237130_Wk8_Task#1_Critical and Contextual Studies Tool Kit

Planning and Preparation

  • Highlighting key words or phrases within the task and writing out what I need to do in my own words.
  • Doing a “brain dump” of all my ideas in their rawest forms.
  • Using MindMup to create mind maps which allow me to visualise how key ideas and points are linked.
  • Writing down all my ideas as sentences or phrases that I can work into a body of text.

Writing Skills

  • Identifying my style of writing so that I can expand and improve on my current methods.
  • Using a formal, academic tone; no contractions, no personal pronouns.
  • Contextualising; providing the viewer with “the big picture” before embarking on in-depth description or analysis.
  • Expressing ideas in a concise, specific manner by discarding any unnecessary text that doesn’t aid in the reader’s understanding of my point.
  • Linking all ideas to one another, and to any sources or visual texts I reference.
  • Working quotes into the text so they support and exemplify ideas.
  • Acknowledging all influences with in-text citations and a Works Cited list in MLA style, and by giving credit to the author of an idea when paraphrasing.
  • Taking a break before rereading my essay aloud to check for mistakes or inconsistencies.

Content and Visual Text Analysis Tools

  • Doing a brain dump of every physical aspect of the visual text so I can form an in-depth description of it.
  • Interpreting what each individual aspect of the text means, as well as the text as a whole.
  • Writing down every idea the artefact inspires in me as rough sentences which can then be refined and worked into a body of text.
  • Examining the implicit as well as the explicit.
  • Placing the visual text in context.

Research and Information Gathering Tools and Protocols

  • Identifying key words within the question to break down the topic and identify the main points my research should be based around.
  • Using credible sources to locate visual texts and information: ARTstor, Discover, Massey Library catalogue, and Google Scholar. Other trustworthy sources of information could include academic books/journal articles, libraries, and museums.
  • Checking the copyright license before use.
  • Narrowing down my search results in order to pinpoint more relevant information by using artists, artworks, ideas, or themes that I find in an original search result as a basis for a new search.
  • Note taking – underlining key phrases in the text and jotting ideas next to these (printed media); watching videos and writing down key quotes or ideas (video);  writing down any information I find in my own words rather than copying it straight from the source in order to avoid plagiarism (web).

237130_Wk7_Task#2_Seeing the World_World Views

Ideologies are what make up our world views. Visual texts are used to capture these ideologies, but the ‘myth of photographic truth’ can mean that the perception of these ideologies change between the point a text is made available for viewing by the creator, and the point it is viewed and interpreted by an audience.  This means that our perception of an ideology- and therefore our world view – is easily warped and manipulated.
The producer of any visual text is likely to be someone who has access to the many modern technologies made available to Western cultures in the present day. Therefore the producer is likely to create a text that conforms to Western ideologies and enforces the dominate Western world view upon the viewer of the text. The viewer of this text may not be a Westerner, however, which means they will interpret the text differently from someone who has had direct experience with the ideologies depicted by the text. It is in this way that the meanings of visual texts are changed.


Stachl, Erna. 237.130 Communications in Creative Cultures: Week 7 lecture.

Wellington, New Zealand: College of Creative Arts, Massey U. 27 April

2016. Slideshow and lecture. 17 May 2016.

Whyte, Dick. 237.130 Communications in Creative Cultures: Week 7 lecture.

Wellington, New Zealand: College of Creative Arts, Massey U. 27 April

2016. Slideshow and lecture. 17 May.


From a personal perspective, what has been the most interesting to you so far in this paper?
The aspect of this paper that has appealed to me the most has been the introduction to an entirely new perspective regarding the basic function of humanity. I have found Mirzoeff’s views on the way we interact with one another and the Earth quite intriguing and have greatly appreciated the chance to absorb these new ideas and explore them further.

