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Lucas, Scorsese: On the need for visual literacy

Visual_literacyA professional or student in the 21st century needs to have a good degree of multimedia literacy. The term multimedia literacy and visual literacy encompass many things and borrow from many disciplines. However, for at least a generation or more when people speak of the need for multimedia literacy (they may call it different things) they very often focus on the high-tech tools of the day. This is especially true in education. But the tools of the day are for the most part ephemeral. But an understanding of the principles and techniques and "rules" found in the broad field of visual communication are the thing of real and lasting value. Hardware and software are important, of course, but what's of much greater value is the software between one's ears.

Part of multimedia literacy includes a theoretical and practical understanding of the principles and techniques found in graphic design and other forms of visual communication including visual storytelling mediums such as filmmaking or cinema. Media such as video (or call it film, motion pictures, etc.) is extremely powerful. We have known this for at least one hundred years. Motion picture is a valuable tool for telling a story or pitching a product or explaining a process, and so on. And yet visual communication in all its various forms, just like the written word, can be used for good or for bad. Today we find ourselves, however, with a population of adults who are largely ignorant about the power of visual communication and multimedia. Yes, they are surrounded by it, they are using it, and they are certainly influenced by it. But the danger is that people do not know that they are influenced by it, or if they have a suspicion that they are, they are not sure how or to what degree. Now, this influence — many may call it manipulation — can be either good or bad, but there is no denying that marketers, advertisers, governments, etc. are attempting to tell visual stories to create a change in the viewer. Many of these stories may be true and sincere. But whether the intent is good or bad, should not an educated person understand the difference?

Below, in separate interviews, two legendary American filmmakers — George Lucas and Martin Scorsese — are very direct in their assertions that visual literacy is crucial for people in today's world and that it should be both more highly valued by educators and taught in schools.

George Lucas on Teaching Visual Literacy and Communications
George Lucas says that visual communication or multimedia literacy should be an integral part of teaching and learning in schools instead of relegated to the artsy peripheral of formal education. Lucas says that what we typically call "the arts" should also be in the regular communication classes were students learn practical applications of graphics, music, various visual arts, and language to tell a story, to sell an idea, to persuade, to question, and so on. Watch video below.

"It's a different way of teaching in the sense that English classes should broaden themselves...and be renamed communication, it's a communication class. You learn how to write, but you also learn graphics...take graphics out of the art department. Take [the art of] cinema and put it into schools...."
                                                                             — George Lucas

Martin Scorsese on the Importance of Visual Literacy
In this 10 minute interview Scorsese comments on visual literacy, cinematic storytelling, violence in film, and on teaching the story of movies. He begins by recalling his childhood and about being influenced by film and TV and how those mediums led to his discovery of  "a different kind of literacy," that is, visual literacy.

"[Young people] need to know how ideas and emotions are expressed through a visual form. We have to begin to teach younger people how to use this very powerful tool...because we know the image can be so strong, not only for good use, but for bad use. Film is very powerful—images are very powerful—and we need to teach younger people how to use them....or at least how to interpret them." 
                                                                            — Martin Scorsese

H/T to Edutopia. A great resource.



And don't forget Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics."

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