17 December 2008

Glimpse: The Art & Science of Seeing

My friend Susan Orr sent me a link to what looks like an interesting new journal Glimpse: The Art & Science of Seeing; you can find their web page here. Not only does the enterprise in general seem like a good idea to me, the first issue (which you can download free) is on a topic close to my own interests ~ "Is the visual political?"

Having not read a word of the magazine, I will say two things. First, I am deeply suspicious of nominalizations, that is, of turning adjectives and verbs into nouns. I do not think there is such a thing, for instance, as "the political." That sets me apart from many political theorists. I think there are politics and I think there are things or actions or whatever that are or are not or might be political. But the political? I have no idea, really, what that might mean. Likewise with "the visual."

Second, why the rhetorical question? Assuming that vision and our visual concerns and capacities are an identifiable domain, of course, the whole domain is political. And the editors/authors surely think that as well. Don't be coy.



Blogger joewatt said...

Looks like a great idea for a journal.

I'm curious about your comments on nominalizations. I suppose one could say "that which is political" (or visual), or "those things which are political," but I was raised on Strunk and White's "Omit needless words." Maybe you think they should instead have said "Omit words for which there is no need." Hm?

18 December, 2008 12:48  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Saying something (say, a capacity or a practice) is "political" or "visual" is precisely to use those words as modifiers - as in "visual culture" or "political vision". So too with "needless" words. But saying "the political" reifies. It is like saying "I have 'the need' to do this or that" instead of saying, for instance, "I need to get out of the house."

There is, as far as I can see, no such thing as "the visual" or "the political."

19 December, 2008 17:50  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for linking to Glimpse. We would be interested to hear your feedback if you read the issue.

As for nominalizations, I suppose we could have gone with "How, and in what way, are the things, people, activities, and visual representations of them, that we see with our eyes, political in nature?" For the purpose of an issue title, we prefer the shorthand of "the visual". "political" in this context modifies "the visual" and is not itself a nominalization.

Glad to find your blog.

M. Hurst
GLIMPSE | the art + science of seeing

20 December, 2008 14:41  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...


First, thanks for the thanks. I intend to read the issue once we are done with the term here. Based on my very quick skim it seems like you are doing great work.

Second, I suppose you could've gone with something like the ludicrous sentence you suggest. Or you could stick with the more or less equally ludicrous approach of using a nominalization to talk about something that doesn't exist. Alternatively, you might've come up with a catchy title like John Berger et. al., did years ago with "Ways of Seeing" - say, "political ways of seeing." Probably not a big seller, that, but it occurred to me in about 15 seconds. A little elbow grease would get you something both catchy but non-ludicrous.

Finally, too many political theorists talk about "the political" and it was them whom I was criticizing - hence my "for instance". But I do have the same sorts of qualm regarding "the visual" - regardless of whether you manage to use modifiers properly.

Best of luck with the journal in any case!


20 December, 2008 15:41  

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