Donation from Penelope Seidler creates visual understanding initiative

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Architect Penelope Seidler AM has made a major donation to establish a new visual comprehension initiative at the University of Sydney.

Through education, research and public awareness programs, the initiative will enhance visual culture, using skills and ideas from art history and theory to increase understanding of images in other disciplines, including medicine, science, media and communications, and architecture.

Ms Seidler’s donation reflects her belief in the power of the image and her concern that the arts and humanities have been underestimated in Australia in recent times.

“Today we are bombarded with images everywhere, so the visual is becoming more and more important,” Ms. Seidler said. “It will increasingly become the way ideas are disseminated and it requires investigation. “

The initiative will teach University students to interpret and analyze images in everyday life. It will also see researchers from across the university collaborating on multidisciplinary investigations into how images can shape society, affect health and well-being, and disseminate both information and fake news.

 As part of this initiative, the University will establish an undergraduate course in visual literacy, teaching students to interpret pictures as fluently as they read words. The course will initially be offered to students of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, but it is hoped that it will eventually be accessible to all undergraduates.

As Australian school and university students learn some fundamentals of visual literacy, it is new in Australia for a university to treat it as a stand-alone set of skills, across multiple disciplines, and to involve researchers and the community. . Visual literacy centers have been established in Europe, America and Canada, but this is believed to be a first for Australia.

“Our ambition is to make the University of Sydney a pioneer in the new field of visual comprehension and to elevate the study of this important field,” commented Professor Mark Ledbury, who will lead the creation of the initiative. as director of the Power Institute, the University’s foundation for visual arts and culture.

“Historically, art history and visual arts students have immersed themselves in how to understand the symbolic functioning of images and how to read them. In our present day environment saturated with images, all students can benefit from visual literacy. We need to make people feel that they can cope with the deluge of images, especially from the digital world, and be more sensitive and ethical in their use of images.


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