Peripheral Vision: Reconfiguring Socio-cultural Messages

moon jung jang

Vision is not merely optical, it is also selective. Whether conscious or unconscious, vision reflects a set of socio-cultural attitudes. These attitudes affect the ground or structure of what is seen, bringing certain concerns to the foreground while rendering others invisible. This thesis investigation focuses on the relationship between marginalization as a visual concept in graphic design and the day-to-day realities of marginalized labor practices. I am keenly attentive to socio-cultural systems in which individuals are made peripheral within the power exchange.

Modern society’s socio-cultural structure has traditionally marginalized groups of people such as immigrant workers and anonymous laborers. Made peripheral by the system, the voices of these groups are hidden within the workplace: museums, factories, and schools. As a designer I do not wish to perpetuate the language of marginalization in design. I look at these established workplaces as a context from which to design and then participate in “imagining alternatives” or “radical perspectives”* that represent the margin and the center simultaneously.

My research methodology is built in stages. First, I seek to understand socio-cultural systems through participant observation, introspection, and dialogue(interview). Second, through strategies of re-contextualization and memorialization, I reassert the hidden voices, slipping them from the margin into full view. This re-configuration of visual language investigates modes of representation: juxtaposition, de-centering, transposition, palimpsest, and mirroring. I seek to shift the traditional hierarchies out of focus, to disturb the given array of visual facts, and generate alternative actions that reconfigure the placement of the marginal.

* Hooks, Bell. A happening life: endless design, third Harwell Hamilton Harris lecture, North Carolina state university, school of design, 1997.
* Kuijpers, Els. Marginality as site of resistance, Design beyond design edited by Jan van Toorn, Amsterdam: Jan van Eyck Akademie, 1998.