Virtual proximity and transnational familyhood – new article!


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In the study published in the article: Virtual proximity and transnational familyhood: a case study of the digital communication practices of Poles living in Finland I use a concept of virtual proximity, meaning the emotional closeness between individuals afforded by digital technologies and mobile communication. Through ethnographically driven inquiry among five Polish-speaking families living in Finland, I identified four thematic patterns in participants’ practices in digital habitats: (i) children’s agency in creating family WhatsApp groups, (ii) the use of family in-app communication for language learning purposes, (iii) digital caregiving strategies and arrangements, and (iv) the use of digital photo-sharing as a form of visual co-presence.

The study is part of the project ‘Whats in the App? Digitally-mediated communication within contemporary multilingual families across time and space’ supported by the Academy of Finland (grant number: 315478). And the article is open access!

Interactive collage as elicitation technique – new article!


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Enjoy reading my article discussing some of the results of my fieldwork among Polish transnational families living in Finland: Performing transnational family with the affordances of mobile apps: A case study of Polish mothers living in Finland, published in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

In the auto-driven visual elicitation interviews with Polish mothers, I look at family constellations and technologically mediated communication practices. Applying the technique of an interactive collage, study participants visualised kinship relations, using colored cards showing silhouettes of adults and children and icons of mobile apps. The technique of an interactive collage is my contribution to enrich visual elicitation methodology.

The study presented in this article was supported by the Academy of Finland [grant number 315478] and conducted as part of the project: What’s in the app? Digitally-mediated communication within contemporary multilingual families across time and space (2018-2022).

Education Development Award for 2019


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…for collaborative and diverse development of teaching and learning at the department.

obrazek JPEGI received this award in collaboration with my departmental colleague, Dr. Judit Hahn, with whom we have collaborate in recent year quite intensively on various initiatives related to teaching development. The award is granted by the Vice Rector of the University of Jyväskylä, Prof. Marja-Leena Laakso, upon recommendations from the Educational Council of the university (more on the award: here).

Everything started one day in the coffee/break room in our department… We haven’t yet known each other with Judit as I joint (back) my department after two years since I completed my PhD. During this time, the unit has grown as a result of merge of two departments, these of communication and languages. So, yes… the coffee-room… we got to know each other by simply complaining on a lack of equal treatment in university policy (and thus also on department’s and faculty’s levels) the two main activities, that is, ‘research’ and ‘teaching’. Those who succeeded in research received recognition, but small and big achievements in teaching practice remain silent. As a consequence, raising an issue to develop quality of teaching in the department (or university) seems not be a popular activity or topic for discussion.


Me and Judit, with the Teachers’ Chat Room’s mascots, after receiving the award.

I am not experienced teacher, but Judit is. I do not have much opportunities to teach, so I research topics related to university pedagogy and teaching practices, especially in a context of visual education. As a team, we introduced the Teachers’ Chat Room (TCR), a space and a time for all members of the Language Campus/Department who are involved, or interested in teaching to share their ideas, good practices, excitement, frustrations, accomplishments, and questions related to teaching and education. The TCR is a place for both junior and senior members of the university community interested, or involved in teaching. During the TCR meetings we have opened up the following topics:

  • the first lesson: lesson planning, icebreakers, tips and tools for a good start;
  • digital tools in teaching;
  • object-based learning and visual literacy (guest: Dr. Olivia Meehan, Melbourne University, Australia);
  • trial lecture: preparation, performance and evaluation (forthcoming TCR);

The main idea behind the TCR is to create an informal meeting-place for sharing, peer-support and learning from each other. Thus, to develop university teaching and pedagogy in a community spirit.

We are also involved in few more initiatives related to teaching development (e.g. The First Year Experience development group; making teaching visible on department’s website; extensive publishing on topics related to pedagogy), hoping that in the future, teaching, and thus, excellence in teaching will receive more recognition. I also hope that in the future, faculty members receiving this and similar awards will hear ‘congratulations-words’ from the heads of their units as they would have heard if this would be an award for the research merits…


The Teachers’ Chat Room’s mascots.


Today’s visual literacy is multisensory – notes from the IVLA 2019 conference


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The IVLA conference in Leuven, Belgium (16-19 October 2019) started from a provocative, or even quite arrogant keynote by Brian Kennedy. He suggested that within the current condition of the visual, the IVLA should even consider changing its name! I don’t think it needs to go this far. Many papers presented during these two days have, indeed, indicated that the visual is currently understood more broadly – more as a (multi)sensory experience.

What is more, seeing does not only happen through our eyes. Instead, looking and seeing is fully embodied experience. I would like to know, however, where in our bodies we experience ‘seeing’?

Regarding the image, the act of seeing employs a number of senses as well as our (life) experience, knowledge, history, etc. However, what we see is not always ‘what’ and ‘how’ something is (as Nettie Boivin indicated in her paper). In another keynote, addressed by Alva Nöe, I noted a similar point: we do not achieve ‘seeing’ only by opening our eyes.

