The first type of visual literacy is one restricted to the recognition of familiar things. This is a literacy based on fixed definitions, control, order and efficiency, the kind of ‘reading’ that takes place when we observe street signs, look at maps or watch the nightly news. This action is something we do all the time, a passive decoding that allows us to manage our day to day lives, particularly as responsible adults, to recognise relationships between things and events as efficiently as possible. However, this kind of ‘closed reading’ can go too far to the extent that it makes alternatives invisible, and anything unfamiliar is dismissed as foreign, useless and unwelcome. Thus we have the “Federal Department of Odds and Ends”, a concrete building without windows into which anything strange, miscellaneous or otherwise challenging - outside the familiar prescriptions of recognition - is conveniently “swept under the carpet” once the correct forms have been filled in. Meaning is a function of bureaucracy, and literacy is there to measure prescribed value; does this ring any bells in our own social and political universe?
Here is another example of a simple error of omission that could have been caught if the student had read the essay aloud or given it to a friend to read. The word "of" should be between "calculation" and "the." That one small error makes the entire sentence awkward and confusing. If the instructor has to reread the sentence to try to understand its meaning, the flow of the essay is interrupted. If this happens often enough in the essay, it gives an overall bad impression on what otherwise might be a very good paper in terms of research.