2010 Bologna

The 2010 Inter­na­tional Visual Soci­ol­ogy Associ­a­tion Con­fer­ence was held at the world’s old­est uni­ver­sity, Uni­ver­sità di Bologna, in Italy. The theme of the conference was the ‘Think­ing, Doing and Pub­lish­ing Visual Research: The State of the Field?’.

Uni­ver­sità di Bologna, Italy 20-22 July 2010

The 2010 Inter­na­tional Visual Soci­ol­ogy Associ­a­tion Con­fer­ence was held at the world’s old­est uni­ver­sity, Uni­ver­sità di Bologna, in Italy. The theme of the conference was the ‘Think­ing, Doing and Pub­lish­ing Visual Research: The State of the Field?’.

More than thirty years have passed since the publication of Howard Becker´s milestone work Photography and Sociology. The book provided initial legitimation to a generation of researchers and sociologists that had already started to use images in their research, and it constituted a reference point to the many others who have followed Becker´s scholarly agenda. Since then Visual Sociology has moved forward, growing as a research practice and acquiring recognition as an established field in sociology. It has also significantly renegotiated its identity expanding its scope and interacting with other fields and disciplines including psychology, anthropology, cultural studies, media and communication studies, semiotics, art and art history. Visual sociology has moved into the 21st century having established its presence and scientific agenda in at least four areas.

Theory of the Image: the study of the role of visual communications in a postmodern society. Along with the investigation of the role of sight in the exploration and socialization to the world, different theoretical approaches have been taken in the study of the role and ever-changing nature of the image, and are currently providing the basis for the development of methodological and empirical approaches that explore images´ heuristic potential in research.

Methodology: An increasingly rich and complex methodological toolbox has been created that established empirical and commonly acknowledged scientific methods employing images both as data and research tools. Photo-elicitation, native image making, grounded visual research, re-photography and image content analysis are largely established methods used for an ever increasing spectrum of research themes and interests.

Fieldwork: A range of image based theories and methodological approaches have informed and have been used in research applications that study both classic socio-anthropological subjects as well as an increasing variety of new media based practices and behaviors. Images are collected, used, observed and explored to investigate the social practices in which they are produced and embedded.

Publication of results: Although probably the weakest area in Visual Sociology, and the one with the most promise, changes in audiovisual production and distribution have profoundly affected the discipline. Like all professional communities, Visual Sociology is attempting to re-accommodate our practices to the emerging digital and web-based production and distribution modes. Despite the broad interest in new media and multi-media dynamics, universities around the world tend to remain text-and-paper-based. Academia still struggles to adopt and adapt to the changing nature of communication.

View conference program


  • You try your hardest to give people their space, but at moments you know you’re capturing their image in ways they may or may not be okay with. It’s that rocking back and forth between respect and betrayal that I feel like is at the heart of the film.

    Kirsten Johnson

  • I believe that we face incredible obstacles in our attempts to see the world. Everything in our nature tries to deny the world around us; to refabricate it in our own image; to reinvent it for our own benefit. And so, it becomes something of a challenge, a task, to recover (or at least attempt to recover) the real world despite all the impediments to that end.

    Errol Morris

  • Photographers learn to interpret photographs in that technical way because they want to understand and use that ‘language’ themselves (just as musicians learn a more technical musical language than the layman needs). Social scientists who want to work with visual materials will have to learn to approach them in this more studious and time-consuming way

    Howard Becker

  • Before I became a film major, I was very heavily into social science, I had done a lot of sociology, anthropology, and I was playing in what I call social psychology, which is sort of an offshoot of anthropology/sociology – looking at a culture as a living organism, why it does what it does.

    George Lucas


    Reality changes; in order to represent it, modes of representation must change.

    Bertolt Brecht

  • We never really know what’s around the corner when we’re filming – what turn a story will take, what a character will do or say to surprise us, how the events in the world will impact our story.

    Barbara Kopple


    Every photograph promises more than it delivers and delivers more than it intended.

    Steve Harp


    The function of sociology, as of every science, is to reveal that which is hidden.

    Pierre Bourdieu

  • So it is my firm belief, that if you want nowadays, to have a clear and distinct communication of your concepts, you have to use synthetic images, no longer words.

    Vilém Flusser

  • Watching a documentary with people hacking their way through some polar wasteland is merely a visual. Actually trying to deal with cold that can literally kill you is quite a different thing.

    Henry Rollins


    One advantage of photography is that it’s visual and can transcend language.

    Lisa Kristine


    For any picture, ask yourself what question or questions it might be answering. Since the picture could answer many, questions, we can decide what question we are interested in.

    Howard Becker


    The task for sociology is to come to the help of the individual. We have to be in service of freedom. It is something we have lost sight of.

    Zygmunt Bauman


    There are dignified stupidities, and there are heroic stupidities, and there is such a thing as stupid stupidities, and that would be a stupid stupidity not to have a camera on board.

    Werner Herzog

  • If you want to tell the untold stories, if you want to give voice to the voiceless, you’ve got to find a language. Which goes for film as well as prose, for documentary as well as autobiography. Use the wrong language, and you’re dumb and blind.

    Salman Rushdie


    Sometimes one picture is equal to 30 pages of discourse, just as there are things images are completely incapable of communicating.

    William S. Burroughs


    Visual culture is now the study of how to understand change in a world too enormous to see but vital to imagine.

    Nicholas Mirzoeff


    If it’s far away, it’s news, but if it’s close at home, it’s sociology.

    James Reston

  • Give us adequate images. We lack adequate images. Our civilization does not have adequate images. And I think a civilization is doomed or is going to die out like dinosaurs if it doesn’t develop an adequate language for adequate images.

    Werner Herzog


Contact us

    Become a member