One of the most interesting initiatives toward development of visual literacy and reported at the conference is the “Power of Pictures” program in the UK. Charlotte Hacking, program leader, talked about the project that brings back picture books to primary education curriculum. The focus on visual literacy had positive impact on children’s literacy skills development. Elsewhere during the conference, it was also mentioned that children are naturally visually literate. This can be particularly observed in the drawing activities.

The conference provided me with a lot of inspiration, ideas for some new teaching activities as well as with more understanding where we are in terms of visual literacy theory and practice. I finally met people that I knew before only from online collaboration. Let’s see where this ‘embodied’ experience will lead me/us in terms of today’s and future visual literacy.

Visual prompts and visual methods in multilingualism research


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A real eye opener to practiced-based visual research methods, variety of approaches and innovative ideas – a 3-day workshop “Visual prompts and visual methods in multilingualism research”, organized by the MultiLing Research Center at the University of Oslo, Norway, that took place 17-19 June 2019 (and that I was lucky to participate in).

I must confess to my initial skepticism regarding the content and context of this event: visual research methods and language studies brought together… I know, of course, that visual methods are multidisciplinary. However, my initial encounter with VRM scholarship within the discipline of linguistics raised many questions and doubts. These mainly concerned an issue if the methods applied and referred to are, actually, visual research methods (in a way I used to know them). In this context, the Oslo workshop truly enriched my knowledge about VRM. It also demonstrated that VRM can be, indeed, applied across disciplines.

The paper that I found particularly interesting and “absolutely visual” in approach was a study of sign language in a form of auto-driven visual elicitation. Maartje De Meulder and Annelies Kusters used a well-known (in language studies) method of a language portrait (a method that I would have questioned the most, based on my initial readings). However, examples of data that they showed were very reach, with a variety of participants’ approach to the idea of “drawing the language”. In addition, and as a common practice in sign language research, they presented extracts from video interviews. Here, participants could really explain and present their relationship with language(s). I was truly surprised by how the language can be embodied – that was both showed in the drawings of language portrait and in the video interviews.

In addition to many interesting papers, I was also positively surprised by a new format of a material session. It can be understood as a more relaxed and even more engaging variation of a traditional poster session. In this case, presenters were introducing their cases, or actually the methods they applied, in a form of a variety of materials they could have brought to the table (so there was no actual posters, but table-spots with a scholar you could approach for further explanation of her/his research).

In addition to the regular paper, I was also presenting my auto-driven elicitation method of an interactive collage in the material session. A method of an interactive collage, I have recently applied in the fieldwork with Polish-speaking families living in Finland (as part of the ‘WhatsInApp’ project). And again – I was positively surprised by a high interest in both the method and my project. I came to this workshop as a sort of “outsider”, visual scholar with a background in communication studies. I thought I will not be able to find a common language (sic!) with language scholars. And it turned out to be the opposite – actually, here, I finally talked to researchers who are very practice-oriented. They also really kept the focus on visual methods, which I could not always observe with my visual cultures/studies colleagues on some other occasions. At the “Visual prompts” workshop there were, of course, some papers and discussions that I was not able to follow and engage in, having no background in linguistics. Nevertheless, these three days were very refreshing and particularly important in bringing new ideas and motivation for my further fieldwork in the ‘WhatsInApp’ project.

Workshop summary with a focus on researcher position in the research process (in a fieldwork) and in relation to images.

Special issue editorial: “Visual literacy practices in higher education”


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I learnt a lot. I made some mistakes that now I know could have been avoided if I would have had at least some editorial experience that I have now, when the process is over. Nevertheless, I am very proud that we both, i.e. me and my friend and colleague, Rasa Zakeviciute, made it to this point. Editing this (double) special issue of the “Journal of Visual Literacy” was a true adventure. Starting with issues with the Editorial Manager that we tried to solve when we both were on holidays in different countries; including looking for reviewers across academic context (and thus getting to know when they all have holidays); up to hours of editorial meetings along with long evening phone-calls trying to solve disciplinary disagreements between communication studies (me) and social sciences (Rasa) paradigms.

At the same time we experienced a lot of academic freedom in the editing process from Maria Avgerinou, editor-in-chief of the journal. We did not simply put the papers together, but we really worked with each single contributor to make this special issue happen. Thus, we acted both as guest editors as well as reviewers (in addition to the double blind peer-review process). You can enjoy an extensive introduction to this special issue in the Editorial, just being published ahead of print.

