Visual Communication Studies


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Visual Studies seeks to enhance the understanding of the visual in all its forms -- moving and still images and displays in television, video and film, art and design, and print and digital media. The Division sponsors research in creation, processing, function, meaning, and critical consequences of visual representation. Visual Studies research touches on all other communication fields, investigating such areas as the interaction of the visual with public policy and law, mass communication processes, corporate image and organization, technology and human interaction, elite and popular culture, philosophy of communication, education and the social sphere. The Division reaches beyond content to assure visual analyses are grounded solidly in visual theory and methodology. The Visual Studies Division publishes a biannual newsletter to keep members abreast of the field and its various scholarly societies.


Call for Papers




Confirmed Keynote Speaker: Professor Gillian Rose

(The Open University)

For the international conference /Visualizing the Street,/ the ASCA Cities Project invites papers that explore the impact of contemporary practices of image-making on the visual cultures of the street.


Date:   Friday, 17 June 2016

Place:   University of Amsterdam


New technologies of visualization have opened up the practices of photographing, filming, and editing to everyone who carries a phone and is connected online, resulting in the mass circulation of privately produced imagery. This development has social, cultural and political significance. For example, Larsen and Sandbye (2014) write that “increasingly, everyday amateur photography is a performative practice connected to presence, immediate communication and social networking, as opposed to the storing of memories for eternity, which is how it has hitherto been conceptualized.” Hito Steyerl (2009) points towards the potential of such low resolution imagery in propagating a less hierarchical and more democratic regime of visuality. At the same time, new technologies have also contributed to the expansion of an urban visual culture that is subject to a professional system of visual production and distribution. The visual experience of the contemporary street is partly shaped by artistic visualizations, detailed advertisements, big-scale billboards and high resolution renderings that pervade urban environments. Although responding to different sensibilities, there are striking similarities between these various registers of everyday visual experience of the street. The digital means of production of street imagery – never delivering a clear end product and always in circulation between material and virtual networks – and the fleeting glance with which consumers relate to that imagery, point towards a distinctly performative visual language. It seems that what is most important to this visual culture is not so much the content of the imagery as its immediacy. This development asks for new concepts, theories and research methods that would combine close analyses of the image with the study of the practices of production, circulation and consumption of the image, and the diverse set of social, cultural, affective and performative implications of it in everyday life.


Please submit abstracts (max 300 words, for 20 min papers) together with an academic CV to Pedram Dibazar (email: by 1 November 2015.


Please note that we are also working on a publication on the same topic for the Amsterdam University Press book series Cities and Cultures


A selection of contributions to the conference will be included in the book.


For any inquiries please contact organizers Pedram Dibazar or

Judith Naeff






Film Journal, the international peer-reviewed online journal founded by SERCIA (, is seeking contributions for a special-themed issue on the supernatural in film, edited by Andrea Grunert (


??The Haunted Screenâ?? is the title used both by Lotte Eisner for her famous reading of German Expressionism and Lee Kovacs for her investigation of ghost figures inspired by the literature-based Gothic tradition in film from the 1930s and 1940s to interpretations of the supernatural in productions of the 1990s. Nineteenth-century literature was preoccupied with phenomena which exist above and beyond nature and the vampire entered English literature via Byron and John Polidori, becoming especially popular a hundred years later with Bram Stokerâ??s Dracula. Spiritual seÌ?ances, most fashionable in the late nineteenth century, mingled spiritualism and spectacle, anticipating new entertainment media such as the cinema. At the intersection of reality and fiction, belief and spectacle, film appeared as a form of modern magic. Even today, digital creation has not dispossessed film of its magical aura and the power to bring to life and enchant. As a projection of thoughts, film gives visibility to the unknown and explores the unconscious. It represents everyday reality and recreates the world of dreams, creating a space in which religious belief and superstition co-exist.

This issue of Film Journal seeks to explore the various occurrences and functions of the supernatural in film. It proposes to investigate the narratives and the methods of narrative mediation, as well as questions of representation and perception. Written in different contexts and very different in style, Eisnerâ??s and Kovacsâ?? books, reveal the complexity of the topic and the historical, ideological, social and aesthetic aspects at stake. Narratives of the fantastic cross spatio-temporal and generic boundaries, creating a feeling of instability through the blend of generic elements. By exploring the abyss between rationality and fantasy, films dealing with supernatural phenomena and devices recall the complexity of the viewing experience in cinema which is composed of feelings, body reactions and thoughts. As Octave Mannoni put it, the modern viewer does not believe in illusion anymore, yet, part of him/her is still captured by the suggestive power of the image and the spectacular.

