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Likely Types of Conceptual Representation in my Abroad Photo Infographic

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This post is one in a series done for a class I took as a senior in college on visual rhetoric.

So I’m planning to meticulously analyze the approximately 2,039 photos and videos I took during my semester abroad, looking at everything from where the picture was taken to who/what is in it, whether it is a “repeat” picture (one I took again, usually in case the first wasn’t quite how I wanted it to be), and whether it is a close-up or far-away shot. (The actual list of attributes to be examined is far from final.)

The question is, once I have all of this information, how am I going to visualize it? That is, how am I going to put it into picture form, in some form that allows a viewer to easily comprehend the information in context with and relation to all of the other information represented? Good question.

Our textbook for our Visual Rhetoric class, Reading Images, spends a chapter discussing the different types of “conceptual representation” (as opposed to narrative representation) used in visualizations. I specifically found relevant the “symbolic process”, which is basically defined as representing what a subject “means or is”. The book uses an old painting of a man sitting in his study surrounded by objects that clearly represent some part of that man’s identity. A similar example pulled from my own Facebook profile pictures album can be found below this paragraph. The point of the objects in the image is not to illustrate the objects themselves, but for them to represent something else—in this case some part of my own self/identity.

The PS3 controller represents my affinity for video games, for example, while the moisturizer is meant to convey that my hands tend to get very dry in the winter (though I see now that there are other possible interpretations. Anyway…).

Alright, so I understand symbolic processes. How does this concept apply to my project? Well, let’s specifically take one aspect I plan on analyzing in my photos: what the subject of the photo is: person, animal, building, interior, or landscape, and so on (deciding on these final lists will definitely take some thought and revising). I’m hoping that this project will help me to better understand some aspect of myself; specifically, in this example, the kinds of things I tend to focus on, that I tend to think significant enough to devote photographs to while not bothering to snap pics of others.

So let’s say I represent these subjects as silhouettes: a person standing, a bird, a famous building/landmark (Big Ben, perhaps), a mountain (for landscapes). I’ll then resize each of these objects in relation to each other depending on what proportion of my photos actually had those objects as its subjects. Ideally, this series of silhouettes, which on their own are essentially pointless pictures, will serve as symbols of my observational tendencies—an abstract concept that is really impossible to represent except by some technique like symbolism.

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