What is Visual Media?
‘Visual media’ is a colloquial expression used to designate things such as television, film, photography and painting, etc. But it is highly inexact and misleading. On closer inspection, all the so-called visual media turn out to involve the other senses (especially touch and hearing). All media are, from the standpoint of sensory modality, ‘mixed media’. The obviousness of this raises two questions: (1) why do we persist in talking about some media as if they were exclusively visual? Is this just a shorthand for talking about visual predominance? And if so, what does ‘predominance’ mean? Is it a quantitative issue (more visual information than aural or tactile?) or a question of qualitative perception, the sense of things reported by a beholder, audience, viewer or listener? (2) Why does it matter what we call ‘visual media’? Why should we care about straightening out this confusion? What is at stake?