07 SES 17 A, Reading Images of Educational Fields: Representations of Inclusive Education, Refugee Education and Family Literacy.
In this symposium we bring together an exploration of the ways in which three fields of educational study, inclusive education, refugee education and family literacy are represented through global visual media and the impact of such representations on these fields. Presenters in this symposium are concerned that images sourced through search engines related to their fields of study are too often read and used uncritically (frequently by academics themselves). Views of the world are inscribed in visual texts (Newfield, 2011) and often contain ‘tenacious discourses of old patterns of thinking’ (Janks 2010, p.69). The consequence is that these discourses work to subvert the social justice, multicultural and diversity agendas within these fields and present a challenge to European and International educational research. A greater need for research on visual representations across comparative educational contexts has been called for (Estera & Shahjahan, 2018) which this symposium addresses.
The purpose of this symposium is to a) identify the ways in which features of visual design work to position both the subject of the image and the viewer b) interrogate the ways in which these features harness social markers (race, class, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, culture) to legitimate ‘taken-for-granted’ ways of viewing the world c) consider the consequences of perpetuating images that marginalise and place already vulnerable individuals at risk and d) work to subvert evidence-based research in a period of uncertainty.
Critical visual literacy offers a theoretical lens to analyse visual representations of these three fields. Four important tenets hold for the analysis: all texts are positioned and positioning; they are positioned by the point of view of the creator of the text; they position the viewer into seeing the world in a particular way; and that they work to construct reality (Janks, 2012). Each of the papers draws on methods of visual analysis to analyse a corpus of images from Google Images searches and reads these against dominant discourses that shape their academic fields.
The symposium will include an introduction in which we present an argument for the need to combine our concerns about social and educational inequalities in a digital era where digital literacy practices are often uncontested (Pangrazio, 2016) and outline the common elements used as tools for critical visual analysis across the papers. Three papers will be presented and will be followed by a commentary from the discussant and a final open discussion with the audience on the issues raised. Each of the three papers highlights the need for educational researchers to be aware of the ways in which their fields are constituted in on-line and digital form. Paper one analyses images from a search of ‘inclusive education’ applying Kress and van Leeuwen’s (2006) social semiotic metafunctions to show how the construction of disability subverts the aims of the field by maintaining able-bodied whiteness, spatial distance and embodied alterity. Paper two compares images from a search of the term ‘refugees’ and toggling it with other search terms and nomenclature to show how this significantly shifts representations. Paper three analyses images from a search of ‘family literacy’ and places those images in conversation with a recently completed meta-ethnography of family literacy scholarship. The papers highlight how the dominant popular discourses that normalize exclusion impact on researchers’ ability to do long term social justice work. The discussant will then provide a commentary foregrounding the value of visual analysis for international, intercultural, interdisciplinary educational research in an era of risk. Lastly the chair will lead an open discussion inviting participants to reflect on representations of their disciplinary areas and to comment critically on the findings of these visual analyses.
Estera, A., Shahjahan, R. (2018): Globalizing whiteness? Visually re/presenting students in global university rankings websites, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education DOI: 10.1080/01596306.2018.1453781 Janks (2010) Language and power. New York: Routledge Janks, H. (2012). The importance of critical literacy. English Teaching: Practice and Critique 11(1), 150– 163. Kress, G. & van Leeuwen, T. (2006). Reading images: The grammar of visual design 2nd edition. London: Routledge. Newﬁeld, D. (2011). From Visual Literacy to Critical Visual Literacy: An Analysis of Educational Materials. English Teaching: Practice and Critique 10(1), 81– 94. Pangrazio, L. (2016) Reconceptualising critical digital literacy, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 37:2, 163-174, DOI: 10.1080/01596306.2014.94
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