A geographical reading of Roland Barthes
A smartphone model for the interpretation of photographs in geography education
Nyckelord:ROLAND BARTHES, GEOGRAPHY EDUCATION, GEOGRAPHICAL HINTS, GEOGRAPHICAL VIGILANCE, INTERPRETATION OF PHOTOGRAPHS, SEMIOTICS, SMARTPHONE MODEL, VISUAL METHODOLOGIES
This article introduces a geographical reading of Roland Barthes’s Elements of Semiology, originally published in 1964. In his text, Barthes introduces the semiotic concepts of “language and speech,” “signifier and signified,” “syntagma and system,” and “denotation and connotation.” Upon these semiotic concepts, this article builds a method for interpreting photographs from the geographical point of view. In the field of geography, the interpretation of photographs is to some extent taken for granted, because geography as a discipline has always been visually oriented—especially thanks to the use of maps. However, geography has produced practically no systematic attempts to develop a visual theory. This article introduces—not a visual theory but rather— a “smartphone model” for the interpretation of photographs in geography education. Photographs taken in Taupo, New Zealand (2013) and in New York City, United States (2008) are used to exemplify Barthes’s theoretical concepts. However, it is not argued that geography students should know Barthes’s terminology, such as denotation and connotation. Instead, they should be aware of the ways in which these concepts affect the meaning-making processes. That is, the smartphone model brings together four fundamental aspects—visual elements, textual elements, framing, and application of geographical knowledge—that should be taken into account when interpreting photographs in geography lessons. This article integrates geography education, structuralist semiotics, and visual methodologies.