Analyzing Visual Artifacts


Charles Kostelnick, Iowa State University

The study of visual rhetoric in technical and professional communication encompasses a wide array of contemporary and historical forms, including, among others: typography, page/screen design, data visualization, illustrations, and icons.  This workshop will help participants analyze these visual forms by introducing a variety of approaches and providing participants with an opportunity to analyze their own visual artifacts.

Approaches to analyzing visual artifacts will include classical rhetoric (often used in design disciplines and in visual pedagogy), social construction (e.g., conventions, visual discourse communities) and cultural history (e.g., aesthetics, modernism, power).  Emphasis in the workshop will be placed on choosing the framework most appropriate for the kind of visual data analyzed, either as the focus of a study or as part of a larger study.

Some of the questions that participants will address include the following: 

  • What purposes do visual artifacts serve, and how do audiences make meaning from those artifacts? 
  • How does the historical, cultural, and situational context inform the analysis? 
  • How can the researcher choose an appropriate framework for analyzing a given visual artifact? 
  • How can analysis generate new knowledge and/or enhance pedagogy or practice?       

Participants will learn how to identify relevant context, chose an appropriate analytic framework, apply the framework to the analysis of an artifact, and make defensible claims based on the analysis.  We will work together through sample artifacts, and then participants will be encouraged to analyze their own visual data or additional sample data. 

In preparation for the workshop, participants will be asked to read a few key pieces of scholarship that exemplify methods of visual analysis.  In advance of the workshop, participants will also be asked to submit sample artifacts that they wish to analyze.

You can find the complete call for participation in the ATTW 2012 Research Methods Workshops at:

Workshop Call: Available at this link

Application form: Download the PDF and submit to Cheryl Geisler at

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