An artistic horizon: content analysis of caricatures with library and information science themes.

Author:Isfandyari-Moghaddam, Alireza
Position:Critical essay


The word "caricature" is derived from the Italian word "caricatare" or "carcate" which means "exaggerate". Caricatures play an influential social and political role. Caricatures can illustrate the sufferings of citizens by tackling the issues of the society, analyzing economic problems, and analyzing problems. Political caricatures can make help oppressed people by criticizing the status quo and unjust political practices. Caricatures can deal boldly with social problems because they can escape censorship. It is possible to say that caricatures have the potential to correct problems faster that written words (Hafiz, 2006). By definition, (Rhodes and McLean 1990; quoted in Burns, 2004). Thus, the word "caricature" essentially means a "loaded portrait" (Wikipedia, 2009). As Marshall McLuhan (quoted in Boeschoten, 2006) says, "the medium is the message." This is true for caricatures as a medium. Caricatures can be complimentary as well as critical.

Much has been written about why caricatures are effective from an aesthetic perspective (Gombrich, 1960; Ramachandran and Hirstein, 1999) and about how caricatures are created from a practical perspective (Gautier, 1985; Redman, 1984). Yet, in library and information science (LIS), caricatures have been little considered from a research perspective.

This research attempts to use caricatures to identify negative and weak points in LIS that have not already been thoroughly discussed or debated. The results of this research can help librarians can achieve a better status and communicate the true place of the library, library resources, and librarianship. Librarians must be the first to identify and understand the shortcomings and drawbacks of our profession. This objective can be observed in Toghan's (quoted in Hafiz, 2006) saying: "caricature is not just a joke, but it is [a] change and disinfection [weapon]". The authors want to encourage and stimulate more discussion and debate on LIS issues, promote critical thinking, draw librarians' attention to ideas depicted by caricatures, and publicize librarianship as an attractive and valuable profession.

Research Method

The main research question is: what are the subjects, themes, and content of the caricatures? A research population of 255 caricatures of books, libraries, and librarianship was collected. The caricatures, Iranian and non-Iranian, were selected from Internet sites, or were drawn by Vahideh Kashi-Nahanji. Using the content analysis method, each caricature was analyzed separately and categorized into eight groups and then into subgroups. These categorizations are seen in Table 1.

Content Analysis of Caricatures

The results of analysis are the following:

  1. Book

    1. Negative points about books.

      The empty world of humans, lack of importance in humans' lives, and the unfamiliarity of most humans with books are among the negative points expressed about books. Other themes include the idea that the degree of a person's popularity depends on the book collection of that person. Most people do not buy the book to read, but just to have. Some do not open their books unless they have lost something in them, such as money or notes related to water consumption. Using a book unsuitably to increase the heater flame, or as an umbrella, fan, or the like, are in this category.

    2. Positive points about books

      Books are an inseparable part of human life. They are worth keeping although we have e-books. Printed books have kept their value. It lasts a long time without the presence of its owner, and it transfers the information without the movement of its owner.

  2. Reading

    1. Negative points

      Most people pretend to study, while they only see the lines of the book without reading or comprehending. Poor reading habits transfer to the brain. People are unaccustomed to study. Most people study notes instead of scientific books. In some cases, entertainment such as watching television and listening to music have taken the place of reading for children.

    2. Positive points

      Reading is food for the brain, and brings respect and dignity to humans. Reinforcing memory, encouraging wisdom, and increasing knowledge are positive aspects of the caricatures. Books complete a missing part of the mind. The most important part of our knowledge comes from reading. Reading allows us to find emotional commonalities, spiritual freedom, and a distance from reality that enriches...

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