This project investigated the ways in which literacy practices are represented in visual images in a range of British newspapers. The aims of the research were: a) to contribute to theoretical understandings of literacy as socio-cultural practice and their implications for educational policy discourses about literacy b) to offer a framework and new data about the construction of visual messages in the media. c) to develop computer-based methodologies for dealing with visual data which are of relevance to social research more generally. The data showed that a mismatch exists between text-based stories and visual representations of literacy practices in the press: whilst text-based stories present a view of literacy as a neutral, technical, cognitive skill or deficit, the visual representations show it to be embedded in everyday social practice and to carry powerful ritual and symbolic as well as functional meanings.
The project reported here was based at Lancaster University and funded by the Leverhulme Trust with a grant of £28,734 (Ref F/185/AJ). The project ran from March 1st 1999 to 31st March 2000 and coincided with the National Year of Reading (NYR), a national initiative in which the media were mobilised to put across promotional messages about literacy to children and adults. The full unpublished report, summary report and technical report are all deposited here. Some of the work they describe was published in the following article: Hamilton, M. E. (2000) Exploring literacy as social practice through media photographs. In: Barton, D. P. and Hamilton, M. E. and Ivanic, R., (eds.) Situated literacies : reading and writing in context. Routledge, London, pp. 16-34. ISBN 0415206707