This week in visual anthropology, I felt that the overarching thematic idea was how to read media through a variety of platforms. What are the uses, efficacy, and limitations of different methodologies in conveying ideas? After listening to Don’t Have to Live Like a Refugee radio segment, we were able to compare the written style of The Crossing to the auditory style of radio. It was fascinating to consider the merits of each in conveying research. It was apparent that the introduction of voices, or multiple perspectives resonated with many of the listener’s in our class and that hearing directly from both the researcher and subjects humanized the entire situation. Every image, every word, every voice aims to convey a version of truth as its creator sees it. To hear the subject’s voice, in their space “made real” the entire event and lessened the divide between us and them. It is this ability to bridge the socio-cultural gap between the observed and observers in anthropological research through interactive media that is crucial to building understanding and empathy.
When we see images, it makes what we are seeing real. A certain objectivity is at least presumed. Our discussion of photography and the moving image deepened our discussion of this concept. Photographs, in essence, freeze time, depicting one impactful moment. Their reading is very different from that of the written word or even film because of this unique ability to pause and force their viewer to focus on whatever is captured. Film provides a more visceral experience for the viewer, but with it’s more complex nature, gives the viewer more freedom to focus or be moved by different aspects of the art form. Beyond differences in aesthetics and form, however, the question of which medium is more effective in communication remains.
In looking at our recent discussion of war depicted through media, it is interesting to compare iconic imagery of war with a film such as Saving Private Ryan. When reading media it is important to consider the creator’s intention and as Susan Sontag in her piece Looking at War contends, images of war could mobilize war and act as an impetus for violence or can be seen as atrocious acts of violence that war has brought us. Sontag reminds us that any image is left up to interpretation of the viewer. A piece like The Crossing, I would argue, lets its readers know exactly what information is trying to be conveyed with no room for manipulation or interpretation. Captions are placed on photos and the story is told warmheartedly but in a matter of fact manner. When bringing awareness to social issues with the intention of impacting change, it is critical to manage how one’s content is being read.