Understanding Images

This research project is a first step in assessing the status of visual literacy in Switzerland using qualitative methods from the social sciences and visual studies and in working out measures for targeted development of visual literacy.

Visual Literacy

Even though the concentration of museums in Switzerland has increased greatly in the last 20 years, we in science know very little about what museum visitors at an exhibition experience: how and for how long they look at images; what they see, feel or understand; how good their ability is to perceive and process images (visual literacy).

Project description
This research project started out from the observation that the increase in density of information in the visual sphere often overtaxes people. In these situations, the visual images can no longer be compared to existing ordering patterns and assessed. To narrow down the broad field of media images and practices, this study examined reception of photographs in museums as an example.
It is a fact that the emotionalization of media contents, which aims to attract the attention of as many viewers as possible, is steadily advancing. People are capable of surrendering to the medial world of emotions only voluntarily or not at all, if they process the triggered affects and feelings by understanding and reflecting upon the aesthetics and contents but also upon the way that the images work and impact us. With the aid of the research design chosen, the study examined what relationships there are between photographic images and people’s moods and feelings, among other things.
For this reason, a focus of the analysis was on capturing emotions triggered by photographs. Type and strength of the emotions were recorded. The aim was also to find out how affects influence processes of making meaning and the evaluation of perceived objects, as it was assumed that particularly for visual images, levels there is intensive interaction between the emotional and the cognitive levels.

Visual literacy


Project leader