Purpose

The concept of visual framing is often considered as “one of the life lines for visual research” (Coleman, 2010, p. 233). It relates to the accentuation of certain aspects of reality over others in media by means of visual communication, thereby suggesting certain patterns of interpretation which may then influence information processing and interpretation (comp. Brantner, Lobinger & Wetzstein, 2011; Coleman, 2010). The concept is therefore crucial to our understanding of how the images framing an issue in the media influence people’s interpretation of the issue. And in fact, there is a growing body of content-analytical studies using visual framing as a theoretical reference (e.g. Borah, 2009; Coleman & Banning, 2006; Griffin, 2004; Fahmy, 2004; Huang & Fahmy, 2011; Parry, 2010; Schwalbe, Silcock & Keith, 2008).

However, upon having a second look on the concept and its application, lines tend to become a little blurry, particularly when it comes to methodological aspects. In the establishing process of the concept no shared common-sense-approach has been developed so far. Instead, a multitude of fragmented and sometimes disparate approaches of visual framing analysis have evolved parallel to each other. While a unified procedure of frame analysis surely cannot be considered adequate for the analysis of images, there is a substantial need to systemize existing approaches of analysis, to highlight definitional and methodological similarities and discrepancies, and to clarify key terms.

For this purpose, the symposium focuses on the core question: How can visual frames be analyzed by means of content analysis? This question is preceded by several subordinate questions: What may be understood as a visual frame in the first place? What prerequisites must be met to speak of a visual frame? What kinds of different approaches to the content-analytical identification of visual frames are there? What are the challenges and open methodological questions of content-analytical visual framing research and how may they be encountered?

Following these questions, the symposium intends to contribute to the following aims:

  • structuring and discussing different understandings of visual frames
  • systemizing methodological approaches of frame identification and analysis
  • working up content-analytical challenges and open methodological questions
  • developing possible solutions and formulating methodological desiderata