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Sacred Heart University Library Newsletter for Faculty No. 17 (May 2019)

Visual Information Literacy: A New Teachable Moment

The Lede: Visual Information Literacy: A New Teachable Moment

“Seeing is believing” –except that it isn’t.  Have you seen this video?

“Deep fakes” are better called "really good fakes."  Just enough is wrong with Jordan Peele’s Obama imitation to be both plausible and fake. How long before high-quality faking is much easier and better?

One SHU instructor said to me, ““When my students need an image, they just grab it from the Internet.”  Would the same instructor say the same thing for just any “fact?”  The era of convincing fake images is upon us. 

Consider this painting:

Faked portrait of a man in the style of Rembrandt

More convincing?  This was created by Bas Korsten, creative director of J. Walter Thompson advertising firm in Amsterdam.  With 346 paintings, and 150GB of rendered graphics, he used a 3D printer to mimic Rembrandt’s brush strokes.  (See this BBC story.)

“But I don’t teach art,” you say. What do you teach that uses visual imagery? –in marketing, social work, biology, psychology, physical therapy, or almost anything else at SHU.

Teaching our students to be literate in a digital environment involves numbers, words, and images.  We rightly teach our students that not just any “fact” is accurate: what constitutes authority varies from field to field, but always matters.  We teach skepticism of statistics, claims, and conclusions unless they are properly warranted.  We will have to teach the same skills with images.

The Library can help teach visual information literacy: Artstor.

Artstor is more than its name: it’s not “just” art (with apologies to all artists!)  Arstor images span environmental studies, women’s studies, and global studies, as well as traditionally image-rich subjects such as graphic arts, photography, and American studies.  But why bother, when images can just be grabbed from Google instead?  Artstor offers:

  • Vetted, high-quality images from authoritative sources, and can be used legally for any educational purpose at this University (including non-academic purposes such as newsletters)
  • Downloadable citations in APA, Chicago, and MLA formats
  • A IIIF  (3-F) image viewer that allows zoom, comparison, and easy downloading to PowerPoint or other presentation software
  • Easy sharing of image groups with students through your course guide or Blackboard site.

A synergy –if you search for a JSTOR article (within JSTOR itself), you will see associated and relevant images. Example: search federal reserve

Artstor offers significant support for faculty.  See their Instructor’s Guide to Artstor and self-paced training for Higher Education .  Artstor offers a number of webinars  --and if you can’t make the scheduled time, you can ask for session recordings.  As always, SHU librarians also stand ready to help you – see our Art & Design Research Guide ( )