Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture
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on September 30, 2015
This is by far the best introductory text on visual culture I have personally come across. I strongly disagree with some previous reviewers that say the writing is "pompous" or "needlessly complex"; I am by no means an expert on the subject and I found the writing to be extremely comprehensive and even generous when it comes to explanations. The authors seem to make a great effort to be understood and a lot of really complex concepts are presented in a surprisingly and refreshing clear manner. I also disagree with a previous review that claimed that technical terms are frequently unexplained (I, in fact, think quite the opposite). Maybe the complaints about it being "unnecessarily long" could be somewhat justified if you consider that illustrating the concepts through concrete examples is "unnecessary". I think that the examples (although I admit I sometimes skimmed through them) present the rich context of visual culture and even make the text quite pleasant and colorful. That, in my opinion, is really something to be thankful for when it comes to "academic" texts.

That said, I have some complaints about the quality-price ratio of the actual materiality of the book itself. I initially borrowed the first edition from my university library (where they gave it a hardcover treatment for durability) and read it almost completely through. As I already said, I thought it was great (and wanted to read the new sections added on the second edition) so I decided to buy it regardless of the surprisingly high $80 price tag. I was quite disappointed when it arrived. The paper is not too great, the typography is not the best for reading and the cover is made from a flimsy and thin "plastified" paper (I also think the design of the cover itself is awful -5 minute random cut and paste-, but you can see that from the product photo and I guess its irrelevant). Besides this, I find the format too big (it is exactly A4!). Thus, the book ends up being one of those "squiggly" books that feel like a wet fish when you have it in your hands. I admit this is not so serious, but for $80 bucks I was expecting something better made...

In conclusion: content-wise the book is top notch; materially-wise it leaves a lot to be desired. It is extremely useful and it is no doubt a work of great scholarship. However, its not one of those books you enjoy having in your hands or in your bookshelf (and it will undoubtedly hurt your wallet).
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on March 12, 2010
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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on September 24, 2014
I find this book to be needlessly complex. Rather than state the information in plain terms, the authors seem determined to impress the readers with their grasp of technical terminology and multisyllabic words. As a result, I find myself forced to read and reread portions of the text. Often, technical terms go unexplained, or are explained with other technical terms. (For example, psychoanalytical terminology is explained with more psychoanalytical terminology - instead of being translated into layperson's terms.) In my opinion, this is an absolute failure on the part of the authors. Technical writing should make complex information easily understandable. This book, however, converts relatively simple information into riddles. I have an advanced grasp of English. If I am struggling then where does that leave students who do not share my proficiency?
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on January 27, 2014
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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on January 30, 2014
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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on 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.

--Edit--
It's come to my attention that the price has gone down to fifty five dollars or something like that.
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on September 21, 2012
The images in this book are perfect to the concepts described within it. I used this book as a textbook and it made the course my favorite one to take! A lot of symbolism and interpretation is involved with this text and makes for great discussion in and out of the classroom. It was one that I didn't sell back because the content was worth keeping!
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on November 13, 2013
Purchased this book for school. Its a first semester art class book but in order to read and understand what they are saying you have to have a higher knowledge of the arts. Not an entry level book. It is though, a very thorough book and can teach you a lot if you have the basic art terminology down.
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on March 3, 2013
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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on January 7, 2014
This was my textbook for a class I can't remember the name but we rarely used this textbook as the professor mostly lectured. I tried to read it on my own- interesting topics but the wordiness made me disinterested. My friend actually read neatly the whole book and really liked it though. I wish my professor used it more it has fascinating info. 4 stars because I didn't really use it.
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