introductory presentation
introductory presentation

Visual Landscaping at University of Amsterdam

A workshop on the broader use of imagery in news reports

where: MA Journalism & Media, UvA
when: 12.06.2017
participants: 32 students
time: 9:00 - 17:00

Visual Landscaping was a hands on research and production session for journalism students to look into the broader use of imagery in news reports: a one day program run by The Common Affairs with 32 MA students at University of Amsterdam. The focus of this workshop was on expanding perspectives on the use of imagery and their visual translation into concepts for experimental journalistic projects.

As an introduction, we started with a lecture on three different developments in the visualization of news, which we identified in today’s media landscape.

Based on the categories traditional news, news parody and creative news expression, we invited the students to start an investigation into imagery through online media channels. Every student took responsibility for one of the categories and worked from their - previously determined - topics, ranging from the integration of refugees, parents, children and the use of their smartphones, food waste, desire for the past and the current role of mayors.

The atmosphere during the imagery search was intense but pleasant. The air became very lively when all the images were printed and the students started moving and sticking the images on the walls, to create visual landscapes of their team’s topics.


In a plenary session, we evaluated and analyzed, rearranged and signified (with stickers) all the findings. Some teams chose to organise their collection into the given categories, while some other teams decided to mix the images together in a more storytelling way. In general the students were capable of explaining their choices clearly, though some of them were more aware of their choices, able to analyze connections and comparisons between the sets of images.


For the afternoon session we asked the teams, based on their earlier visual references and findings, to make a translation into a concept for the production of a journalistic experiment. The appearance and outcome was up to them, but it was important that it communicated and characterized the concept well.

The majority of the teams came up with clear concepts for a product, while others made visual representations of their concept.


By literally showing the amount of food wasted and the death count from starvation, Jochem Bruins, Emma van der Zalm and Eva Kiemeney in this data visualization dared to challenge the viewer to think about their own behavior towards food.


With this concept, Mark Lievisse Adriaanse, Wisanne van ’t Zelfde and Leoni Nijland strove to let the user experience a day in the life of an Eritrean refugee through a virtual reality game. Integration of refugees is a difficult process and literally standing in the shoes of one could generate more understanding of refugees.


Sammie Peters, Jur Peppels and Livia Benders addressed food trends, from the avocado to superfood. What are the consequences of these food trends? By putting the facts about certain healthy food on Flippos, the information provides a contradicting message, which supports this team’s initial thought that supposedly ‘healthy’ foods are not actually healthy.


Within the city there is less space for social drop-outs, free spirits and the maladjusted. They seek the edges of the city, where life is rough and authority is far away. How does this happen, what are the reasons for this development? What will happen in the future? Mathijs de Groot, Frederica van Mastrigt and Annelies Bontjes aimed to create a dialogue around these inhabitants of Ruigoord.


The Forest and Wood Plan is one of the results of the Climate Summit in Paris. What has actually happened with this plans? In order to bring back the discussion around planting new forests, Thomas van Veen, Els Onink and Marit Willemsen developed a concept for a game, from which the user is able to be informed from various perspectives.


Based on this one-day programme we conclude that this energetic group was able to come up with an interesting range of findings and approaches to imagery. It was a great sign that the students were capable of explaining their own topic through some fairly arbitrary collected visuals.

The final concepts were very rich and interesting, but also quite general. Perhaps, given a substantive amount of time, more research could be done into what makes a specific subject distinctive. Yet, at the same time we also observe a tension here. With a strong emphasis on what is and objective representation, it is hard to come up with a challenging statement. By choosing a somewhat more specific approach and goal, it would become possible to further substantiate content, visual and conceptual choices. This is also perhaps where better and more extensive conversations are necessary. Designers often embrace a vision, and they frame their work as a representation of what could be, whereas journalists focus on what is.

We would hereby kindly like to thank the University of Amsterdam (UvA), Mirjam Prenger and Erik Borra for this great opportunity and Jochem Bruins, Iris Enthoven, Lauren Fabels, Tanja Hof, Eva Kiemeney, Frederica van Mastrigt, Leoni Nijland, Tove Oegema, Els Onink, Jur Peppels, Anna Pleijsier, Eline Rethans, Rokhaya Seck, Janna van Strien, Thomas van Veen, Erik van Zummeren, Livia Benders, Annelies Bontjes, Jeanine van den Bosch, Floor Bouma, Nevena Gajic, Jos de Groot, Mathijs de Groot, Daan Kool, Mark Lievisse Adriaanse, Sammie Peters, Mira Sys, Lieve de Vreede, Marit Willemsen, Emma van der Zalm, Wisanne van ’t Zelfde and Nienke Zoetbrood for all their energy and enthusiasm.