Role of psychology
To Patrick Rössler:
I enjoyed the overview on German magazines and I do agree that Germany in the 1920s was a model for foreign publishing industries (not only in the field of illustrated magazines, of course). This inspired me to propose to get to the typification of the genres in content and form to set up a graphical visualization (maybe in the footsteps of Bourdieu, just to give an example), which could be useful to highlight the fact that all these differences exist in a sort of flow, and that some aspects changed over time while some others did not.
Secondly, and more importantly, I would like to know your opinion on the following. I was wondering if aspects such as prosperity, freedom of speech and levels of literacy really are decisive factors in the success of illustrated magazines. Thinking of Italy, where economy did not boost between the wars, freedom of speech vanished after 1925-26, and levels of literacy remained relatively low, but also of other European regions such as the Balkans, maybe we can even state that illustrated magazines had an enormous success (as opposed to newspapers and books) exactly because they were cheap, because they didn’t mention politics, and because they were easy to consummate also for people who couldn’t read properly. In this sense — and grounding on observations already put forward by Irene Piazzoni — I keep asking myself if what really counts is maybe something intrinsic to images that has a little to do not only with social and economic conditions, but also with the quality of pictures, photomontages etc. As a matter of fact, illustrated magazines were widely read in Italy even if their covers and inside pictures sometimes didn’t reach the high quality standards we can see in German magazines. Not by chance, at the very moment of the “iconic turn”, perception and all that is visual began to be analyzed for instance by Gestalt psychologists. Maybe the change in the perception of reality that happened between 19th and 20th century (electric lighting, birth of movies etc.) are more important than socio-economic conditions and would explain why illustrated magazines had such a widespread success. Of course, this does not disrupt our work as historians of cultural artifacts! It would just give it a multidisciplinary approach. Thank you for your time and wonderful presentation!
many thanks for your thoughtful commentaries!
Topic #1: I agree, and working on such a graphic representation of genres would help future research a lot, as a common ground for case studies research, genre overviews etc. I would be happy to work with you on this, and if you had a - yet preliminary - sketch for such a visualization in mind, I could comment on this, modify etc. until we had a common and satisfying solution, to be published in the ESPRiT journal.
Topic #2: Thank you for pinting at the change of reality perception, it seems helpful to follow this track. As communication scholars we often look at the supply and demand for new media - in this case prosperity and freedom of speeech address stronger the supply side, allowing publishers, editors and journalists to produce illustrated magazines. On the demand side, however, we see first an influence of low literacy (why people prefer visual media) and - here is your point - individual factors such as the psychological appeal of images in this process of the iconic turn (as dovumented for the silent screen and the talkies, for instance). I agree that we should emphasize this aspect in future account on the interwar magazine press. Many thanks!
Thank you for your answers! I will elaborate especially on the first topic, hoping to get a viable idea in the next days, and possibly before the end of the Future States conference. I think that visualizations can help research as they can bring in new ideas and new points of view -- well, yes, an iconic turn also on our side! It would be wonderful to add something like this to our outcomes!