Think about the content, readings, resources, tasks and approach, so far. Comment on what has worked for you? Why?
The deviation from traditional artistic themes was something I discovered to be unexpectedly welcome in this paper. I really enjoyed being given the opportunity to explore things I was passionate about (such as music and the environment) that stepped outside the boundaries of what people usually consider to be “art”, and discovering how they are, in fact, related to art. having a range of topics to address throughout the course of this pier, rather than the same one repeated over and over, was pleasant.

What has not worked so well for you? Why?
I found the amount of work that we were given to be overwhelming. It was hard for me to absorb anything, because I felt as though I was just having information pushed at me rather than actually taking anything in and learning. Some of the tasks that we were given seemed unnecessary, and I believe that it would have been more beneficial to exclude these, as I would have then been more capable of absorbing the remaining knowledge that was actually useful.

How have your ideas, assumptions, knowledge’s and ways of working been challenged?
I have been encouraged me to consider various perspectives in my writing. Sometimes I’ll get so caught up in the singular point of view that I have chosen to adapt, that I’ll forget how relevant the opposing perspective can be to what it is I’m trying to say. This paper has  honed me into constantly checking to see if the points I make are applicable to the minority as well as the majority.

What creative approaches have you taken when doing this paper?
I feel as though over time I have had to adjust my style of writing so that I could express myself in a more concise manner when necessary. Knowing that I had to write less meant I often approached tasks with this in mind, and therefore became experienced in pinpointing the key words of what I had to do, and keys ideas in texts I had to use.

Explain how the approaches, strategies, skills and/or processes encouraged in this paper be useful to you in your other BDes/BFA projects/modules/papers.
This paper has taught me to evaluate the way in which I think about and approach academic tasks. It has trained me to acknowledge the thought processes and practises that take place as I go through the process of analysation and putting this analysation into words. This paper has expanded my manner of thinking so that I am now conscious of all contextualisation and critical thinking that takes place when I am looking at or writing about a visual text. All of the subject matter I create in my other papers benefits from being approached in this manner.

Do you think you have a different or a new appreciation for a paper like this and its relevance to your desired art or design practice?
Being able to consciously analyse and identify the context of a visual text is vital to any artist or designers practise, and I definitely feel as though this paper has introduced me to some new techniques that will help me hone my skills in these areas.

237130_A2_Wk4_Task#4_Part A_Visual Literacy/Visual Analysis_Video review_28/04/16

1. Visual Literacy and Critical Thinking
2. Martin Scorsese on the Importance of Visual Literacy

These two videos – although they both address the topic of visual literacy – seemed to me to have rather different points. The first video seemed like a visual embodiment of a dictionary definition; for the most part the speakers simply explained their own interpretations of what visual literacy means. The Martin Scorcese video, however, was more personal; Scorsese brought his own individual experiences to the table. The clip was less about what visual literacy is, and more about why it’s necessary, how it broadens our minds, and how we must incorporate it into everything we do.

I definitely found the second video more engaging and would recommend this to others over the first clip, because it felt like I could connect on some level to what Scorcese was saying. His exploration of various ways we can become visually literate, and why we should do this was more interesting to listen to than the first clip’s authoritative summary of what visual literacy is. However, I do feel like the first video was more effective in clarifying the term ‘visual literacy’ for me, due to the straightforward, concise points being made.

Key points/ideas/quotes I gathered from each video

Video 1

  • “Caring about visual literacy is caring about knowing” (Yenawine)
  • “In terms of visual literacy and critical thinking, images can be very powerful tools for communicating messages, and people need skills to be able to interpret these messages and have thoughtful responses” (Reid).
  • “In contemporary culture it’s become all too endemic to take things at face value” (Yenawine).
  • “Most people, they take in millions of images, and they don’t think about most of them… The process of vision is the engagement of what it is that we are looking at… It’s not critical thinking if just don’t notice anything that you see” (Kennedy).
  • The purpose of visual literacy is to employ examination in order to understand or interpret something (Yenawine).
  • “…someone who is visually literate is capable of accommodating multiple interpretations” (Levine).
  • “Being visually literate matters because we live in an increasingly visual world” (Nessa).

