The second, thoroughly revised and expanded, edition of The SAGE Handbook of Visual Research Methods presents a wide-ranging exploration and overview of the field today. As in its first edition, the Handbook does not aim to present a consistent view or voice, but rather to exemplify diversity and contradictions in perspectives and techniques. The selection of chapters from the first edition have been fully updated to reflect current developments. New chapters to the second edition cover key topics including picture-sorting techniques, creative methods using artefacts, visual framing analysis, therapeutic uses of images, and various emerging digital technologies and online practices. At the core of all contributions are theoretical and methodological debates about the meanings and study of the visual, presented in vibrant accounts of research design, analytical techniques, fieldwork encounters and data presentation. This handbook presents a unique survey of the discipline that will be essential reading for scholars and students across the social and behavioural sciences, arts and humanities, and far beyond these disciplinary boundaries. The Handbook is organized into seven main sections: PART 1: FRAMING THE FIELD OF VISUAL RESEARCH; PART 2: VISUAL AND SPATIAL DATA PRODUCTION METHODS AND TECHNOLOGIES; PART 3: PARTICIPATORY AND SUBJECT-CENTERED APPROACHES; PART 4: ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORKS AND PERSPECTIVES; PART 5: MULTIMODAL AND MULTISENSORIAL RESEARCH; PART 6: RESEARCHING ONLINE PRACTICES; and PART 7: COMMUNICATING THE VISUAL: FORMATS AND CONCERNS.

Chapter 23: Visual Semiotics: Key Concepts and New Directions

Visual Semiotics: Key Concepts and New Directions

Visual semiotics: key concepts and new directions
Giorgia Aiello


Semiotics is the study of anything that can be taken as a sign (the Greek word sēmeion means ‘sign'). Anything can be a sign as long as someone or, more importantly, a group of people who are part of the same culture or society, interprets it as ‘signifying’ something – that is, as referring to or standing for something other than itself (see Bal and Bryson, 1991). Does this mean that semiotics can be used to study anything at all, and therefore also not much in any real depth, then?

In A Theory of Semiotics, Umberto Eco (1976: 7) states that ‘semiotics is in principle the ...

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