Concept

Rationale

In the field of communication studies, mediated images are becoming increasingly important and receive more and more attention from a diverse range of scholars throughout the sub-disciplines covered by ICA – as mirrored by buzzwords like “visual turn” or “pictorial turn” (Mitchell, 2005): Political Communication e.g. is interested in the depiction of politicians and their nonverbal behavior (Grabe & Bucy, 2009), Health Communication e.g. analyzes how obesity is visually framed (Atanasova, Gunter & Koteyko, 2013), Environmental Communication e.g. focuses on the portrayal of climate change (Grittmann, 2014; Manzo, 2009) and Popular Communication e.g. examines the role of visual stereotypes in mass media (Kitch, 2001).

This increasing attention on mediated images makes it necessary to find or develop ways to adequately analyze visuals and to make the methodological procedures of studying them reproducible. At the same time, there are specifics to mediated images (such as their associative, holistic and non-linear logic compared to the linear-sequential logic of texts, Müller, 2007; comp. Messaris & Abraham, 2001) that often make it challenging to analyze them with traditional methods of communication studies. Accordingly, these methods have either to be adapted to the specifics of visual communication (like in the case of visual content analysis; comp. Bell, 2001), or creative and innovative methods have to be developed.

As the field of visual methods is however still in its establishing process (for an overview: Rose, 2012; van Leeuwen & Jewitt, 2001), it is a challenge for young scholars from all ICA sub-disciplines to get an overview on the transdisciplinary potentials and limitations of particular methods. Furthermore, scholars studying mediated images are scattered throughout the diverse divisions and interest groups, which makes it even harder for young scholars to discuss challenges associated with visual methods with their respective peers and leaves synergies between the different sub-fields underused.

This preconference therefore brought together young scholars from all ICA divisions and interest groups who deal with mediated images in their research projects. The event aimed …

  • to give an overview on the potentials, challenges and limitations of different visual methods in order to account for the increasingly important role of analyzing mediated images throughout communication studies,
  • to provide a forum for a common discussion on a current methodological topic of diverse sub-disciplines of communication studies in order to contribute to ICA’s striving for cross-divisional cooperation, and
  • to connect and foster young scholars across all ICA divisions and interest groups by bringing them together with peers who are facing similar challenges as well as with experienced senior scholars who are experts with regard to particular visual methods.

Format

The preconference consisted of two formats: Poster sessions and an experts’ sessions.

In the poster sessions, young scholars had the opportunity to present research projects in which they apply visual methods, to discuss their methodology with other participants and to receive substantial feedback on their projects from experienced senior scholars. All young and senior scholars participated in the poster session, so the format provided a practice-oriented overview on the range of traditional as well as creative and innovative visual methods and their applications.

In the experts’ sessions, young scholars had the chance to discuss the transdisciplinary potentials and limitations of particular visual methods with respective senior scholars who hold extensive expertise with regard to these methods. Therefore, young scholars who apply similar visual methods in their projects were grouped together and matched with respectively experienced senior scholars. The groups then discussed the particular potentials, challenges and limitations of these methods based on the research projects presented in the posters.

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