Video 2
(all quotes attributed to Scorsese)

  • Scorsese’s films embody the violence he witnessed around him as he was growing up. He doesn’t make his films for the purpose of providing a “pleasant” experience for the audience. He says; “The world I come from… that’s the human condition, and it’s tragic. It’s set up in such a way that it will do us in as a species if we don’t learn about it”.
  • “In the stories I’m trying to tell… I don’t know any other way to show it.”
  • “There are certain tools you use [to create visual literature], and those tools become part of the vocabulary, that’s just as valid as the vocabulary that is used in literature.”
  • “How do you point the audience’s eye to look where you want them to look, and to get the point, the emotional and psychological point that you want to get across to them?”
  • “You need to know how ideas and emotions are expressed through a visual form.”
  • “So much of today’s society is done visually and even subliminally.”
  • Visual literacy tells a story; “it’s a very powerful tool”.
  • “Visual literacy should be taught.”
  • “Images are very powerful. We have to begin to teach younger people how to use them; at least to begin to understand, to interpret them.”
  • We must “train the eye and the heart of the student” by getting them to look at a film from various perspectives and pointing out different aspects/ideas to them (Scorsese). When you do this, “you’re training them to think about a story that’s being told to you in visual terms in a different way”.

237130_A2_Wk4_Task#3_Part D_Mindmap/Brainstorm_Formulating ideas using planning tools_26/04/16

Word Cloud of key words and phrases from ‘The Changing World’ (Chapter 6 of Mirzoeff’s ‘How to See the World’):

Word Cloud
Molly McGrath. JPEG Image. Created with Tagul. https://tagul.com. April 26 2016.

MindMap of key words from my chosen essay question:

Key words mindmap pdf
Molly McGrath. JPEG Image. Created with MindMup. https://www.mindmup.com. April 25 2016.

By combining the key words and phrases that I drew from Chapter 6 with the key words and task words from the essay question, I was able to formulate a sense of the key ideas and issues that could be found in the chapter ‘The Changing World’ which would enable me to sufficiently answer my essay question:

MindMap of key ideas and issues from the chapter, as well as my own ideas (PDF)

237130_A2_Wk4_Task#3_Part C_Summary of a Paragraph_Paragraph Summary_25/04/16

“Modern Beauty”: paragraph 10, pg 233 -234

The normalisation of pollution causes the public to form new, blurred perceptions of their environments that glaze over the changes taking place (Mirzoeff, 233). In 1912, people of all social classes who lived near the East River of New York were prepared to ignore the condition of the river so that they could continue using it as a dumping ground; a resource provided for their convenience (Mirzoeff, 234; Phelps et al., 1006). Eventually the pollution of the river became a normality and was no longer considered a problem (Mirzoeff, 234).

237130_A2_Wk4_Task#3_Part B_Writing Techniques_Free Writing_25/04/16

In exactly 5 minutes, write down everything you can remember of your chosen chapter in Mirzoeff’s ‘How to See the World’ and copy it verbatim into your blog:

  • We must learn to see the Anthropocene (change in lithosphere) by adapting the viewpoints of others and forming a worldwide view
  • Inverted effect: countries that emit the most CO2 are not those that are affected the most
  • Steel industry is the largest industrial cause of CO2 emissions – 30%
  • Smog was naturalised in Dickens’ ‘Bleak House’
  • Monet beautified destruction of nature
  • If you were born after 1985 you would not know what a pre-climate-changed world was like; therefore we accept the naturalisation of pollution because we don’t know an Earth where it wasn’t a ‘part of who we were’
  • Mining
  • Melting ice caps – ‘Coal + Ice’ exhibition
  • Bird experiment; reason triumphing over sentiment
  • Audubon passenger pigeons – kill to create beauty
  • Extinction of passenger pigeons
  • Fisk’s Mississippi River map in comparison to the Army Corp’s map shows how we’ve tried to tame the uncontrollable and artificialise nature

