Considering the Whole Image

We savvy consumers know that a product’s packaging is
manipulated for commercial success; fruit is waxed to accentuate
color, clothes are modeled by beautiful people, and toothbrushes
are given a space age design (even though brushing is the same as
it always was). But how skilled are we at deciphering the media we
consume on a daily basis — such as newspaper photos, billboards,
or the covers of magazines?

Dr. Michael Shaw created the BAGnewsNotes weblog in
2003 with that question in mind. Installments on the blog open with
an image often pulled from the front page of a newspaper or
magazine, which Shaw encourages his audience to read not as raw
footage but as purposeful propaganda. ‘If you’re going to hang out
with me at the BAG…,’ he says in a recent installment, ‘You have
to give up the notion that anything is arbitrary.’

Take Ann Coulter on the cover of Time. ‘By leaning
forward, hunching her shoulders and giving you a stare, she’s
declaring herself off limits,’ Shaw writes. More recently, he
discussed the kangaroo-print tie that appeared around Senator Rick
Santorum’s neck on an otherwise pious cover of the New York
Times Magazine

Shaw, an author and political cartoonist, holds a PhD in
psychology and his well-written entries are as provoking as they
are entertaining. Among his goals for BAGnewsNotes, Shaw
wants ‘to encourage and help train my readers to become better
consumers of visual news media.’ In that light, visitors to the
site are welcome, and often encouraged to join in the critical
experiment; the blog is open to comments.

Go there >>

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