93542 - Visual Culture (Lm)

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Marco Solaroli

  • Credits 6

  • SSD SPS/08

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language Italian

  • Campus of Bologna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Information, Cultures and Media Organisation (cod. 5698)


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Gender equality Reduced inequalities Responsible consumption and production

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, students will have learnt key theoretical concepts and analytical methods in the field of visual culture and visual communication, with a particular focus on photography.

Course contents

The course aims to provide a reconstruction of the vast interdisciplinary field of visual culture and visual communication. It focuses upon the definition and analysis of the relationships between images, identity, and power, with a particular attention to the social roles and professional contexts of photography in contemporary culture and society.

The course is divided into two major sections. The first one offers a historical reconstruction of the main theoretical concepts and analytical methods developed in the interdisciplinary field of visual culture and visual communication studies since the mid-twentieth century, with a particular focus on the insights coming from the social sciences. The first section aims at building a "tool-kit" to analyze the processes of production, circulation, and consumption of images; the definition of their classification forms; the construction, negotiation, and interpretation of their meanings; the evaluation of their effects and their "power".

Following the theoretical coordinates outlined in the first section, the second one presents the results of empirical research projects carried out over the last decade, mainly focused on the practices, forms and roles of photography in a variety of fields (e.g. journalism, documentary, politics, advertising).



Mirzoeff, N. (2015), How to see the world, London, Pelican.

Papers (most of them available in English):

Barthes, R. (1961/1964), Il messaggio fotografico (cap. 1, pp. 5-21) e Retorica dell’immagine (cap. 2, pp. 22-44) in R. Barthes, L’ovvio e l’ottuso. Saggi critici III, trad. it. Torino, Einaudi, 2001.

Bourdieu, P. (1965) La definizione sociale della fotografia (cap. 2, pp. 129-161), in P. Bourdieu (a cura di), La fotografia. Usi e funzioni sociali di un’arte media, trad. it. Rimini, Guaraldi, 2004. (Versione ugualmente valida: trad. it. Milano, Meltemi, 2018).

Goffman, E. (1977) La ritualizzazione della femminilità, trad. it. in «Studi Culturali», 7 (1), 2010, pp. 50-70.

Mitchell, W.J.T. (2017) I quattro concetti fondamentali della scienza dell’immagine (cap. 2, pp. 67-78) e Realismo e immagine digitale (cap. 8, pp. 197-215) in W.J.T. Mitchell, Pictorial Turn. Saggi di cultura visuale, nuova ed., trad. it. Milano, Raffello Cortina.

Cometa, M. (2020) Introduzione e Vicende di un'indisciplina (cap. 1, pp. 1-45) in M. Cometa, Cultura visuale, Milano, Raffaello Cortina.

Plus one choice among:

1 – Bate, D. (2016) Photography. The Key Concepts, new edition, London, Routledge.

2 – Papers on “Photography, journalism and politics”:

Boltanski, L. (1965) La retorica della figura, in P. Bourdieu (a cura di), La fotografia. Usi e funzioni sociali di un’arte media, trad. it. Rimini, Guaraldi, 2004, pp. 199-226. (Versione ugualmente valida: trad. it. Milano, Meltemi, 2018).

Hall, S. (1973) La determinazione delle fotografie giornalistiche, trad. it. in «Studi Culturali», 8 (2), 2011, pp. 291-311. (available also in English).

Pogliano, A. (2009) Guardando attraverso. Culture professionali e processi organizzativi nella produzione di narrazioni fotogiornalistiche quotidiane, in “Etnografia e Ricerca Qualitativa”, 2 (3), pp. 415-438.

Pogliano, A. e Solaroli, M. (2016) L’analisi dei frame visuali dell’informazione: il caso del fotogiornalismo sull’immigrazione in Italia, in A. Frisina (a cura di), Metodi visuali di ricerca sociale, Bologna, il Mulino, pp. 83-105.

Solaroli, M. (2011) Scatti immortali. Lo scandalo di Abu Ghraib e la costruzione culturale delle fotografie iconiche del conflitto in Iraq, in «Studi Culturali», 8 (2), pp. 203-229.

Brizzi, R., Manzoli, G. e Solaroli, M. (a cura di) (2021) "Cultura visuale, corpo e politica", Tavola rotonda, in «Studi Culturali» 18 (3), pp. 459-520.


3 – Linfield, S. (2010) The cruel radiance. Photography and political violence, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

4 – Gunthert, A. (2015) L’immagine condivisa. La fotografia digitale, trad. it. Roma, Contrasto, 2016. (NB: Opzione non disponibile per frequentanti del laboratorio “Cultura digitale e Informazione visiva”).

5 – Nardella, C. (2015) La migrazione dei simboli. Pubblicità e religione, Milano, Guerini.

Papers will be available online on virtuale.unibo.it.

Teaching methods

In classroom and in streaming.

PLEASE NOTE: Given the pace of change of the current health emergency, students are invited to check Professor Solaroli's homepage for possibile updates on teaching methods.

Assessment methods

Students can either take a written exam (100 minutes, with closed-ended questions and open-ended questions) or write a paper (25.000-35.000 characters, bibliography included). The content of the paper must be preliminarily discussed with the professor. The paper must be sent to the professor by email, images included, no later than 10 days before the exam date.

Teaching tools

Screen and powerpoint, with varied visual materials.

Office hours

See the website of Marco Solaroli