School on ‘Visual Analysis & Contentious Politics’

Summer school on ‘Visual Analysis & Contentious Politics’

Call for Applications

Time: Wednesday, 29 May - Saturday, 01 June 2024

The Scuola Normale Superiore (Florence, Italy) invites applications from doctoral students for the 2024 PhD Summer School on 'Visual Analysis and Contentious Politics'. The PhD school will be held in the Palazzone di Cortona, in the small town of Cortona in the South of Tuscany, Italy. The school will take place from the 29th of May until the 1st of June 2023

Description: Studies on online political communication, participation and mobilisation increasingly integrate visual materials among relevant data for the understanding of contentious politics. To explore the symbolic messages and discursive meaning of images in online campaigning, contentious politics, political participation and progressive and regressive mobilisation this PhD school focuses on methods of visual content analysis. Visual productions by political actors such as photos, posters, leaflets and memes are considered relevant for their power to communicate, to mobilise political protest (e.g. during the Covid-19) and as tools of propaganda (e.g. during the Ukraine war). The PhD school will further pay attention to the new salience of visuality in online political contestation of values and democracy. This regards in particular the mobilisation of radical political forces of the political right and the left, expressions of populism, anti gender, no vax, hate speeches and conspiracies. What images are used by these actors to tell their stories? What (pop-)cultural repertoires do they tap into to create resonance with their target audience? Which narrative and visual strategies do transitional phenomena, as ‘movement parties’, online opinion movements or conspiracy mobilisations use as forms of contentious politics?

The PhD school welcomes papers on geographical areas and actors that are underrepresented in current research and media coverage.

Application procedure

The PhD School is open to 17 Ph.D. researchers with an interest in visual analysis and the study of political conflicts on social media. Applicants should submit a curriculum vitae and a short cover letter (no more than 1 page) outlining how their research focus fits with the topic of the PhD School and how participation in the school would benefit their research. These materials should be submitted as one PDF by sending an email to Prof. Manuela Caiani ( and Prof. Hans-Joerg Trenz ( before the 15st of March 2023. Accepted candidates will be notified not later than March 25.

Enrolment fees, accommodation and location

There are no enrolment fees. The organisers will help providing accommodation in either single or double rooms in adjunct hotels. Travel and accommodation costs for the duration of the stay need to be covered by the participants. Lunch and coffee breaks are covered by the School. Cortona is a small town in the South of Tuscany, Italy, in easy reach by train from Florence or Rome. Classes will take place in the same location.

Programme of the PhD School

The PhD School consists of three days with lectures by prominent scholars in the field of image analysis in the morning and sessions on carrying out visual analysis in the afternoon. The students will have a theoretical session and a methodological session every day, followed by a lab in which they apply the methods that they learn. Students will also get feedback from experts in the field of image analysis about their own research projects.

Wed., 29/06/2024

14.00-14.30 Welcome and practical infos by Manuela Caiani and Hans-Joerg Trenz
14.30-16.30 Lecture 1: Political conflict in digital images (Prof. Hans-Joerg Trenz, Scuola Normale Superiore)
16.30-17.00 Break
17.00-18.30 Practical Session 1

Thu., 30/06/2024

09.00-10.45 Feedback Session1. Presentation of Student projects/papers
10.45-11.15 Break
11.15-13.15 Lecture 2: Visual Methods in Social Movement Studies (Prof. Alice Mattoni, Università di Bologna)
13.15-14.30 Lunch
14.30-16.00: Practical Session 2
16.00-16.30 Break
16.30-18.00 Lecture 3: Visual analysis and the Radical Right (Prof. Manuela Caiani, Scuola Normale Superiore)

Friday, 31/06/2024

09.00-11.00 Lecture 4: “Extra-hard” visual research on social media data (Suay Melisa Özkula, Universität Salzburg)
11.00-11.30 Break
11.30-13.00 Practical Session 3
13.00-14.00 Lunch
14.00-16.00 Lecture 5: Analysing Images from Social Media (Prof. Ofra Klein, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam)
16.00-16.30 Break
16.30-18.00 Feedback Session 3. Presentation of Student projects/papers
20.00 Dinner

Saturday, 01/06/2024

09-11.00 Lecture 6: Applied Methods of Visual Content Analysis. Doing cross-country comparison (Prof. Hans-Joerg Trenz, Scuola Normale Superiore)
11.00-11.30 Break
11.30-13.00 Closing session. Presentation of Student projects/papers. General feedback on student projects.

Conveners:  Manuela Caiani and Hans Joerg Trenz (Scuola Normale Superiore)

Financial and logistic support: Scuola Normale Superiore, Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, Florence
With the collaboration of COSMOS – Centre on Social Movement Studies at Scuola Normale Superiore