In order to read all eleven contributions, we still have to wait before they appear online, but here is the list of what you should look forward to:

  1. Asko Lehmuskallio. The look as a medium: A conceptual framework and an exercise for teaching visual studies.
  2. Gary McLeod. Rephotography for Photographers: discussing methodological compromises by post-graduate online learners of photography.
  3. Terry Loerts and Christina Belcher. Developing visual literacy competencies while learning course content through visual journaling: teacher candidate perspectives.
  4. Wendy R. Williams. Attending to the Visual Aspects of Visual Storytelling: Using Art and Design Concepts to Interpret and Compose Narratives with Images.
  5. Jeeyoung Min. Visual literacies in a U.S. undergraduate writing course: A case study of transmediation.
  6. Suriati Abas. Reading the world – Teaching visual analysis in higher education
  7. Dana Statton Thompson. Teaching students to critically read digital images: A visual literacy approach using the DIG Method.
  8. Choon-Lee Chai. Enhancing Visual Literacy of Students through Photo Elicitation.
  9. Vered Heruti. Reading Personal Photographs: A Case Study at an Israeli Art College on Multiple Identities.
  10. Gyuzel Gadelshina. Arrian Cornwell and David Spoors. Understanding corruption through freehand drawings: a case study of undergraduate business students’ visual learning in the classroom.
  11. Rosalina Costa. iPhone, iResearch. Exploring the Use of Smart Phones in the Teaching and Learning of Visual Qualitative Methodologies.

WhatsInApp Project & Postdoc Post


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From January 2019, I have started a new two-year post as Postdoctoral Researcher in the project “What’s in the App? Digitally-mediated communication within contemporary multilingual families across time and space”. The PI of this project – WhatsInApp – is Prof. Åsa Palviainen. Project is financed by Academy of Finland (Sept 1, 2018 – Aug 31, 2022) and is conducted in the Department of Language and Communication Studies, University of Jyväskylä, Finland, with an extensive international collaboration. More information about the project can be found here.

What does it mean to be visually literate?


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We should close the debate over the concept of visual literacy and do something about its implementation in education. I draw this conclusion by actually coming back to the roots of visual literacy movement and Fransecky and Debes’s (1972, p. 5) call: ‘If you really want to understand visual literacy, you will have to do something about it’.

In my recently published article: “What does it mean to be visually literate? Examination of visual literacy definitions in a context of higher education”, I intended to avoid either compiling a corpus of visual literacy definitions or advancing its theory. Instead, I selected several visual literacy definitions that can be useful for education practitioners, particularly within university education. The selection includes both the more established as well as some recent definitions. I further aimed to translate them into concrete learning and teaching objectives. As a result, I constructed lists of skills (abilities, competencies) that a visually literate individual should be able to demonstrate.

The figure below shows three categories of visual literacy skills with thematic groups of skills, based on the review of eleven visual literacy definitions published between 1969 and 2013.

Figure_VL skills



Persistence and patience in academia


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Academia is a kind of place (institution/job) that teaches me persistence and patience. You have to wait. You constantly wait for something. You might be crazy busy with your current work and deadlines, but you still wait for something to come. You wait for the article revisions. You wait for important emails from people that you hope to collaborate with. You wait for the decisions upon your conference abstracts submission. You wait for meetings. You wait for your collaborator to finish his/her own deadlines to be (finally) able to work with you. You wait, often with fear, for the first contact-class of the course that you have been teaching already for some years. You wait even with a greater fear for the very new course o come that you have just created working overnights. You may even wait for some holidays if you are lucky enough to have them at some point. In my context, you also wait for “pikujoulu” (Little Christmas Party) that happen to be the nicest  event with your departmental colleagues.

However, foremost, you wait for the funding decisions to come. Already for eight years my calendar is organized along the deadlines for various funding opportunities. There is a time during the academic year when you know you are not allowed to approach your colleagues, because they are working on grant applications. And then you wait for the decisions to come…

I am personally very terrible with waiting. Maybe this is a cultural thing. I have never learnt to wait patiently in a queue. I am also not going along well with a growing number of rejections. Thus, when the grants and opportunities come to me, they always come all at the same time. To challenge my attitude. And so I got a year-long grant and the two-year post-doctoral position in the Academy of Finland project “WhatsInApp” with Asa Palviainen as project’s PI. Right in time when my persistence run away… along with my patience.

Visual Pedagogies – Helsinki Photomedia Workshop


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Photography can be taught as a vocation or as an art. It may focus on digital possibilities and challenges, or provide retrospective view on analog images. It may look for balancing in acquiring technical skills and developing creativity. Nevertheless, teaching about and foremost with photographs has productive possibilities across all disciplines and subjects, although it may take various forms. In this sense we can say that the photograph is post-disciplinary and as such merits discussion across different areas of interest.

At the Helsinki Photomedia Conference, 26-28 III 2018, we organized the workshop titled Post-disciplinary pedagogical routes through the photograph. The aim of the workshop was to inspire participants to reflect on their pedagogical visual (photographic) practices, to think what they can improve, and foremost, to learn from each other. As such, participants would have gained new motivation and ideas by sharing and collecting across disciplinary divides for various kinds of photography-inspired activities in the classroom and beyond.

The workshop I co-organized with my colleagues, dr. Carolina Cambre from Concordia University, Montreal, and dr. Edna Barromi-Perlman from Haifa University, Israel. As one of the modes of participation I applied collage, asking participants to present visually their challenges related to visual pedagogy and, in particular, to teaching with and about photographs. Below are some pictures from the collage making process (photo credit: Edna).