Skip to content
Skip to navigation menu

Images of Electricity: A Semiotic Approach

This is a PhD thesis that is situated in the social sciences' conceptual context and will explore to what extent electricity is not only a part of our lives, but also how and what it changes in relation to our perceptions of the world.  The particular focus of this research is on the images of electricity as created by individuals but circulated in and interpreted by communities and societies.

As electricity is unseen, all communication regarding energy and electricity (just like any other abstract idea) is achieved primarily through the use of images (including visual, narrative and performative types of images). There is a great variety of theoretical models that can enable in-depth analysis of these images and reveal human perceptions of electricity as well as the influence these perceptions can have on human decision-making processes, behaviors, and social interactions.  Images produced in times of turmoil due to a catalyst event are particularly poignant at excavating the unseen and unconsidered and provide opportunities for study, which cannot be conducted at other times. In this, thesis two case studies are presented and analyzed, namely Hurricane Sandy (2012) and Bulgarian Energy Protests (2013).  Specifically, the emphasis is on interpreting images from these two cases as signs - iconic signs and/or symbols - and on the consequent transformations of their elements when created and used in different social contexts.  The analysis of the empirical data is twofold: first thematic and content analyses followed by second, a semiotic analysis. 

The semiotic approach to studying images of electricity has not been attempted so far as extensively as it could – or indeed, should - be and it is used in this thesis to offer an alternative way of approaching electricity research and a different understanding of how electricity can shape or influence our views, values, and actions.  In other words, the major focus of the study is on images of electricity produced in times of turmoil, which are further analyzed as signs that are integrated into communication between individuals, within communities, and in a society and understood through the use of shared codes and contextual knowledge/experience.

Back to Previous PhD Projects