Abstract of my current postdoctoral project:
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.
Abstract of my doctoral dissertation:
…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.