Why are elements of the mystifying and supernatural so fashionable today and how is cinema able to keep this fascination alive? The mixture of spiritualism and entertainment at cinemaâ??s roots continues to find expression in contemporary films and their updating of ghost tales under the auspices of psychological knowledge. Christopher Nolanâ??s The Prestige (USA/UK, 2006) deals with both the â??uncannyâ?? (events which can be explained by using logic) and the â??marvelousâ?? (events which are unexplainable), two concepts described by literary theorist Tsvetan Todorov. Moreover, the mystifying elements borrowed from Gothic tradition fulfill the viewerâ??s wish to be entertained by unmasking the illusion at the very heart of filmmaking. Guy Ritchieâ??s Sherlock Holmes (2009), for instance, allies the pre-cinematic world and its preoccupation with the magical with a taste for spectacular events far from everyday experience.

Occult rituals integrated in the narrative delve back to the historical roots of film while also pointing to contemporary tendencies in filmmaking. The photographic representation of ghosts often follows older forms of representation, that of fluid, transparent bodies such as they appeared in nineteenth-century occultism. From the silent film to ultra-contemporary productions, what have been the aesthetic approaches to ghosts or spirits in cinema? There are filmmakers who forgo special effects â?? sometimes for financial reasons â?? and allow ghostly visitations to be played by actors, while still filming them â??realisticallyâ??. But then, what is the most realistic way to film a ghost or spirit? Questions that may be raised concern the significance of the different approaches â?? mise-en-sceÌ?ne devices for representing external reality, as opposed to ghosts and phantoms, or the images and sounds of the supernatural realm and how editing, sound effects and music score contribute to the creation of a world beyond our experience and knowledge.

The supernatural invades all genres. At the end of Allan Dwanâ??s The Iron Mask (1929) Dâ??Artagnan and his Musketeer-friends are dead, but appear again as translucent, ghostly figures (an effect created by overexposure) to greet the audience. Seen from our point of view, the sequence seems to comment on the history of film, anticipating the end of the silent era by showing one stars, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., in one of his last roles. In todayâ??s cinema, elements of the fantastic increasingly inspire film, updating generic forms and devices, in films as different as Clint Eastwoodâ??s western Pale Rider (1985) or Bertrand Tavernierâ??s French-American production In the Electric Mist (2009). Horror films and science fiction tales narrate the supernatural within their own frame of conventions. Vampires, werewolves and other creatures that haunt the cinema from its beginnings have been reborn in films addressing adolescent audiences. What points in common does Polidoriâ??s Vampire have with Edward in the Twilight Saga films? And what links Francis Ford Coppolaâ??s Dracula to its predecessors or the latest update of the figure in the US television Dracula (2013-2014)?

New readings of the vampire figure have also appeared in Neil Jordanâ??s Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (USA, 1994), Byzantium (UK/Ireland, 2012) or Jim Jarmushâ??s Only Lovers Left Alive (UK/Germany, 2013).


Angels and demons, zombies and aliens people the realm of the supernatural. Yet, the â??otherâ??, the unknown is not only expressed by photographed or computer animated characters. It may be an invisible threat, creating constant tension, as in The Blair Witch Project (1999).

Phantoms or zombies and other creatures challenging normalcy can be seen as materializations of fear, as figures of individual and social crisis.

The supernatural expressed through horror film devices and the recurrence to spirits may be linked to loss, grief and death, as in two very recent productions, David Keatingâ??s Wake Wood (Ireland/UK, 2008), the first theatrical release from Hammer Films in 30 years and Conor McPhersonâ??s The Eclipse (Ireland, 2008). The mourner, who is unable to overcome the death of a beloved person, is haunted by visions which the cinema materializes. Trauma, inner images and sensations are brought to the surface of the film. The fantastic may be experienced as a real presence by characters facing fear, guilt and grief. Once again, occultism and psychology are blended in a filmic discourse that relies on generic devices and aesthetics (like film noir in The Eclipse). In Spellbound (1945), psychiatric experience and surrealism are brought together to depict mental images, whereas one of the recent Hammer-productions, The Woman in Black (2012), the adaptation of a successful British play written in the eighties, but set in the Edwardian era, constantly reveals the psychological meaning behind the conventions of the horror genre.

The Eclipse and The Woman in Black are only two, recent samples of a variety of films which explore encounters between everyday life and the supernatural. In so doing, they attempt to deal with the complexities of past, present and future and reveal the extent to which film is able to overcome the boundaries of time and the constraints of realism. Just as the voice of Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard (1950), the voice of a dead man, may echo the magical power of film â?? or its power to allow the viewer to â??suspend disbeliefâ?? â?? so the ghost of the protagonistâ??s dead wife in The Eclipse is a signifier of the abolition of boundaries. At a time of interest in the occult and realms beyond rationality, it would indeed be interesting to examine how â??magicalâ?? thinking is integrated in film, not only in more recent Native American, Aboriginal or Maori films (Whale Rider, Nikki Caro, NZ/Germany, 2002), but in Jim Sheridanâ??s In America (Ireland/UK, 2002), for example, which blends Irish folklore with voodoo and contemporary New York society.


