Pre ICA Conference – Visual Affordances & Social Justice: Theory & Methods

Pre ICA Conference

Visual Affordances & Social Justice: Theory & Methods


09:00 – 17:00 Wednesday 19 June 2024


Queensland University of Technology – Kelvin Grove campus, Z9 Block, Level 6, Room 607

Programme now available here.


Visual affordances have been a salient issue in communication research. While it remains a somewhat fuzzy term, social media affordances describe “(…) the perceived actual or imagined properties of social media, emerging through the relation of technological, social, and contextual factors, that enable and constrain specific uses of the platforms” (Ronzhyn et al.,2022, p. 14), for example aspects such as accessibility and visibility (Treem & Leonardi, 2013; boyd, 2010). Affordances may be both real and perceived/imagined, utilised or unactualised (Gibson, 1979; Ronzhyn et al., 2022; Schreiber, 2017). Visual affordances then describe how platform-specific features influence, constitute or participate in users’ visual practices, for example through specific formats, modalities and genres of visual communication and frames, filters or other aesthetical choices and settings. This is based on the notion that visually oriented platforms and practices produce “specific possibilities of aesthetic expression and visual communication”, which are “entangled with both the technical and iconographic affordances of the app and also with a specific audience” (Schreiber, 2017, p. 157; see also Highfield & Leaver, 2016).

Visual affordances are particularly relevant for social justice concerns as they may both reinforce movements striving for or undermining equality. In doing so, they can potentially create regimes of visuality that sustain, if not reinforce, systemic inequality (for example, in relation to gendered violence and racism: Matamoros-Fernández, 2018; Mendes, Keller, & Ringrose, 2019; Norocel, 2022). Much scholarship on visual affordances focuses on individual (and often visually oriented) platforms such as YouTube (Georgakopoulou, 2015), Instagram (Hurley, 2019), and increasingly TikTok, but this literature does not necessarily engage extensively with social justice issues and concerns (Bailey & Cole, 2021; Costanza-Chock, 2020). This event aims to deconstruct and further conceptualise visual affordances through a social justice lens to allow for more critical engagement with the field.

The pre-conference event aims to gather scholarship from various disciplinary perspectives, offering conceptual reflection, methodological advancements, and empirical discussions on visual affordances. We especially welcome contributions from and about under-represented regions and communities. The organisers welcome submissions that explore, or go beyond, topics such as:

  • Visual affordances and social justice
  • Humour, harm/wellbeing and visual affordances
  • Content moderation and visual practices
  • Methodological approaches to study visual affordances
  • Creative methods for visuality research in contexts of social justice
  • Toxicity and bias in visual communication
  • Strategies and impacts of digital activism on visual-rich platforms
  • Visual tactics of social justice movements


The workshop-style pre-conference event will consist of:

(1) a series of lightning presentations that introduce specific visual affordances or theorisations of visual affordances;

(2) two keynotes including by Prof. Dr. Crystal Abidin (Curtin University, Australia);

(3) a workshop on theoretical and methodological approaches to examine visual affordances.

The event will close with a discussion and information on how to join the VMC network. Based on the pre-conference, the organisers are also planning a special issue or edited volume. More information will be shared at the event.

Date: 19th June, full-day event

Venue: in-person at the Digital Media Research Centre, QUT, Brisbane, Australia.


If you wish to participate (either via presenting your work or just attending the event), please fill out this form: Abstracts of 300-400 words (excluding references) should be submitted by 15th January 2024 via the provided Google form. Timeline:

Deadline for abstract submission and to signalling interest to participate: 15 January 2024

Acceptance notifications: 15 February 2024

Deadline for registration: 15 March 2024

Pre-conference: 19 June 2024

Please note that there will be a registration fee of about 50 USD (80 AUD) to cover event catering.


Registration is available at this link – search ‘Visual Affordances’.


Suay Melisa Özkula, University of Salzburg, Austria

Maria Schreiber, University of Salzburg, Austria

Ariadna Matomoros-Fernández, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

Jing Zeng, Utrecht University, Netherlands

This event is co-organised by the Visual Methods Collective (VMC) and the QUT Digital Media Research centre (DRMC). It takes place in collaboration with the ICA Visual Communication Studies Division & the ICA Activism, Communication, and Social Justice Interest Group. If you have any questions, please contact the principal organiser Suay Melisa Özkula

Visual Methods Collective:

QUT Digital Media Research Centre:


Bailey, Moya, and Danielle Cole. 2021. “New Tools, New House: Building a Black Feminist Social (Justice) Media Platform.” Feminist Media Studies 21 (5): 857–59.

boyd, Danah. 2010. “Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications.” In Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites, edited by Z. Papacharissi, 39–58. London: Routledge.

Costanza-Chock, Sasha. 2020. Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need. The MIT Press.

Georgakopoulou, Alexandra. 2015. “Sharing as Rescripting: Place Manipulations on YouTube between Narrative and Social Media Affordances.” Discourse, Context and Media, 9, 64–72.

Gibson, James J. 1979. The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception, 1986th edn. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Highfield, Tim, and Tama Leaver. 2016. “Instagrammatics and Digital Methods: Studying Visual Social Media, from Selfies and GIFs to Memes and Emoji.” Communication Research and Practice 2 (1): 47–62.

Hurley, Zoe. 2019. “Imagined Affordances of Instagram and the Fantastical Authenticity of Female Gulf–Arab Social Media Influencers.” Social Media + Society, 5 (1): 1–16.Matamoros-Fernández, Ariadna. 2018. “Inciting Anger through Facebook Reactions in Belgium: The Use of Emoji and Related Vernacular Expressions in Racist Discourse.” First Monday 23 (9).

Mendes, Kaitlynn, Jessalynn Keller, and Jessica Ringrose. 2019. “Digitized Narratives of Sexual Violence: Making Sexual Violence Felt and Known Through Digital Disclosures.” New Media and Society, 21 (6), 1290–1310.

Norocel, Cristian O. 2022. “Gendering Web2.0 Sociotechnical Affordances of Far-Right Metapolitics.” Social Media + Society, 8 (3), 20563051221108076.

Ronzhyn, Alexander, Ana Sofia Cardenal, and Albert Batlle Rubio. 2022. “Defining Affordances in Social Media Research: A Literature Review.” New Media and Society, 0(0).

Schreiber, Maria. 2017. “Audiences, Aesthetics and Affordances Analysing Practices of Visual Communication on Social Media.” Digital Culture and Society, 3 (2), 143–164.

Treem, Jeffrey W., and Paul M. Leonardi. 2013. “Social Media Use in Organisations: Exploring the Affordances of Visibility, Editability, Persistence, and Association. Annals of the International Communication Association, 36 (1), 143–189.