ICA Pre-conference 2017

Interventions in the Practice of Visual Communication Research

ICA Young Scholars Preconference, University of California at San Diego (San Diego, California) | May 25, 2017


Samantha Close (University of Southern California, USA)
Ayellet Pelled (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA)
David L. Morris II (University of Oregon, USA)
Giorgia Aiello (University of Leeds, UK)


Intervention comes in different forms. Research questions aim to intervene in societal and philosophical problems, scholarly conferences and initiatives intervene within the halls of academia and the practice of contemporary research, and publication intervenes in both scholarly and public debate.

As society becomes increasingly mediatized through both digital technologies and nostalgic returns to traditional folk arts, it is essential to analyze the specifically visual aspects of communicating in the social world. And yet, because of this same cultural and technological upsurge in visual communication, scholars who focus on the visual are often spread across ICA divisions based on the non-visual content of their work, from health communication to popular communication to rhetoric to technology and beyond. Scholarship is also increasingly presented using visual images, to both public and academic audiences. This raises challenges in communication and publication, particularly for young scholars.

This preconference brought together a critical mass of emerging and senior scholars to discuss, reflect, and challenge each other on our interventions into the visual. In this way, the preconference was also an intervention into scholarly careers in the still-growing field of visual communication studies.


This one-day preconference brought together young scholars (current Ph.D. students and early career postdoctoral researchers) engaged in promising research on visual communication. We aimed to 1) theorize key challenges in visual communication research and publication; 2) provide strategies for addressing and overcoming these challenges; 3) provide a forum for cross-divisional and transnational networking between young and senior scholars; and 4) provide feedback on young scholars’ research projects and publication plans.


This event followed two very successful ICA Young Scholars Visual Communication Studies preconferences in San Juan 2015 and Fukuoka 2016, which featured presentation and workshop sessions with young and senior scholars from ten countries. This preconference followed a similar format but focused on a new, complementary set of issues and questions.

First, an opening keynote by Larry Gross gave an overview of key interventions into visual communication research happening now and those needed to advance the discipline.

Second, in poster, non-traditional, and brief oral presentation sessions, young scholars had the opportunity to present their research projects, discuss their challenges in conceptualizing and communicating their projects with other participants, network with peers, and receive substantial feedback on their projects from experienced senior scholars. All young and senior scholars participated in the presentation sessions, a format that provided a practice-oriented overview of a range of approaches to visual communication studies and common challenges.

Third, young scholars and senior experts split into smaller breakout groups for focused discussions on a specific aspect of visual communication studies research.

Finally, in a closing plenary, we summarized key insights originating from discussions in the breakout groups and, together with all participants, we discussed ideas and plans for future networking and research events.

Keynote Speaker

Larry Gross
USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
► website

Senior Experts

Giorgia Aiello
University of Leeds
► website

Mary Bock
The University of Texas at Austin
School of Journalism, Moody College of Communication
► website

Paolo Favero
University of Antwerp
Department of Communication Studies
► website

Laurie Gries
University of Colorado Boulder
Department of Communication
► website

Katharina Lobinger
Università della Svizzera italiana
► website

Catherine Preston
University of Kansas
College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
► website

Young Scholars

When Weight Management Models Work: Homophily as Moderator in Media

Hannah (Junhan) Chen
Hannah (Junhan) Chen is currently a Research M.A. student at SJMC. Her research interest includes health/science communication and media effect. She received her B.A. in Peking University and previously worked as a research assistant at Center for Social Media Research at PKU.

Jianing Li
Jianing Li is an M.A. student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is recently interested in political communication and media psychology. She received her B.A. in Journalism from Peking University and worked as a campus newspaper editor in chief. She loves traveling, cooking and sunny afternoons.

Dealing with stories of medical uncertainty: Audiovisual narratives on complementary and alternative medicine in the context of cancer

Michael Grimm

Michael Grimm is a junior researcher at the Hans-Bredow-Institut for Media Research at the University of Hamburg (Germany) and Division Secretary of the ICA Visual Communication Studies Division. He studied media and communication sciences at the Universities of Hamburg and Erfurt (Germany) as well as at Vancouver Island University (Nanaimo, B.C., Canada). He currently works in a project within an interdisciplinary research network on complementary and alternative medicine in oncology, which is funded by the German Cancer Aid Society and aims at providing quality-secured information on and improving communication about complementary and alternative medicine for patients and medical experts. His primary research interests include visual communication, health communication, media use and reception in the context of media convergence and empirical methods of communication science.

Worth a Thousand Words? The Role of Images in Political Internet Memes’ Effects on Viewers

Heidi E. Huntington

Heidi E. Huntington is a Ph.D. candidate in Public Communication and Technology at Colorado State University with a scheduled dissertation defense of May 2017. Her research interests center on the intersection of media portrayals and public discourse about public or wedge issues with consumers’ opinions and perceptions of those issues. She is particularly interested in the role of social media and user-generated media in these contexts. Her current research is focused on understanding the influence of political internet memes, which she approaches as visual rhetoric. Her dissertation examined political internet memes as an embodiment of user-generated media in interaction with public issues using quantitative methods to assess memes’ effects on affect, as well as perceptions of memes’ persuasiveness as a message form. She holds a master’s degree in Communication and Media Technology from Rochester Institute of Technology, and worked in community journalism before entering academia.

