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Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture [Paperback]

Marita Sturken , Lisa Cartwright
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 2, 2009 0195314409 978-0195314403 2
Visual culture is central to how we communicate. Our lives are dominated by images and by visual technologies that allow for the local and global circulation of ideas, information, and politics. In this increasingly visual world, how can we best decipher and understand the many ways that our everyday lives are organized around looking practices and the many images we encounter each day? Now in a new edition, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture provides a comprehensive and engaging overview of how we understand a wide array of visual media and how we use images to express ourselves, to communicate, to play, and to learn. Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright--two leading scholars in the emergent and dynamic field of visual culture and communication--examine the diverse range of approaches to visual analysis and lead students through key theories and concepts.

Using clear, accessible language, vivid examples, and more than 250 full-color illustrations, the authors both explain and apply theory as they discuss how we see paintings, prints, photographs, film, television, video, advertisements, the news, the Internet, digital media, and visualization techniques in medicine and science. This truly interdisciplinary text bridges art history, film, media, and cultural studies to investigate how images carry meaning within and between different cultural arenas in everyday life, from art and commerce to science and the law. Sturken and Cartwright analyze images in relation to a wide spectrum of cultural and representational issues (desire, power, the gaze, bodies, sexuality, and ethnicity) and methodologies (semiotics, Marxism, psychoanalysis, feminism, and postcolonial theory).

Thoroughly updated to incorporate cutting-edge theoretical research, the second edition examines the following new topics: the surge of new media technologies; the impact of globalization on the flow of information and media form and content; and how nationalism and security concerns have changed our looking practices in the aftermath of 9/11. Challenging yet accessible, Practices of Looking is ideal for courses across a range of disciplines, including media and film studies, communications, art history, and photography.

Beautifully designed and now in a larger format and in full color throughout, Practices of Looking is an invaluable guide to understanding the complexities, contradictions, and pleasures of the visual world.

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Editorial Reviews


This is that rarest of textbooks clear enough for undergraduates and challenging enough to use with graduate students. Simply the best introduction we have to the most important issues in thinking about the visual from an interdisciplinary perspective. This textbook is a comprehensive survey of theoretical, historical, social, and legal issues in visual culture. Well written and well argued, this textbook is suited for an introductory or a more advanced undergraduate course in visual culture or communication... I've used Practices of Looking before and my students loved it. Marina Levina, University of California, Berkeley Practices of Looking makes the subject matter and critical apparatus of visual culture studies accessible and clear. As a text, it communicates the complex ideas that animate the field without falling into jargon and murky writing. This is a book that respects the intelligence of its audience, which ranges from undergraduates just discovering visual culture to graduate students refining their own approaches to the visual universe. Bernard Herman, University of Delaware

About the Author

Marita Sturken is Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University.

Lisa Cartwright is Professor of Communication and Science Studies at the University of California at San Diego.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (January 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195314409
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195314403
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 8.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great insights, painful read. March 12, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's a fascinating topic, and Sturken has some wonderful insights. I learned some great things from this book. That said, I believe it could easily have been written with half as many words. The massive, unbroken blocks of text can become very difficult to continue reading.
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good content hampered by poor presentation October 8, 2010
This book is one of two required texts for my "Visual Arts Today" course at university. While I find the content interesting, I am very sorry to say I cannot rate it higher than two stars. Its slow, meandering text comes across as pompous, and at times seems to present subjective information as though it were objective fact. As such, it bothers me. Much of the book seems to concentrate on building a vocabulary, rather than explaining any deep or startling facts about "looking." The occasional tidbit of interesting information is not enough to warrant the sixty dollar plus price tag, at most it should be forty dollars, if not thirty or less.
I would only recommend this book to those who are deeply involved with the philosophical side of art, and only if they turned down more interesting texts. Like I said, I wish I could rate it higher but the presentation of the information and the price point seriously damage any score I can give it.

It's come to my attention that the price has gone down to fifty five dollars or something like that. Whoop-de-do. The book still sucks, and unless you find it at a used book store, don't bother picking this one up.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best of its kind...with one exception January 27, 2014
By Dr.L.
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When I was looking for a textbook for my visual sociology class I went through several highly academic and rather deadly boring books. Then I came across this one. While it is not exactly what I wanted, it does cover about 90% of the needs for this class. Chapters are set in a logical order and take into account political, commercial as well as sociological and cultural aspects of "looking at" photos, sculptures, paintings, TV and films. All of this is combined with an historical frame. The terminology is well defined and placed into context with understandable examples. The photos and paintings, propaganda material and TV adds are valuable and relevant to the what is covered in the text. It is a readable text but there is one drawback....the authors beat the proverbial dead house when it comes to discussion. Like many academics, including some of my own colleagues, they like to hear themselves talk and, in this case, being read. I am more the..make your point and move on type. So while the book could probably be better edited, it is nonetheless a most valuable source in the practice of looking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good survey of visual culture—bad typography. March 3, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Purchased this book for a grad class: Survey of Visual Culture. The text is dense, has great examples, and is referenced well. Bad typography.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very nice seller! June 16, 2014
By momo
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book was nicely wrapped and the shipment was really quick. Although my class got cancelled in the end and that I had to return the book, I truly recommend the deal.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Practices of Looking May 5, 2014
By Vanessa
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the prescribed text for visual communications subjects due to its straightforward, easy to comprehend language.
Complex concepts are explained and demonstrated using great examples from art through to advertising.
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2.0 out of 5 stars too much pontless info January 30, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book has a few really interesting points, but those ponts take up about 1 page in 15. Surrounding each interesting or helpful tidbit is much more arbitrary information that makes you wish the book would just get to the point already. The book could have been edited down to at least half its size and would have been more effective. Unfortunately i need this for a class and have to just deal with the poor setup. I would not reccomend buying or using this text.
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