colour, spatial organization, light and expressive content. All of which are things that should be considered when analyzing the composition of an image. The image of the water flame has all the formal compositional elements. As with any well thought out and well designed image, each of the elements in the image work well together to make up the compositional whole.

The content of this particular image is a zippo lighter with a flame that is made out of water rather than fire. The image content in this case is producing a new concept, and is provoking thought. A zippo lighter is a normal everyday item and an image of just a zippo lighter with a flame coming out of it would not have near the same compositional effect. The content of this image takes something that would otherwise be seen as nothing out of the ordinary and makes it into something foreign and new. Another example are the gatorade sweart ads:

Sweat is a normal thing, there is nothing about it that catches peoples attention, or changes the way they see it. However, Gatorade makes sweat the color of their sport drinks and suddenly you have an entirely different image compositionally and visually. People are looking twice instead of once. The same occurs with the water flame. The content causes people to wonder and consider the irony of having a flame made out of water which is the very thing most widely used to put fires out.

We as designers know very well how color can take an image from mediocrity to masterpiece. We also know how quickly color can destroy an image. In the water flame image the colors most definitely work very well. They are highly saturated, but they need to be. The high color saturation allows the image to look very rich. You can feel the texture of the water and the metal. Whether they were enhanced or not they appear to be the normal colors of water and metal. Leaving the original colors was very important compositionally. If the color of the water was changed it would have left the viewer wondering if it was in fact water that was coming out of the lighter. Changing the color of the zippo lighter would have taken the viewer’s attention away from the flame, which is the point of the picture. The gradient color that was placed in the background also works well. The value change highlights the water flame and also gives the affect that it is actually giving off light. Value change is very important when it comes to composition because it is a way to focus the eye. In the image below we see a value change from the edge of the image to the center. As you look at this image notice how your eye is constantly drawn back to the center point:

Spacial organization could quite possibly be the most important element when it comes to composition. It does not matter if the image is the best drawn image this world has ever seen, if there was no thought put into spatial organization its going to be a terrible image. The image is at eye level. Placing the image at a different viewpoint would have ruined the composition The lighter was placed just off center of the image horizontally. It  was placed that way because of the lid. This technique convinces the eye that the lighter is centered even though it is not. Only so much of the lighter is revealed. The reason for this is because the lighter is not the focus of the image. By having only half the lighter showing allows for a closer shot and more emphasis on the flame. The nice angle that is formed between the lid and the base of the lighter really frames the flame. No matter how hard you try your eye always ends up back at the flame. That is a sign of a good composition.

If you can see something in an image, there is a light source. Unless someone decides to make an image of nothing but black, they have to take into consideration what direction the light source will come from, how much light is needed and what kind of light is needed. The light source in the water flame image is coming from the left. The light source needs to come from the left so that it can highlight the lid. If the light source were coming from the right the lid would be left in the dark causing the lighter to lose visual appeal. The lighting used was artificial. Artificial light allows for more intricate focus on details such as the texture of the metal and the flame itself. Natural light would have been too much. It would have taken away from the affect of being someplace dark, lit up by the flame.

This image has a certain level of mystery to it. You do not really understand why the flame is made out of water, nor do you know how. However, you do not really question it either. The image is peaceful. Everything is centered and balanced. The flame being made out of water does not implicate the same feelings that a normal flame does. The metal is smooth, shiny, and without imperfection. Even though the image is dark, you feel safe because of the light coming from the flame. There is nothing to disrupt your eye. You are simply left staring at it with a certain level of awe.

With every mark, brush stroke, and/or click of the mouse there is thought. Because in order to make a good composition and to include all the compositional elements, one has to think very hard about every move they make in the creation of an image. Everything has a purpose. However, this is not only the case for us as creators of the visual, it is also the case for us as consumers of the visual. It is imperative we be able to see and analyze an image for its “face value” regardless of how it makes us feel. If we cannot acknowledge and recognize a good composition through disagreement and/or dislike then we may as well have lost our sight all together.

Sites and Modalities: V for Vendetta Scene (Blog Post 2)

Posted in Uncategorized on September 1st, 2010 by abarlow3

Site of Production:


-Cameras,  computers, props, people, audio equipment, etc. (anything used in the making of a cinema production)

-The way a movie is made effects how we view it


-The category in which a movie is placed (i.e., drama, romantic comedy, action thriller etc.) effects how we view the movie itself

-V for Vendetta falls under the category of action/ thriller/ drama and knowing this before seeing the movie causes a certain mindset


-The society we live in and the type of government we have effects the way we view movies

-V for Vendetta is filled with political issues, and we view it in comparison to our own society and government

Site of Image:


-Movie screen


-Computer screen


-This clip from V for Vendetta purposely uses dominos to illustrate that horrific things happen as a result of a “Domino Effect”

-As the dominos fall you get this feeling of uneasiness because more and more things are spiraling out of control causing more damage


- We as a society associate the “Domino Effect” with the idea that “one thing leads to another”

-Having that relation changes the way we view the scene, as soon as we see dominos we immediately think of the “Domino Effect”

Site of Audiencing:


-Movie screen



-Depending on where we see it has an effect on the way we see it

-Watching V for Vendetta on a laptop screen is not going to have the same effect as seeing it in a movie theater.


-The “Domino Effect” and the short clips seen within the clip cause the viewer to feel the escalating panic that is taking place

-Without the “Domino Effect” the scene would not be nearly as successful and the viewer would not view the scene in the same way


- As humans we know all about death and destruction because we see it on the news, in the newspaper, and perhaps sometimes even in our own lives

-When viewing this clip we can relate to it because the things we’re seeing on the screen actually happen in real life.

Sites and Modalities: Water Flame (Post 1)

Posted in Uncategorized on September 1st, 2010 by abarlow3

Site of Production:





-Photograph is heavily edited and enhanced

-Final image looks nothing like the photograph

-Image is meant to be visually stimulating and to look perfect.

-It is meant to make us curious


-We as humans are intrigued by strange things and imaginary things, which effect the way we view images

-If an image is anything out of the ordinary we are immediately interested because it is something that breaks the “normal”

-This aspect is thought about in the production of an image because the first thing an image has to do is capture the viewer’s attention.

Site of the Image:


-Photographs are taken first using a camera with a high definition lens

-Image is changed/ added to through computer software (editing, cropping, enhancing)


-Image is placed directly in the center

-Light is illuminating from behind the water flame, suggesting that the water flame is illuminating the darkness just as it would if it were a real flame.

- The metal is enhanced to be very reflective

-The water droplets make you imagine the cold temperature of the metal


-We as a society relate zippo lighters to flames, because that is after all what they produce ad that has an effect on the way we view this image

-We know that the flame is water, but when you look at it you still see a flame because of the lighter and because of the shape of the flame itself

Site of Audiencing:


-The fact that the image was made on computer and will be viewed on a computer effects how we see it.

-The fact that the water flame clearly is not real also affects the way we see it.


-The way the flame is directly in the center places all emphasis on it

-The flame is where we start and also where we end

-The composition was set up so that we would focus most all our attention on the flame itself, thus effecting the way we see the image


-We view this image on a computer screen, rather than in person in a specific place

-This image is not real, and will never be, therefore we cannot go somewhere and see it with our own eyes or touch it with our hands

-We view it differently on a computer screen because we are in the comfort of our own homes or offices rather than a place

-There is always a boundary between you and the image

Hello world!

Posted in Uncategorized on August 25th, 2010 by abarlow3

Welcome to University of South Florida Blogosphere. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!