How has technology affected global visual culture?

Categories: CultureTechnology


Today, four of the five most valuable companies in the world are either wholly or partly concerned with global media, communication and information flows (Microsoft, AOL-Time-Warner, etc. ). This tells us much about trends in global economic development and much about the dominant directions in which information flows. The key to understanding this climate of globalisation is visual culture, which means, the understanding of the kind of role they played to support this kind of growth (Sturken & Cartwright, 2001, pp. 316 – 318).

The rapid development of communications infrastructure and attendant media industries in the late 20th Century is most closely associated with a global process that is described as time-space compression.

Restrictions in time and space are effectively removed by electronic communications and the geographical boundaries between many nations, cultures, societies and individuals are eroded or removed. Essentially, the world becomes mediated; cultural flows increase and dominant exchanges become informational, rather than material, in nature.

The globalization of information provides channels of communication and interaction between cultures.

The latest such channel is the Internet, the global network of electronic communication, which, by canceling distances of time and space, has contracted the planet and accelerated history (Sturken & Cartwright, 2001, pp. 316 – 318). The pioneering thinker, Marshall McLuhan, coined the term, “the global village” in the 1960s to express his belief that electronic communication would unite the world.

In this view the Internet democratizes society and collapses distances and cultural differences, forming communities based on shared interests across geographic, national, and cultural boundaries. Indeed, the computer has moved in three decades from being a text only instrument to integrating sound, image and text, and will soon incorporate an increased mobility of images.

Top Writers
Writer Jennie
Verified expert
4.8 (467)
Doctor Jennifer
Verified expert
5 (893)
Dr. Karlyna PhD
Verified expert
4.7 (235)
hire verified writer

In general, the growth of television, radio, print media and music industry, all prove the significant affect of technology to the global visual culture (Sturken & Cartwright, 2001, pp. 316 – 318).

For instance, television, a powerful communication channel, has been a central tool in constructing concepts of the local and the national, but also it has been central to the increased globalisation of media. With the globalisation of markets, the US model of commercial television has made its way around the world. For example, the show “Neighbors” attracts a global audience of more than 120 million viewers each day, consistently ranking as a top-ten favorite. Moreover, it has now been sold to over 40 broadcasters and screened in over 60 countries worldwide from Australia to Zimbabwe.

Thus, television is a crucial factor in globalization. However, despite the fact that television is central to the increased globalisation of media and provides perhaps the first example of global media, new technologies are now redefining the concept of globalisation. For example, as Sturken and Cartwright (2001) state: “… the development of the telegraph was believed to be a means of achieving world harmony through global communication, as if the technology’s capacity to transmit messages quickly would unify the world… ”

(Sturken & Cartwright, 2001, p. 333) Mirzoeff (1999) illustrates Diana’s death as the way to indicate how technology has affected the global visual culture. Before her death, Diana was a combination of a pop star, fashion model and royal figure; she was the most photographed person in the world. When she died, she unleashed a global mourning that was both intensely national and remarkably global (Mirzoeff, 1999, pp. 231 – 233).

By the time of her death, Diana had become a global visual icon. As Sturken and Cartwright (2001, p.36) explain, an icon is an image that refers to something outside of its individual components, something (or someone) that has great symbolic meaning for many people. Her image was so extraordinary powerful because it incorporated the formal image of royalty, the popular photograph and the virtual image. She was a person who achieved what now appears an exceptional place in the global imagination through the medium of photography. It is photography that created the fantasy of being a princess, and all the gender stereotypes associated with such a fantasy.

Whatever the first cause, Diana became involved in a complex exchange of image and gaze between herself and the mass media over the representation as soon as she became a public figure. For her it was almost impossible to see herself in any way without being photographed (Mirzoeff, 1999, pp. 233 – 240). Moreover, the photograph in fact created the image that the public always wanted to see, and as Mirzoeff says: “Diana’s image was so effective because it was able to cross the gap form the personal to the political, in ways that academics, politicians and writers had not been able to emulate.

” (Mirzoeff, 1999, p. 240). Barthes (in Mirzoeff, 1999, ch. 2) called this ability of photography the punctum, which he opposed to the apparent and generally available meanings of the studium. It is something that the viewer brings to the image regardless of the intent of the photographer. Besides, what is most striking about such photographs is that the studium and punctum in fact overlap in the person of the celebrity.

Diana’s case (single mother, divorced, bulimic, etc.) made it unavoidable for people not to like her. It was universally observed that Diana was the most photographed person of modern times. Therefore, the power of technology had a lot to do with the way people thought of Diana. Most Diana photographs did not have an obvious sexualized content; however, they were often published in media aimed primarily at women. Women’s desire to see Diana was stronger than men, because in looking at her many women were reworking their own identities (Mirzoeff, 1999, pp. 240 – 244).

The global media public found in Diana the first icon of the new age of the electronic image and the immediate distribution of images. Although she lived her life in a dialog with photography, her death was above all a televisual event. From all the websites that were created in honor, none of them matched the creativity and spontaneity that could be seen live on television. The reason is simply because the Internet is a highly regarded informative resource but does not have television’s capacity for live reporting.

We can also see this by the incidents in New York, on September the 11th. Thousands of people watched the television although there were several Internet sites analyzing the events (Mirzoeff, 1999, pp. 244 – 253). Therefore, we can understand the role new media play in changing the global flow of visual images. Mirzoeff sees the death of Princess Diana as marking the end of photography and the inauguration of global visual culture. Overall, the way that technology has affected global visual culture if of great importance.

The fact that people depend on a ‘visual element’ to believe something is truly significant, and proves the power of visualizing. The power of this element could not exist without technology. After Diana’s death, thousands of people sat in front of televisions or read newspapers everyday for months (Mirzoeff, 1999, ch. 7).

Bibliography: Cartwright, Lisa & Sturken, Marita, 2001. “The global flow of visual culture”. In Practices of Looking: An introduction to visual culture. Oxford University Press. Mirzoeff, Nicholas, ed. , 1999. An introduction to Visual Culture. London: Routledge.

Cite this page

How has technology affected global visual culture?. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Are You on a Short Deadline? Let a Professional Expert Help You
Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7