Visual Literacy’s Dark Side

In our most recent COETAIL class, we discussed the different visual aspects of websites and how people process information visually.Visual literacy, which according to Wikipedia is, “the ability to make meaning from information presented in the form of an image.”

This ties in nicely with some of the information my students are presently studying in health class, in particular the impact of media and advertising on the perception of sexuality and male/female roles and relationships. You don’t need to be a genius to figure out that sex sells. Unfortunately, some recent ads indicate that misogyny, violence, eating disorders, suicide, and a variety of other unhealthy (dare I say it, immoral) ideas also sell.

I would guess that each of the images above evoke some kind of  feeling, emotion or response in your brain.


When the Dolce and Gabanna ad was first released, it evoked such emotion that it resulted in the ad being banned in Spain (followed soon after by Italy, France, and a host of other countries not usually known for their prudish social values), prompting the fashion designers to rail on Spain for being “behind the times.”

This is not, of course, a new phenomenon. Some classics from the past include…


Even my 9th graders can see the problem with the message behind many of these advertisements. And the obvious question they ask is, “Then why do advertising companies do this?”

Unfortunately, and for a variety of reasons, it works.

Avatar of Dan Long

About Dan Long

Living and working on the world's most beautiful island.
This entry was posted in COETAIL. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Visual Literacy’s Dark Side

  1. Avatar of Erik Johnsen Erik Johnsen says:

    In regards to your blog posting, Visual Literacy’s Dark Side
    Posted on March 29, 2011 by Dan Long, you are so correct. The dangers of visual media and more precisely the media advertising world is scary. I am so glad to hear that our school is addressing these issues and education our students about the reality of these visuals. I wish we addressed these issues more often. Yes, these dangers need to be addressed in a designated class, but each and every teacher needs to take responsibility to point out these unrealistic images and the morality of their message. Thank you Dan for being that teacher. You have reminded me, as our cohort class has, that visual education is powerful and important aspect that can’t be downplayed. “There must be a balance in the force.” The Dark side is powerful, but that way lies destruction. Visuals based on truth, reality, and messages based on morality should be the focus. Blah, blah, blah, now I am rambling…

  2. Avatar of jeffreys jeffreys says:

    Obi Wan Kenobi,
    As I read your post, “Visual Literacy’s Dark Side,” I wondered where parents fit into this equation? Ironically, I can cite several examples of teachers who are educating students how to use tech responsibly, but seldom have I found parents actively assisting or supporting appropriate use. With the amount of media saturation and access to mature sites/ graphic materials when do parents take the reins? As tech changes and social networking continues to expand, teachers need to continuously monitor and evaluate sources and sites. Likewise, parents need to hold themselves accountable ensuring their children are making smart decisions and the right choices as they negotiate the super highway. Cheers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>