** available as of 01/01/2022
This course will employ both historical and contemporary frames to come to terms with what it means for an image to "go viral" and why that virality matters. Using this lens, we will be able to concern ourselves with how images have functioned through time as a conceptual site of contradiction and competing claims to knowledge and power. Taking a historic view, the class will examine what it meant for an image to propagate, erupt, and also stay latent in different epochs, such as the age of the printing press and with the emergence of photography. This historical perspective will in turn enable us to contextualize the role(s) that "viral images" take up in the intensely visual and networked digital infrastructure of the twenty-first century. From this conversation, we hope to draw forward important distinctions that arise from the term itself, such as the difference between "virality" and a "shared visual tradition." Disciplinarily, there is a difference between a "viral image," and an image with "staying power" that becomes part of and eventually comes to reinforce a visual tradition, and this course will investigate both the contours of this distinction and its implications. We will consider viral properties such as propagation, contagion, latency, and eruption alongside visual meaning-making, community-building, and human social connection.
Grading Basis
LG/SNC Elective Basis
HAA 0065
Academic Group
Dietrich Sch Arts and Sciences
Academic Organization
History of Art & Architecture
Pittsburgh Campus