237130_A2_Wk4_Task#3_Part A_Set Reading_Written Response_A response to ‘The Changing World’ (Chapter 6 of Mirzoeff)_25/04/16

‘The Changing World’ requires us to acknowledge the current state of the environment that has resulted from the interference of mankind. Mirzoeff asks us to “see the Anthropocene” (Mirzoeff 219); to recognise the damage we have done unto the Earth. He proposes that we adopt a broad, worldwide view (Mirzoeff 237, 253) in order to comprehend the way our actions affect not only the select environments we inhabit as individuals, but also the environments inhabited by other people in other parts of the world.
It is vital that we do this; the future of our Earth depends on it. Currently we are living in a state where denizens of a certain place only concern themselves with dilemmas of nature that affect them directly. For example, the palm oil industry in Brazil employs ‘legal deforestation’ in order to establish plantations, which decreases bird populations and increases carbon emissions (Watsa). This issue goes almost unrecognised in New Zealand, and we are doing very little to help prevent this. However, this will undoubtedly affect us in the long term… carbon emissions increase climate change, which affects the entire Earth.

Monet, Claude. Impression: Sun Rising. 1873. Oil on canvas, 48 x 63 cm. Musee Marmottan Monet, Paris. “Impression: The Sunrise (Impression: soleil levant) by Claude Monet”. Monetalia. Alvilim. 2006. Web. 15 May 2016.

Monet’s ‘Impression: Sun Rising’ aided in my understanding of how to “see the Anthropocene” (Mirzoeff 219).  This image clearly exemplifies the obvious human changes made to Earth in its natural form. The focal point of the image should be the vast and beautiful expanse of ocean that occupies the lower half of the painting, but instead our eye is drawn to the rowboat in the foreground, the steamers to the left of this, and (most predominantly) the smog that forms the upper half of the image.

237130_A2_Wk4_Task#2_Question Selection_Choosing an essay topic_15/04/16

Question 4: ‘The Changing World’ (Mirzoeff, Chapter 6. Pages 211-252)
This topic explores the negative effects/consequences of human interference with the natural environment and the living things that inhabit it; an interference which is fuelled by mankind’s desire to ‘conquer’, tame, or control nature. The question asks me to investigate and examine these effects/consequences, and the ways that artists are bringing these to the attention of the general public in order to change the way we behave towards our environment and all that occupies it.

Mindmap 1 (task 2) JPEG
Molly McGrath. MindMap of ideas regarding question topic. JPEG image. Created with MindMup. https://www.mindmup.com. April 24 2016.

PDF Version: MindMap: The Changing World

237130_A2_Wk4_Task#1_Part B_Planning and Preparation_Approaches to essay planning and writing_15/04/16

EDIT Assessment 2, Week 4, Task 1B copy
McGrath, Molly. Advantages and disadvantages of the various approaches to essay planning and writing. Photograph. 15 April 2016.

Unlike the architect writer, I struggle to make a plan for my essay (or even drafts), and tend to “plunge” into my work as the diver writer does. However, I differ from the diver writer in that I usually have a fair idea of what my essay is going to be about before I begin. I do tend to cut out and add in material while in the process of writing an essay; chopping and changing out sentences as I develop my key points and alter my ideas. In this way, I take inspiration from the patchwork style of essay writing – although I don’t tend to make, revisit, or add to drafts. My ideas are almost fully-formed in my head before I write them down, and therefore they do not need to be “fitted together” with the kind of planning a patchwork writer requires.

I am, without a doubt, a grand plan writer. First and foremost, I like to examine every aspect of the essay brief to ensure I’m addressing as much of it as possible. Rigorous reading, research, and note-taking and retaking allows me to form a rough but coherent essay in my mind, which I’ll then write, revising as I go.

Reading that this was actually a common method of going about writing an essay was somewhat reassuring for me, as I had assumed the way I approached essay writing wasn’t very appropriate for the academic environment. Everybody else seemed to do large amounts of planning, drafting, and redrafting; something I’ve never felt the need to do.