Departmental Papers (ASC)

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Journal of Communication





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As an organized subarea of academic communication scholarship, the study of visual communication is relatively new. For instance, at this writing, visual communication has not yet attained regular division status in either the International Communication Association or the National Communication Association. However, interest in visual issues appears to be growing among communication scholars, and the two books under review are part of a rapidly expanding literature (e.g., Barnard, 2001; Emmison & Smith, 2000; Evans & Hall, 1999; Helfand, 2001; Howells, 2002; Mirzoeff, 1999; Prosser, 1998; Rose, 2001; Thomas, 2000). As it seeks to differentiate itself from other scholarly areas with similar purviews (such as mass communication or cultural studies), the study of visual communication is increasingly confronted with two major issues. First, on a theoretical level, visually oriented scholars need to develop a sharper understanding of the distinctions among the major modes of communication (image, word, music, body display, etc.) and a clearer appreciation of the specific role that each plays in social processes. Second, on the research front, there is a need for more sophisticated ways of exploring visual meanings and investigating viewers' responses to images. Taken together, the two books reviewed here touch upon both of these features of visual scholarship and make productive contributions with respect to each of them.

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This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Messaris, Paul. “Visual Communication: Theory and Research.” Journal of Communication, 2003, 53(3): 551-556, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.

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Date Posted: 01 December 2016