Meta-Voyeurism: Photojournalism as the Mediator

Pinar Istek

Pinar Istek is a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to joining UT, Pinar worked as a photographer and photo editor at various news outlets in the U.S., Guatemala, Costa Rica and Turkey. Her research interests are in visual communication and media sociology.

Dynamics of Image Meme – Creation, contention, and control on the Chinese Internet

Jun Liu

Jun Liu’s research stands at the intersection of communication, technology, politics, and society with particular attention to the social, cultural, and political implications of digital communication. Drawing upon theories from communication, sociology, and political science, my research focuses on how digital technology interacts with socio-cultural forms and settings and generates new power dynamics in politics in specific cultural and institutional contexts such as authoritarian regimes like China.

Tweetchella: How music festival attendees and artists visually present their experience on Twitter

Kyser Lough

Kyser Lough is a Ph.D. student in Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. His main research interests are visual communication and solutions journalism. As a researcher, he tries to incorporate visuals as much as he can. Recent work includes the interpretive community of concert photographers, how journalists use visuals and words in Twitter branding practices and how visual congruency moderates the effects of solution-oriented journalism. His research has been presented at International Communication Association and Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conferences, among others. Prior to coming to UT, he spent 10 years as a photojournalist, reporter and public relations practitioner. His work has appeared for the Associated Press and NCAA and in the Austin American-Statesman, Lexington Herald-Leader, Louisville Courier-Journal among others. He has taught journalism, photography, study abroad and graphic design courses as a TA or adjunct at UT and Murray State University in Murray, Ky.

The contribution of news visuals to selective exposure

Tom Powell

Tom is Assistant Professor at the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR) at the University of Amsterdam. His research focuses on the effects of emerging journalism formats on public opinion and political behaviour. His PhD – entitled “Multimodal news framing effects” – focused on how different communication modalities (visual, verbal, audio) combine to influence citizens’ political opinions and behaviours. Tom studied Psychology at Durham University and completed a Master in Neuroimaging at Bangor University (both in the UK), funded by the Medical Research Council.  More recently, he has researched visual perception at the University of Cambridge and social sciences at the UK Ministry of Defence.

What are “appropriate” visual practices? A qualitative examination of evaluations, rules and norms in visual everyday communication

Rebecca Venema

Rebecca Venema is a doctoral researcher and Ph.D. student at the Institute for Communication Technologies (ITC) at the Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano, Switzerland. From 2013 until 2017 she was a research associate in a research project on constructions of norms and values in public debates at the interdisciplinary Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research (ZeMKI) at the University of Bremen. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, Political Science and Media Studies from the University of Siegen in 2010, she continued her studies at Leipzig University where she earned a Master’s degree in Communication and Media Studies with a specialization in Empirical Communication Research in 2013. Her research interests include (visual) networked everyday communication in today’s media environments and infrastructures, norms and ethics of communication in the digital age, methods of cross-media research and (new) approaches to media literacy.

The Guy Next Door, Who Also Does Porn: The Visual Discourse of Gay Porn Performers on Twitter

Yidong Wang

I am a research master student of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at University of Wisconsin-Madison. I am not a big fun of cheese and beer, so my life is a little bit difficult now in Wisconsin. Hopefully I am completing and defending my master thesis on digital media ecology surrounding Hong Kong localist movement very soon. My research interests also cover the philosophy of technology, journalism studies, and motivated reasoning. I read and write about art history, literature, theatre, and films. I was trained to be a professional journalist and once did amateur stage works for a while. My favorite writer is Iris Murdoch and my favorite film director is Derek Jarman. It is sad that both of them are dead.


Ayellet Pelled
Ayellet Pelled is a PhD student in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication, at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison. Her research interests reside on the Intersection between Media Effects, Social Psychology, and Political Communication. She focuses on the underlying mechanisms of misperceptions and biases in information processing, especially biases that lead people to misinterpret each other’s behavior. Her previous work dove into the relation between selective exposure and political tolerance, new media platforms, visual & nonverbal communication, video games, impression formation, attitude change, and factors that influence personal judgment and decision-making processes. Ayellet received her M.A. in Communication Research from the Department of Communication, at the University of Haifa, Israel. She also holds a double B.A major in Communication & Fine Arts, from the University of Haifa, and a Diploma in Graphic Design for Web & Marketing, from the John Bryce College in Tel-Aviv.

Samantha Close
Samantha Close is a doctoral candidate in Communication at the University of Southern California who is moving to DePaul University as an Assistant Professor of Digital Communication and Media Arts in the fall of 2017.  Her research interests include digital media, theory-practice, political economy, fan studies, gender, and race. She focuses particularly on labor and transforming models of creative industries and capitalism.  Her documentary “I Am Handmade: Crafting in the Age of Computers,” based on her dissertation work into the economic culture of crafting, is hosted online by Vice Media’s Motherboard channel.  Her writing appears in the academic journals Feminist Media StudiesTransformative Works and Cultures, and Anthropology Now as well as in more informal online spaces.  You can find her on Twitter @butnocigar.

David L. Morris II
David worked successfully in the IT field for many years before deciding to pursue a media career. After returning to college, David’s passion for media merged with his interest in academics, thus leading him to a doctoral program in media studies at the University of Oregon. His research interests focus on visual communication’s role within both science and health communication. David has presented his research at leading journalism and mass communication conferences and he taught courses in web design and visual communication.

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