Contextualizing meanings as personal cultural inquiry: A book-making project

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This case study reports American college students' visual interpretations of their personal cultural environments. The purpose was to examine how they viewed and found things that had meaning for them, how their visual literacy transformed into book form, and what factors affected the content. A group of students were introduced to a book-making project in 2007; each student was then asked to chose and collect a series of images of visual/cultural phenomena, use them to create a narrative theme, and critically analyze their elements, messages, and meanings. Six books were selected for the further study together with written statements about them, and digital photographs were taken of every page. Content analysis was applied to examine rationales for choices of themes, the students' book organization and expressive skills using images and narrative, and understanding of the visual world. The findings were that the conceptual frameworks for the books were personal and subjective in some cases and objective and generalised in others; and the narratives were either more image oriented or more text oriented. The content related to ‘identity’ in ways that indicated the students' concerns and understandings of their surroundings.

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