Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Briana Haggerty

The Translation of Physical and Social Environments through Images 


“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in

part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”-1 Corinthians 13:12

Humans are dependent on both physiological and cultural representation systems in

order to navigate their environments. In vision the chaotic, shimmering lightfield is translated

by our minds into an ordered visual experience that permits us to orient ourselves to our

surroundings. Similarly, we translate a complicated cultural world through the visual material

we present to each other in order to have effective social communication. Though these

translation systems can result in misperceptions they are vital to our ability to interact with our

personal environments. A variety of Marxist theorists lament this cultural system. They critique

the value society attributes to representation claiming that the worker and consumer is a

passive subject being oppressed by a meaningless system. While many of their claims are valid,

I argue for both the naturalness of such systems as well as a larger extent of individual agency

within them. When we acknowledge these characteristics the representations we use will

indeed become tools of unification, rather than of the separation these theorists claim they

create. They become access points to much larger and otherwise inaccessible universes.




Tanya Jung (VLST)

Brent Wahl (FNAR)