Research

My research interest is in visual culture studies and visual communication practices. I like to explore new research possibilities provided by visual methodologies, particularly in terms of cross-disciplinary studies. My ongoing interest is in visual literacy education and its development in university curriculum.

“Visual literacy in Finnish Higher Education: Theories, Aspiration and Practices” – postdoctoral project (1.08.2021-31.12.2022)

The study examines the current state of visual literacy (VL) education in Finnish universities, by looking at the past, present and future of VL education, and by researching it from the perspectives of educational aspirations in this area, existing theories and teaching practices. Visual literacy is a group of abilities to understand, and to use images, as well as to think and learn in terms of images. In university teaching, visuals help in knowledge acquisition and assist in a better understanding of the course content; they enhance memory, which benefits the learning process. However, VL receives scant attention in scholarship in Finland, urgently calling for a ‘Finnish VL movement’. First, the project will review educational policies and curricula across institutions. Next, the Delphi study among educators and experts will be conducted to map the understanding of VL and existing theories. Finally, through teaching observations the study will focus on practices in VL education.

The work conducted in the project is funded by the MultiLEAP (Multiliteracies for social participation and learning across the life span) profiling area of the University of Jyväskylä.

Postdoctoral research in the project ‘WhatsInApp’ (1.01.2019-31.03.2021)

This project belonged to the collaborative project: “What’s in the App? Digitally mediated communication within contemporary multilingual families across time and space”, conducted in the Department of Language and Communication Studies, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. My focus in this project was on Polish transnational families living in Finland and their digitally mediated (visual) communication practices. Applying visual elicitation methods (for instance, interactive collage), I conducted ethnographically driven study among five families: Polish-speaking mothers and some of their children. I was exploring how the affordances of mobile apps and portable devices are used to maintain family relationships in transnational context.

Postdoctoral project on visual literacy (1.01-31.12.2018)

Students’ Visual Literacy Skills across Disciplines in Finnish Higher Education

Like never before, our life has considerably changed towards more visually oriented one. Young adults frequently create and share images, but their competency in visual communication should not be taken for granted. Thus, in my postdoctoral project I will examine to what extent students in Finnish higher education are visually literate. The study aims to a) develop a method for assessing skills in visual literacy, b) conduct assessment of graduates’ visual literacy skills in various fields of study across Finnish higher education, and c) examine any differences between curricula content that may lead to the difference in the level of visual literacy skills among students. A method for visual literacy assessment will be created based on the synthesis of visual literacy theory and definitions and review of previous studies on visual literacy assessment. Results will offer significant insight into understanding of young adults’ competency in visual communication and help to develop relevant visual pedagogy(s) for higher education curricula across disciplines.

Project was first conducted at the Finnish Institute for Educational Research, University of Jyväskylä (1.01-30.06.2018) under the grant from The Alfred Kordelin Foundation, and later in the Department of Language and Communication Studies, University of Jyväskylä (1.07-31.12.2018) under the grant from the The Ella and Georg Ehrnrooth Foundation.

Doctoral dissertation project (1.09.2010-29.12.2016)

Interpretation of Journalistic Photographs as an Instrument of Visual Literacy Education

…photography is the language of the twenty-first century and being able to think
critically about and analyze photographs is an essential twenty-first century literacy. (Michelle Bogre, 2015)

Images are produced, used and distributed on an enormous scale. However, the skills of understanding, interpreting and using images as well as thinking and learning in terms of images are taken for granted, and thus, they are not sufficiently taught and developed, especially in higher education. The need for introducing visual literacy into the curriculum was identified in late 1960s, but no concrete guidelines have followed. This study proposes to apply interpretation of journalistic photographs as an instrument of visual literacy education. The main focus is on the image interpretation process and the kinds of meanings viewers apply to a photograph in the interpretation process. In each of the four articles included in this study, a model or approach to photography interpretation is proposed. The first method is the model for press photograph story analysis, immersed in visual semiotics. This model was simplified and improved and became the model for the interpretation of journalistic photographs. Both models were created as a synthesis of some of the visual research methods, including classical theories (elements of visual semiotics, visual rhetoric, Barthes’ concept of studium and punctum), approaches having their roots in the analysis of paintings (Barrett’s principles for interpreting photographs, compositional interpretation, iconological context analysis), methods dedicated to analysis of photographs in the press (quantitative content analysis). The concept of context of journalistic photographs is also critically discussed, indicating a context of production, context of medium and page context, and arguing for the decontextualized interpretation of journalistic photographs (proposing an intertextual approach) with a context limited to the caption. In addition, the study compiles the genre typology of journalistic photographs as an instrument for visual education. The study calls for changes in a largely textual higher education curriculum towards a more visually oriented one, which can serve as a start point for future research on the assessment of visual literacy skills.

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