After the 1st International Visual Methods Conference

At the beginning of September, I wrote about the forthcoming 1st International Visual Methods Conference in Leeds, today I write some conclusions about it.

The Conference was a huge event with more than 200 participants and 150 papers coming from Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia. All papers were grouped into five big categories. The first one dealt with researchers producing their own data for collecting visual material (participatory and researcher created data), while the second group of papers were concerned about how to use visual methods for analysing and interpreting visual data and to improve the communication of emotions and experiences (visual analysis and arts-base and creative methods). A different category, the third one, was composed by papers explaining how to visually present and represent data (visual representation). Finally, the forth and fifth groups of papers coped with ethical issues of visual material (visual ethics) and projects using multiple visual methods (methodology), respectively.

In my previous post I discussed some points, such as my concerned about the current situation of graphic design and visual methods. Moreover, with the idea of the existence of two kinds of visual methods (ones used by graphic designers and others used by social scientists) in mind, I suggested this event as an ideal opportunity to learn more about this and the gap between graphic designers and social scientists.
However, after the conference I have changed my mind about some of these initial thoughts.

Some of the conclusions about Leeds conference that made me went back through my thoughts are that:
1) There are not two different groups of visual methods, the difference is how the methods are applied and used. Graphic designers use visual methods in a systematic way for analysing and interpreting visual material, while anthropologists and social scientists use them for collecting visual data. The paper of Andrew Clark (University of Salford) was a clear example of both applications of visual methods: collection, analysis and mapping data.
2) There are different purposes for using visual methods. Visual methods can be used to improve visual communication, to create more effective learning-teaching techniques (project of Dr. Eddie Norman, Xenia Danos and Cheng Siew Beh from Loughborough University), to develop systematic ways of classification (project of social designer Joanna Choukeir from University of the Arts London).
3) There are new boundaries, like the Internet, where visual methods are rapid gaining a place. Both Sara Pink and Gillian Rose from social sciences presented projects about how to use visual methods for online platforms.
4) For my surprised, the use of diagrams in the environment of visual methods is more common than I have imagined. Papers related with diagrams were about both diagrams as educational tools (visual teaching), and diagrams as a tool for representing conceptual ideas (mind maps), and from a different approach, the search of visual methods for analysing diagrams (project of Gillian McCrum, Aberdeen University).
The paper I presented was focussed on the visual methods I have used to analyse and interpret diagrams, in order to understand their structure and develop a design method for creating more effective diagrams.


Even though, social scientists and graphic designers are still working in parallel tracks, there is an increasing interest between both for learning about the others point of view.
The next International Visual Methods Conference will take place in two years time. Hopefully, too much work will be done for that new conference.

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