Guest Editor Karin Becker on “Visual Frictions”

VisualFrictionsThe recently published special issue Visual Frictions represents something new for the Journal of Aesthetics and Culture. Whereas most of the work published by the journal has been by writers and scholars in the humanities – this new issue incorporates research by a group of researchers not usually represented here, in this space. Namely, social scientists.

Karin Becker, a professor emerita of media studies at Stockholm University, penned the editorial for the special issue. She and her colleagues were particularly excited about this publication – both in terms of substance, and delivery. “We were initially drawn to this journal because of it being online and open access, said Becker, who served as guest editor of the issue titled Visual Frictions.
“This journal is a perfect place for this kind of work that is visually driven,” said Becker. The special issue explores “visuality”, which she describes in the editorial as an “increasingly contested phenomena”.

Karin-BeckerBecker writes: “Whether as part of social and cultural practices, or as utilized in social scientific inquiry and investigation, the visual exerts a power that continues to challenge and be challenged by other ways of knowing. This power is especially apparent when we consider visuality in its digital manifestations: as visually based media expand their purview across social, cultural, and geographic space we find they are often in “friction” with established norms, structures, and modes of expression.”

The traditional format for scholarly reporting is the text-based “article” that sometimes includes static imagery. But such a format is particularly constraining for works such as the ones included in Visual Frictions where visual and multi-media elements are core materials examined as part of the research.

Visual Frictions is comprised of 11 original research articles and the accompanying editorial. The issue delves into a diverse range of topics under the theme “visual frictions” and explores ideas as varied as how Youtube culture is an arena for critique of commonly prescribed to notions regarding Swedish childhood – to, one of Becker’s favorites, a work examining how vision itself is socially constructed.

“This contribution, by Asko Lehmusskallio, is a particularly unique piece of work,” said Becker.

“It illustrates how visual competence is ‘normative’ and explores how there are people who do not see according to the ‘norm’. It requires adaptation for some people to function in our world.”
This adaptation is illustrated through the story of “Conrad” – a colleague of the Lehmuskallio’s – who, lacking “average eyesight” sees with “special requirements”, which are also referred to as “social hacks” in the article.

“In his paper and film, the author is trying to challenge the “norm”; to challenge the expectation that is not always met.”

All of the articles and media rich materials can be found here in the journal.