Anthropology Arts and Culture

Notes on Visual Analysis in Anthropology

Visual images are texts to be read.  The types of visual media are varied. They can be moving, such as a film, or still images. Still images include photography, paintings, doodles, and graphics. Visual analysis researchers the producers and consumers of images. Psychoanalytic theory focuses on the representations of images. A content analysis will look at images as a contextual narrative. Semiotic analysis relates what is signified by images as signs.  The chapter also describes photo-elucidation and memory work. These methods use photographs (or other images) to stimulate conversation on memories of participants. Photo-elucidation may be useful within a questionnaire, especially some photographs of damaged rock art sites.

Another interesting idea that I had not considered prior to reading this chapter is participant mapping. This method provides visual data from the perspective of the participant. For my thesis research, I would like to use structured observations and have considered each observer mapping the space as a participant. The chapter finishes with a discussion on ethics. The ethical considerations of visual analysis relate to protecting the anonymity of persona who may be in the photographs, as well as publishing and copyright issues.

For me personally, I find that there are many facets of visual analysis that are relevant to consider, as much of human computer interaction, and user experience is visual based, or especially when it isn’t. For example, with screen reader technology.

Notes from Ali, S. (2012). Visual Analysis. In C. Seale (Ed.), Researching Society and Culture (3rd ed, p. 283-). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

You can find this book available for purchase at this affiliated link.

Arts and Culture News Research Methods Student Resources

HSU Unconference: How I Learned Shareout Building a Better Search by Going into Categories and Searching by Subject

From the Humboldt State University Library: “Nikki Martensen explains how to build a better search by going in to Categories and then searching by subject. By searching by subject, you’ll be exposed to related words that will enrich your search.”

Arts and Culture Digitization Museums News

Welcome to the Digital Age: Journey through Humboldt Room Archival Process

A display showcasing the digitization of archival materials. Located in the Humboldt State University Library using select materials from Humboldt Room Special Collections. Spring 2016 Semester.

Archaeology Arts and Culture News

The Sound of Silence: Suggesting an Evolutionary Perspective in Archaeoacoustics

Presenting at the 2014 Anthropology Research Symposium, Humboldt State University


Humans have a common practice of altering auditory perception, with the ability to extend their sound experience through creating instruments, building acoustic amphitheater spaces, and producing rhythm and music with the body as with clapping, chanting, and singing. The field of archaeoacoustics offers insight into the use of sound in ancient societies. Previous research in this field has fixated on the auditory properties surrounding architectural spaces, for example, echo and amplification. These properties are often studied in relation to sound-producing artifacts. Archaeoacoustic scholars consider altering sound experience a product of human intention–as a deliberate investment of meaning rather than an epiphenomenal environmental coincidence. This has left a void of literature for the auditory architecture of religious, political and social spaces. This research will describe the issues and implications surrounding the interpretation of acoustic data in archaeology, focusing on the relation to spiritual and symbolic social practices. Theoretical perspectives will be drawn from previous archaeoacoustic research, as well as human evolutionary biology, as the evolution of auditory perception is likely to correlate with the development of art, language, and other symbolic social systems. This combination of ideas proposes a deeper understanding of the role of sound that has been essential to the human experience.