Indigenous children’s multimodal communication of emotions through visual imagery

Kathy A. Mills*, Alberto Bellocchi, Roger Patulny, Jane Dooley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Billions of images are shared worldwide on the internet via social platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and Twitter every few days. The social web and mobile devices make it quicker and easier than ever before for young people to communicate emotions through digital images. There is a need for greater knowledge of how to educate children and young people formally in the sophisticated, multimodal language of emotions. This includes semiotic choices in visual composition, such as gaze, facial expression, posture, framing, actor-goal relations, camera angles, backgrounds, props, lighting, shadows and colour. In particular, enabling Indigenous students to interpret and communicate emotions in contemporary ways is vital because multimodal language skills are central to academic, behavioural and social outcomes. This paper reports original research of urban, Indigenous, upper primary students’ visual imagery at school. A series of full-day, digital imagery workshops were conducted over several weeks with 56 students. The photography workshops formed part of a three-year participatory community research project with an Indigenous school in Southeast Queensland, Australia. The archived student images were organised and analysed to identify attitudinal meanings from the appraisal framework, tracing types and subtypes of affect, and their positive and negative forms. The research has significant implications for teaching students how to design high-quality, visual and digital images to evoke a wide range of positive and negative emotions, with particular considerations for Australian Indigenous students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-108
Number of pages14
JournalAustralian Journal of Language and Literacy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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