Visual Culture, Visual Methods: PhD course (again! 2015!)

Annette Markham

Mar 3, 2015


Title: Visual culture, visual methods: Exploring the aesthetics of possibilities

PhD course for Aarhus Summer University, June 10-16, 2015

 Confirmed Lecturers:

Sarah Pink,
Professor in Design Research Institute and the School of Media and Communications at RMIT, Melbourne, Australia

Annette Markham,
Affiliate Professor of Digital Ethics & Communication, Loyola University, Chicago, and Associate Professor in Information Studies, Aarhus University

Anne Marit Waade,
Associate Professor in media aesthetics, visual culture, mediated tourism and experience economy, at the department of Aesthetics & Communication, Aarhus University, Denmark

Other lecturers may be announced later

ECTS:   5 (credits negotiable for non Danish participants)


  • June 10, 11, 12, at Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark (09:30–16:45, Nygaard 091)
  • June 13, 14 Fieldwork at the Northside Festival, Aarhus
  • June 15, 16 Analysis and production, Aarhus University, Denmark (09:30-16:45)


April 1, 2015 (see details at end of note)

Max. no. of participants:  25


This is the second time we organise the popular and interdisciplinary Ph.D. course Visual Culture, Visual Methods at Aarhus University. The first time was back in 2012. As last time, we invite Danish and InternationalPh.D. students from anthropology, media studies, visual studies, art history, aesthetics, digital design, information studies, participatory design, archaeology, museology, or related disciplines who study visual practices in different contexts, e.g. media communication and online practices, everyday culture, art and museology, marketing, domestication of technologies, environmental design and teaching & learning. Leading scholars within visual ethnography, interpretive methods, digital culture, visual studies, aesthetics and curative culture will take part in the course and give talks and lead exercises to improve the participants empirical and analytical approaches and ideas.

Visual culture encompasses more than the study of images or the use of visual methods. It takes as its premise the idea that the way people experience their reality goes well beyond the material or the textual. The perspective of visual culture turns our attention toward the centrality of visual experience in everyday life. This course considers the conceptual premises for visual sensemaking and focuses on methods of analysis and interpretation that challenge text-centric approaches. Particularly in contemporary mediatized contexts, seemingly endless streams of images, sounds, and fragments of information characterize and constitute social life. How do we make sense of visual expressions or visual aspects of culture? How do we use visual methods or more broadly, how do we challenge methods that rely on (or were designed for) the analysis of texts? What does a ‘visual culture’ approach look like in practice? The goal of this course is to explore these questions theoretically,discuss case studies, and also practice methods through experimental exercises and assignments.

The course will introduce participants to established and traditional visual methods and visual material (e.g. Gillian Rose 2007), but also invite the participants to challenge some of these ideas and methods by working in remix laboratories (Markham, 2013), designing ethnographic interventions (Sarah Pink, 2012, 2013) and developing the link between images and future visions – what we understand by “exploring the aesthetics of possibilities”. Future visions include for example imaginations, dreamscapes, third places, the temporal elements of nostalgia and creating future memories.

To enact and explore ideas about visual culture, visual methods, and aesthetic futures, we will build the course around the Northside music festival in Aarhus. The course begins two days prior to the festival, when we’ll meet in a classroom environment. Then, during the festival we will use the festival as a laboratory for different types of empirical studies. We will focus on the exploration of how visual impressions and expressions, including digital visual media interweave with (and maybe reinforce or contradict) the participant’s experience of the music festival. The field study at North Side will be framed as an applied research assignment made for rethink IMPACTS 2017 , in collaboration with Northside festival to develop methods for future event research and evaluation. During the post-festival analytical workshops, small groups will have the opportunity to create a series of digital, physical, or multimodal exhibitions as in-progress research products.

Course content:

Leading scholars within visual ethnography, interpretive methods, digital culture, visual studies, aesthetics and curative culture will take part in the course and give talks and lead exercises to improve the participants’ empirical and analytical approaches and ideas.

  • Visual and sensory ethnographic practices
  • Generative, playful research experiments to explore digitally saturated social contexts
  • Visual media, visual aesthetic and visual production
  • Experience economies and festival cultures

Purpose of the course:

Lots of exposure to new ways of looking at visual culture; focus on practicing methods within a laboratory environment, where the participant gets lots of feedback from experts and colleagues. This is different from the norm and will be likely seen as very useful and productive in a practical way.

The course will include presentations by the instructors on core concepts and debates underlying a visual culture approach, different ways of conducting research within this framework, and exemplar projects.

  • Prior to the in-person meetings, participants will engage in self-guided learning through readings and assignments.
  • Participants will participate in hands-on exercises and present specific methodological issues related to their research projects for feedback.
  • A significant part of the course includes the annual Aarhus music festival, Northside. This event will be a field site for experimental engagement with visual culture and visual methods.
  • More information on this will be provided in upcoming weeks on the website associated with this (tba).

To apply:  Participants should submit a 2-page project description,a specific description and list of methodological questions and concerns plus a statement of personal interest in the course (2 pages maximum). This will enable us to best evaluate the applications and will also provide background information for the lecturers and other participants. (four pages total)

  • Seats in the summer school will be granted on a rolling basis after the deadline.
  • Send your application as a single PDF file to both Annette Markham and Anne Marit Waade, at the following addresses: and . Use these email addresses for any questions, also.
  • By May 15, 2015, participants must confirm their seats by registering for the course in the AU webshop.

participants should be prepared to pay 1250 DKK for a three-day entry pass to the Northside festival: