Transformative sensemaking: Development in Whose Image? Keyan Tomaselli and the semiotics of visual representation
Williams, John J.
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The defining and distinguishing feature of homo sapiens is its ability to make sense of the world, i.e. to use its intellect to understand and change both itself and the world of which it is an integral part. It is against this backdrop that this essay reviews Tomaselli's 1996 text, Appropriating Images: The Semiotics of Visual Representation/ by summarizing his key perspectives, clarifying his major operational concepts and citing particular portions from his work in support of specific perspectives on sense-making. Subsequently, this essay employs his techniques of sense-making to interrogate the notion of "development". This exercise examines and confirms two interrelated hypotheses: first, a semiotic analysis of the privileged notion of "development" demonstrates its metaphysical/ ideological, and thus limiting, nature especially vis-a-vis the marginalized, excluded, and the collective other, the so-called Developing Countries. Second, the interrogative nature of semiotics allows for an alternative reading and application of human potential or skills in the quest of a more humane social and global order, highlighting thereby the transformative implications of a reflexive epistemology.