Please send inquiries and proposals to and by 30 November, 2015. Completed articles should be submitted by 30 June 2016.


Select bibliography

Botting, Fred. Limits of Horror: Technology, Body, Gothic. Manchester:

Manchester UP, 2010.

Eisner, Lotte. The Haunted Screen: Expressionism in the German Cinema and the Influence of Max Reinhardt. 2nd edition. Berkeley, University of California Press, 2008.

Kovacs, Lee. The Haunted Screen: Ghosts in Literature and Film. New York, McFarland, 2005.

Lafond, Frank. Cauchemars ameÌ?ricains: fantastique et horreur dans le cineÌ?ma. LieÌ?ge, CeÌ?fal, 2003.

Morgan, Jane. The Biology of Horror: Gothic Literature and Film.

Chicago, University of Southern Illinois, 2002. Richardson, Michael.

Surrealism and Cinema. Oxford, Berg, 2006.

Skal, David J. Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen. London, Faber & Faber, 2004.

Todorov, Tzvetan. The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre. Ithaca, NY, Cornell UP, 1975.


Radical Film Network - Call For Participants

Over the 2016 May Day holiday weekend (29 April - 2 May), Glasgow will host the Radical Film Network festival and unconference. This unique and innovative constellation of events brings together the collective efforts of activists, academics, and cultural workers from over twenty Scottish-based organisations engaged with radical film culture. The Glasgow event builds on the 2015 inaugural conference of the Radical Film Network in Birmingham which explored alternative film cultures and political cinema in the 21st century. At the inaugural conference, initial steps were taken to open up spaces for discussion involving academics and participants in film culture. Grounding itself in Scotland’s vibrant radical film culture, the 2016 unconference and festival will respond to one another, allowing for questions and ideas to be explored beyond the conventional boundaries of academic events and film festivals.

The organising committee invites expressions of interest from anyone wishing to participate in discussions over the weekend. These conversations will take the form of an ‘unconference’, in which the agenda will be decided by the participants according to their interests and in response to the weekend’s range of screenings and events. Within this flexible format, participants are invited to share their practical experiences, research, skills, and insights on any aspect of radical film culture including -Your or your organisation’s practice (as filmmaker/s, exhibitors, researcher/s, activist/s, etc) -Film exhibition, festivals, community cinemas, -Consequences and possibilities of new technologies and platforms, -Political filmmaking, -Education and radical film practices, -Critical perspectives on the representation of marginalised groups, -Radical film history, culture, theory and practice

Possible forms of participation include

-Short illustrated talks (up to 6 minutes) -Poster presentations -Digital or printed material that can be distributed at the event

In keeping with the ethos of the unconference, the organisers will consider proposals for other formats. The unconference will take place at the University of Glasgow, the University’s Queen Margaret Student Union, and the Scottish Trades Union Congress’ headquarters, which are all in close proximity. Across these fully accessible venues, we will have ample space to facilitate additional activities as requested.

Please contact the organisers if you require childcare facilities or have any other access questions.

While the support of the University of Glasgow and the STUC allows us to keep costs to a minimum, in order to provide food and materials for the attendants the unconference will have a ‘Pay What You Can’ registration system, with a suggested contribution of £50 from salaried academics and those with access to funding, but free of cost to all unwaged and voluntary sector participants.

Glasgow is a city with a rich, radical political and cultural history, which includes a wide-ranging, alternative film culture. The May Day Bank Holiday weekend, which takes place in the run up to the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary elections, is the perfect time for the city to play host to activists and academics – from Scotland, the UK and beyond – interested in exploring radical film cultures. We’d very much like to hear from you! Please answer a few questions about your interests using this form download it here and send it to by 31 December 2015.

To see this information on the web:

Organisations supporting and taking part in the Radical Film Network weekend include:

Africa in Motion Film Festival

Bristol Radical Film Festival

Camcorder Guerrillas

Centre for Moving Image Research (CMIR), University of the West of England Document Human Rights Film Festival

The Drouth: Scotland's Literary Quarterly Glasgow Human Rights Network

Glasgow Short Film Festival Glasgow Refugee, Asylum and Migration Network

Glasgow University Queen Margaret Student’s Union Glasgow Women’s Library Govanhill Baths http://Govanhill%20Baths Lefty Film Club ?Life Mosaic Liverpool Radical Film Festival

Love Music Hate Racism Open Jar Collective

Plantation Productions Radical Film Archive

Reel News

Room 8 Studios Ltd Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival Scottish Queer International Film Festival Scottish Trades Union Congress Social Bite Take One Action Film Festival

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