Would you like to improve your visual analysis skills? And can you read German? Then “Grundlagen der Visuellen Kommunikation. Theorieansätze und Analysemethoden” is an excellent read. The book by Marion G. Müller and Stephanie Geise confirms that introductory textbooks can be very inspiring. Why?
First, the book explains different theories and concepts in a very accessible way. This helps you position yourself and your own research within the existing literature.
Second, the book contains 100 photos with very engaging interpretations. This makes it not only easier to understand the theoretical issues at stake in your research, but also their implications to your actual data.
Third, the book helps you to make a distinction between the description, analysis and interpretation of images. These steps could concern questions such as “Which features does the image have?”, “What meanings does the image have to you?” and “How are the possible meanings of the image affected by its production context, consumption context or visual building blocks?” The authors acknowledge that it can difficult to draw strict boundaries between these three steps. Moreover, “prosumers” can be relevant in this regard as well. They concern people who are both producers and consumers of media representations, and have become important particularly thanks to social media.
Fourth, the book clearly explains the three key stages in meaning-processes of images: their use, their reception and their effects. This division is important in visual analysis since it is directly related to your research design. Which of the three stages are you focusing on in your visual analysis?
Fifth, the book takes a broad perspective on visual analysis. There are for example chapters on content analysis, political iconography and visual context analysis. Moreover, the chapters on agenda-setting, framing and priming form excellent overview of relatively new approaches towards visual analysis. The observations made offer great insights that can be used to design your research method.
Finally, the book explains the role of multimodality (i.e. text-image relations and text-image-sound interaction) in visual analysis. The authors stress that images rarely appear without semiotic resources from other modes (such as written or spoken text) joining them. A multimodal approach is in their view therefore often -if not always- recommendable in visual analysis.
Bottom line: thanks to a productive balance between theories, methods and examples, “Grundlagen der Visuellen Kommunikation. Theorieansätze und Analysemethoden” by Marion G. Müller and Stephanie Geise forms an excellent basis to improve your visual analysis skills.
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