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Generic Visuals in the News Public Engagement Activities: Part 1


by Arran Ridley:

In June, the Generic Visuals team conducted a series of engagement events, beginning with an exhibition at the Winter Garden in Sheffield City Centre. The “Generic Visuals in the News” exhibition ran in this public setting for 7 days, from the 5th of June until the 11th of June. The exhibition then moved to The Foundry, in Oval Way London, opening on the 14th of June, where it was on display until the 28th of August. The 14th of June also saw a workshop, “Generic Visuals, Journalism, and Misinformation”, also at The Foundry. The team was present at the LSE Media Futures conference on June 15th and 16th, where Prof. C.W. Anderson led a presentation titled “Do Generic Visuals in the News Assemble Publics? Trust, Credibility and the Future of News Imagery” in the Assembling Publics panel on day one of the conference. The details from these public engagement events will be detailed across two blog posts, with this first post discussing the exhibition and the second the workshop and the conference talks. 

 The Winter Garden was selected as the site for the 5th -11th June research exhibition due to its central location and its accessibility to a wide range of people who either visit the space or pass through. The exhibition, curated by Alison Morton, distilled the results and findings of the research to communicate with a more general audience. Visitors to the exhibition responded positively to the contents, with one visitor remarking that “This is something I’ve never heard of before, but I can see why it is important for us to be aware of this issue” and another remarked that “I wouldn’t want my children to read the news and look at images that were taken or made for the wrong reasons” 

Image is a photograph of the Generic Visuals in the News exhibition installed in its location at the Winter Garden in Sheffield city centre. The exhibition is displayed on a series of white panels arranged in a square-like configuration. The backdrop is of vegatation; trees and the roof of the hothouse. There is a shadow cast onto the exhibition panels.

Figure 1: A photo of the exhibition installed in the Winter Garden.

Members of the public who interacted with the exhibition were also encouraged to take a short survey, with questions covering both the topic of generic visuals itself and their response to the exhibition and its contents. The survey received a surprisingly large number of responses, totalling 119 over 5 days. The survey was accessed via a QR code allowing for respondents to take the survey via their phones. As well as this a research assistant, Marina, and project Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Arran Ridley, were present during the week allowing for respondents to take the survey using a provided iPad.

Two people stand in front of an exhibition panel. The panels display both text and image. The images are 'generic images' from news outlets and the accompanying text explains them.

Displaying the research in a public setting proved to be a valuable endeavour, both in allowing for the team to discuss the research with members of the public who came to see the exhibition, as well as in the data collected via means of a survey accessed through a QR code which provided valuable insight into how the public views and understands generic visuals.

We would also like to thank Ariel Chen and Taylor Annabell for their hard work in helping to realise this exhibition.