Taking a step outside the photo and frame: Analyzing drawings depicting New York City in the context of geography education

Room K
Wednesday, 2 September 2015
10.45 – 12.30
drawing, geography education, photograph, visual methodology, semiotics

The combination of geography and semiotics is rather rare. Nonetheless, geography as a discipline has always been visually oriented because of the usage of maps. However, geographers tend to be interested in the “final” meanings of visual representations rather than the processes through which the meanings are produced. To approach these processes, a photo taken in New York City was printed on an A3-sheet and 64 Finnish high school students were asked to continue the photo by drawing around it.

In this methodological paper, different ways to conduct a content analysis of the drawings are introduced. The “development compass rose” is used as a geographical way of approaching the drawings. Like the four principal compass points, elements in the drawings are sorted into four domains: natural, economic, social and political. A Finnish semiotician Eero Tarasti also establishes four spheres in his “Z model” that is used as a semiotic way of interpreting the drawings. Tarasti's categories are as follows: body (M1), identity and personality (M2), social roles and institutions (S2) and norms and values (S1). The presentation will demonstrate how the development compass rose and the Z model could be used as vehicles for an analysis. Special attention is paid on the very question of which one does a photo re-present, the worldview of the photographer or the viewer.

Markus Tapani Hilander
University of Helsinki, Department of Teacher Education
markus.hilander [at]

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