Visual Culture

Module summary

Module code: MEDS1110
Level: 4
Credits: 30
School: Liberal Arts and Sciences
Department: Design
Module Coordinator(s): David Waterworth


Pre and co requisites



We live in a world saturated with images. This course brings the rich heritage of visual culture into a historical and theoretical context, especially in relation to the creative and media industries. Aimed at students of BA Media and Communication and BA Digital Arts Practice, this course is also directly applicable to BA Film Studies. Through exploration of and engagement with the history and present of visual culture, it introduces students to a hands-on approach to research and leaning. Therefore, in addition to providing a sound foundation in the history and theory of visual culture the role of contemporary digital media technologies within it, the course enables students to develop the capacity to critically reflect upon their own learning and development, and provides a foundation for future study.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course a student will be able to:
1 Gain knowledge and understanding of the social, historical and cultural contexts of visual culture and its relationship with media technologies, institutions and processes.
2 Be able to research and write about visual culture theory and practice (historical, contemporary) in essay form.
3 Connect theory and practice through the use of examples and references.
4 Locate the making and use of visual materials in a conceptual framework, and recognize the complementarity of theory and practice.
5 Develop creative and technical abilities to present own visual research in a range of formats.
6 Be able to reflect critically upon their own work and that of their peers, through presentations and discussions.

Indicative content

Lectures, taking a historical approach to theoretical developments in visual culture, inform a series of seminars, thematically structured to provide a bridge between ideas, examples and a playful, creative engagement with visual culture. This will also serve to demonstrate how concepts develop through time and to encourage a creative approach to coursework on visual topics, supporting students in the development of their own ideas for how to articulate and present their work in innovative ways. The course explores the breadth of visual culture, starting with text and still images from art, through graphics to photography, digital photography and imaging. Image analysis will be applied to a range of different examples. Key topics include: semiotics; image and meaning; colour theory; composition and hierarchy; and representation. Beyond still images, students will also explore a wide range of contexts of multimedia arts and practices, from cave paintings to 3D and virtual reality. Assessment will encourage a creative approach to the themes of the course, inviting students to reflect on topics in visual culture through research, critical writing and the use of visual materials.

Teaching and learning activity

Lectures, seminars and practical workshops oriented towards exploration of contemporary and historical approaches to visual culture, will be supplemented by guest lectures by visual media practitioners. Students will also visit a gallery, attend film screenings and present on their work in seminars.


Essay 1 - 30%
LO - 1,2,3,4
Numeric grading
Pass mark - 40%
1500 words.
Essay based on Gallery Visit.

Essay 2 - 30%
LO - 1,2,3,4
Numeric grading
Pass mark - 40%
2000 words.
Essay based on lectures.

Portfolio - 40%
LO - 4,5,6
Numeric grading
Pass mark - 40%
1000 words.
5 x 200 word summaries of seminar readings and 2 completed workshop-based projects to be presented in class.

Nature of FORMATIVE assessment supporting student learning:
Presentations. Outcome(s) assessed by summative assessment : 6 Outline Details: Presentations on topics and materials for essays due each term.