definitions of visual literacy from ALA open meeting

The following five definitions of visual literacy came out of the VL Task Force open meeting at ALA:

1.  Visual literacy is the ability to find, interpret, analyze, evaluate, use, and create visual messages. A visually literate person is able to understand the aesthetic, cultural, contextual, and subjective components involved in the ways that visual messages are constructed and used for communication.

2. Visual literacy is the ability to find, use, interpret, evaluate, and create assets/images with appropriate understanding of technical, legal, and interpretive considerations. This should include the ability to build, distribute, present, describe, use, and store visual collections.

3. Visual literacy is a set of competencies. It includes the ability to find, evaluate and assess, use, create, present, and understand the appropriate and legal use of images.

4. Visual literacy includes competencies in the following areas: Express the need to find; How to find – evaluate source, learning to use multiple access mechanisms; Images have multiple meanings – evaluate image & data appropriateness; Technical issues – how to use in multiple applications, capture, formats; Copyright/legal/citing; Managing own collections of images.

5. Visual literacy is a process involving knowledge of and competency with the following skills and concepts:
-awareness of formats and desired outcomes; -capability to find, sort, and manage objects using a variety of evolving tools; -capability to critically evaluate and interpret objects in their context for a specific use; -understanding of a base level of technical skill required to accomplish the task(s); -understanding of ethical considerations involving appropriate attribution and citation; -understanding of legal copyright and intellectual property issues;
As an outcome of this process, a visually literate individual will be not only a consumer of media, but also a contributer to a body of shared knowledge and culture.

Many thanks to participants for these contributions!

Please continue the conversation here.

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2 Responses to definitions of visual literacy from ALA open meeting

  1. Susette Newberry says:

    To me, definition #1 is the most direct and comprehensive. I particularly like its focus on images (and I presume that includes moving images) as communicative modes. I would also suggest it include some mention of the ethical use of images.

  2. Whitney says:

    “1. Visual literacy is the ability to find, interpret, analyze, evaluate, use, and create visual messages. A visually literate person is able to understand the aesthetic, cultural, contextual, and subjective components involved in the ways that visual messages are constructed and used for communication.”

    I agree most with definition one. It is short and to the point. I am interested in the criteria it would take to “find” a visual message. Wouldn’t visual messages be found in almost all images? Is there an accepted set of criteria to find visual messages?

    This was a great website find. I am completing my MA at the University of Florida in Literacy & the Arts. My emphasis is on Visual Literacy.

    -Whitney

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