Audience Iconography

deadline for submissions: 
July 15, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies
contact email: 

Audience Iconography

Themed Section for Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies

Editor: Daniel Cavicchi (Rhode Island School of Design)

Iconography is an approach to visual culture that seeks to interpret conventions and meanings of representation. Used in twentieth-century art history to create classifications of symbols, themes, and styles in formal works of Western art, iconographic research has been applied since to subjects including music, dance, medicine, tourism, politics, food, and urban planning. The digitization of museum and library archives--not to mention the rapid adoption of social media in everyday life--has further revived iconography as a needed means to create understanding across the plethora of visual information now available for study. For this themed section of Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, scholars and researchers are invited to explore the ways that we might advance iconographic research for audience studies. 

Visual representations of people experiencing performance date to antiquity. Yet visual culture remains a relatively under-theorized source for the study of historical audiences. Especially throughout the nineteenth century, technological developments in printing increased the circulation of published images, offering a new expansive window onto audiencing, from public spectacle to theater. The twentieth century was the age of photography; news coverage of musical theater, clubs, concerts, sporting events, and other public gatherings yielded a treasure trove of visual information. Overall, the accumulated record of paintings, lithographs, sketches, photographs, cartoons, and other images feature a range of individual spectators or listeners, large crowds, fans, and representations of behaviors like queuing, dancing, cheering, watching, and listening. Some images celebrate the thrill of public events; others are critical, meant to embarrass certain kinds of audience members and stake out positions of social power. Before the digital age, it was difficult to curate audience representations; today, however, the increasing digitization of images from magazines, newspapers, and other ephemera has changed the possibilities for comparison and study. How can scholars make the best sense of this ecology of audience images?

Work included in the themed section will consider the visual record of historical audiences through multiple entry points, including but not limited to: 

  • The visual semiotics of audience representation
  • The influence of publishing, fashion, art, popular culture, surveillance, and advertising in shaping depictions of audiences over time
  • Changing ideas of race, gender, and class in representing audience
  • Interpretations of audience behavior (looking, listening, silence, cheering, booing, rioting, etc.) in visual art
  • Audiences as portrayed in specific context (sports, theater, film, music, oratory, stand-up comedy, disasters, museums, public events, etc.) or as types (fans, crowds, the fashionable, the balcony/pit, etc.)
  • Iconic images of audiences in history
  • Digital humanities approaches to understanding audience imagery
  • Assessment of the potential of specific visual archives, both analog and digital (Artstor, Getty Images, the Library of Congress, etc.)

Submissions are welcome from scholars from multiple disciplines and may be of any length, though essays under 10,000 words are preferred. As an online journal, Participationsis able to work without the restrictions usually imposed on print journals, including greater opportunity for publishing visual material, provided copyright restrictions are met.

For consideration, please submit a 300-word abstract, along with a 100-word biography, by July 15, 2019, to: 

Daniel Cavicchi

Rhode Island School of Design

2 College Street

Providence, RI 02903



Participations employs an open peer-review process. Draft essays will be due late Fall 2019 for review, with final submissions completed in late Spring 2020.