Mission Statement

The research group 'Visual Studies in the Social Sciences' focuses on the growing significance of visual phenomena in contemporary societies, which has been described in academic disciplines as an iconic, pictorial or visual turn. In 2009, anthropologists, sociologists as well as political and communication scientists at the University of Vienna founded this transdisciplinary initiative. Since 2013, the research group is one of the main areas of research at the Faculty of Social Sciences.  

In a regular exchange, members share insights of research findings, projects and publications. Furthermore, the group organises lectures and workshops as well as cooperation in terms of teaching programs relating to the participating disciplines and fields of study. The common interest in the analysis of visual phenomena and their cultural, political, and social impact unites various theoretical and methodological approaches represented by the scholars involved. Consequently, the aim is to apply and advance approaches of Social Sciences in the analysis of visual phenomena especially through inter- and transdisciplinary discussion of theoretical and methodological concepts. The shared focus lies on the relation between the visual and knowledge: how do images contribute to the construction of social systems of meaning and how do systems of meaning impact the production of images?

Research interests of the group members include: 

  • Visual politics and visuals in political communication
  • Pictorial biographies between private and public sphere
  • Art in local and global exchange processes
  • Imageries of popular culture
  • Visual representations of social and cultural relations
  • Visual research methods.

All members of the research group have specific competencies in the analysis of the visual – analysing images based on the prerequisites of layout and traditions, implicit messages, conditions of media, every-day and political meanings and their impact in a wide variety of social contexts, as well as explaining them within the scope of conveying visual competency.

The diverse activities of the research group in research, teaching and training pursue the long-term goal of founding a competence centre that focuses on the social significance and impact of visual forms of communication.