Date of this Version


Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Details

Mitchell, Marilyn (2008). Conducting ethnographic research on language-like visual communication. Refereed paper presented at the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association 2008 Conference, Wellington, N.Z., 9-11 July.

Reproduced with permission of ANZCA (Australian & New Zealand Communication Association).

2008 HERDC submission. FoR Codes: 1299; 2099

© Copyright Marylin Mitchell, 2008.


This paper provides guidance to academics, new researchers, and practicing designers or business people on how to conduct ethnographic research on visual communications that are language-like in that they contain forms linked to specific meanings. The paper adapts Spradley’s (1980) detailed steps for conducting ethnographic research to ethnography that is focused on visual communication. An argument is made that it is useful to employ linguistic frameworks in such research because the field of linguistics already has a well-developed theory base from which researchers can develop theory that is specific to visual communication.



This document has been peer reviewed.


To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.