thématique de travail
— Projet de Irmi Wachendorff, University of Duisburg-Essen — Essen, Deutschland
Typography as social practice in urban space
Following the question of why it is important to look at typography when it comes to societal dimensions of material language in urban spaces, I will give insight into my ongoing PhD research at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. The project aims to develop a framework to interrogate the creation of social meaning through graphic notations in multilingual and multiscriptual public environments.
The academic context is a collaborative transdiciplinary research project called „Signs of the Metropolis – Visual Multilingualism in the Ruhr Area“ with a generated data set of over 25.000 georeferenced and tagged images of texts taken in eight streets in four cities in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Following the notions of linguistic landscape research I will claim that inscriptions in the civic sphere are semiotically multimodal and can be analyzed as typographic landscapes. To understand what the materiality and form of language does to its meaning creation in the human activity of applying written massages in the municipal arena, typographic and sociolinguistic theoretical perspectives on the common subject will be integrated. I will be looking particularly at typographic potential for meaning making, concepts of visible language as an independent sign system, epistemological potential of written signs, medium and materiality of communication as well as historical and geographical connotations of letters and their effect.
The three areas of social functions in urban environments encompass firstly identity creation (social positioning of actors, indexing hierarchies and relationships, representation of groups and cultures); secondly ideology expression (expressing values and attitudes); and thirdly genre constitution (constituting reception contexts, situational and thematic localization). Exemplary case studies for each area will be discussed.
Methodologically, the research questions are pursued through comparative literature studies, quantitative and qualitative visual image analysis as well as guided interviews, interrogating the sign producers motivations and goals as well as the sign perceivers perceptions and attitudes.
In an increasingly multilingual, multiscriptual, transnational and hybrid world of exhilarated mobility, this research wants to start a discussion about the role typography can play in public spaces in order to contribute to understanding, translating and peaceful forms of human cohabitation.