In the real world, you are surrounded by text—both visual and print. It appears in media, advertising, and even text messages. Often, text is not one-dimensional, in the sense that words and the ways in which they are used or arranged can have different meanings depending on the relationship between the text and the reader. In such cases, a text is open to analysis and interpretation. Usually, there is no one right way to analyze and interpret a text; readers, like viewers, may understand elements in different ways and draw different conclusions. Whatever they are, however, will be the result of reading critically: examining parts of the text as they relate to the whole, supporting ideas with evidence, and drawing conclusions on the basis of analysis.
The practice of analysis will benefit you in several ways. It can help you enter an ongoing conversation with a new and fresh perspective. It also can help you understand meaning beyond the surface of a text—including historical contexts and cultures, new approaches to thinking, and new knowledge.
Although the word text tends to imply words, writing, or books, virtually all works created by human beings can be considered texts that are open to analysis—films, plays, music and dance performances, exhibits, paintings, photographs, sculptures, advertisements, artifacts, buildings, and even whole cultures. In this chapter, you will focus on the analysis of print texts. In Image Analysis: What You See, you will move to the analysis of visual and digital texts.