Visual literacy and digital image manipulation in a photographic setting

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Laurie, Anneke
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The digital manipulation of images that are presented as photographs in the media raises issues of interpretation and the possible deception of viewers. The central research question of this study was whether training in the visual arts improves awareness of digital image manipulation of photographs. Secondary aims of the research were to investigate correlations between visual production literacy training and awareness of digital image manipulation of photographs as opposed to general visual literacy training. Secondary aims also include the !investigation of attitudes to the manipulation of photographs in relation to different viewing contexts and various levels of manipulation. The literature review provides background information and theoretical frameworks on the nature of the photographic message and how it is read primarily from a semiotic perspective. A further investigation was done into literature regarding the use of attitudes towards and ethical issues surrounding digital manipulation of photographs. In addition, a review of literature on visual literacy supports the argument that awareness of digital manipulation of photographs should and can be improved. For the empirical component of the study, a total of 145 students at the Vaal University of Technology with low, medium and high visual literacy training participated on a voluntary basis. Both qualitative and quantitative data was gathered through a digitally administered questionnaire on six visual images, each manipulated to a different degree. The results show that production literacy, especially specific training in digital image manipulation software, emerged as the main variable to be significantly (beta coefficient = 0.051; Pearson's r value = 0.436) associated with awareness of manipulation techniques as opposed to general visual literacy (standardised regression coefficieFlt = 0.436; Pearson's r = 0.051 ). Findings regarding attitudes to manipulation and the impact of viewing context show no difference between groups. Emanating from these results possibilities for further research were formulated.
Thesis (M. Tech.) - Dept. of Visual Arts and Design, Faculty of Human Sciences - Vaal University of Technology.
Visual arts, Digital image manipulation