Visual Civic Literacy - Iurii Rudnev and Elizaveta Berezina

The project of Iurii Rudnev and Elizaveta Berezina explores how citizenship and commonality are visualized in different ideological contexts. Which images surround people in the respective public spaces? How do communities articulate their identities, political views, and aspirations through images? To answer these questions, we will look back into history as well as at the modern Digital Age. Building on that, we will design and suggest some activities to learn and practice “visual civic literacy.” This portmanteau deriving from both “visual literacy” and “civic literacy” manifests the core concept of practice-oriented research. 

Acquiring “visual civic literacy” skills can assist artists, scholars, activists, and other citizens in navigating through the multitude of ideologized information present in their environment (including news media, blogs, documentaries, talk-shows, etc.). Not only do people consume such information, but often they engage in its production and distribution—by simply sharing or creating political memes, or by drawing posters for demonstrations. Can we make it more sustainable and less “toxic”? Answering this question can rescue our shared futures from the perils of populism and hate speech, while preserving freedom of expression.  

Our project will be carried out in three stages. At the first stage, we will explore the concepts of “visual literacy” and “civic literacy” in order to forge a working definition of “visual civic literacy” for the purposes of the study. At the second stage, we will provide a visual analysis of some images distinctive to the different visualizations of ideologies and describe their essential features. At the third stage, as we will have developed principles of critical “reading” of visual sources, we will design learning activities for individual and group work in class in order to test the critical approach to consuming and creating images.