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Dr. Roswitha Breckner, Associate Professor

Foto: Luiza Puiu
Address:Rooseveltplatz 2, 1090 Vienna, Austria
Phone: +43 (1) 4277-48217
Fax:+43 (1) 4277-49109
E-Mail: roswitha.breckner@univie.ac.at
Consultation:on Wednesdays, 2-3 pm
outside of term-time by arrangement only

Current research

  • Visual Sociology
  • Methodology and methods of Interpretive Picture Analysis / Segment Analysis
  • Theories

Other research fields

  • Biographical Research
  • Migration processes from „Eastern“ to „Western“ Europe During the Cold War
  • Social Policy from a biographical perspective
  • The impact of the Nazi past on German and Austrian biographies of different generations

Research Projects 

  • Visual Biographies in a connected lifeworld (VIS_BIO)

The research project VIS_BIO examines how new visual communication practices in social media relate to shifts in the construction of biographies.With the emergence and spread of new communication technologies, especially in social media, new forms of networked visual communication are developing by the intensive use of images. The project asks to what extent these forms of communication relate to processes of constructing biographies. Do we see a continuation of well-known vernacular ways of creating biographies visually, e.g. by organizing one‟s life in photo albums? Or are we dealing with a fundamental change that leaves traditional practices of telling and showing one's biography in different social contexts behind? In other words: Are biographical practices in social media different or similar to traditional narrative and pictorial construction processes of biographies? The starting point of the analysis are Facebook profiles and biographical-narrative interviews of selected persons as well as short-term ethnographic observations of online and offline media usage. The aim is to provide the data base of a long-term study to capture changes in communication practices and their impact on processes of constructing biographies.
The project is led by Roswitha Breckner and will be realized together with Maria Schreiber (Post-Doc), Elisabeth Mayer (Prae-Doc) and Anna Weisser (Student Assistant).
It is funded by the Vienna Anniversary Fund for the Austrian Academy of Sciences from October 2017 until September 2018.
Link: www.visbio.univie.ac.at

  • Visual Biographies on Facebook. A Methodological Approach to Old and New Ways of Constructing Biographies
    With the rapidly developing online-communication new practices of creating images of the self, of biographies and identities occur. However, we also can observe continuation of socially established practices to produce ‘snapshot versions’ of our lives (Chalfen 1987).
    In my project I explore the specific relation of textual and pictorial narratives in Facebook-communication as to understand how biographies are created visually, especially by organising photographs in albums. By analysing the visual performance of contrasting examples of Facebook-communication, I introduce a specific combination of visual and narration-based methodologies as in-depth case reconstruction. By the method of Visual Segment Analyses (Breckner 2010; 2012), selected images will be interpreted as to reveal implicit configurations of visual self-presentation. Visual Segment Analysis reconstructs how from the relationship and formal organisation of various pictorial elements an image emerges, thereby creating, at the moment of viewing, partly determinable and partly indeterminate meanings and connotations in discursive contexts. These analyses are complemented by hermeneutic text analyses of captions and comments with which the interactional contexts and the negotiation of the meanings of the images is reconstructed. 
    The following questions guide the analysis: What kinds of experiences are visually constructed? In what way did the manner of creating visual images of oneself change and which stylistic forms of portraying and photographing social situations prevail? To what extent are traditional ways and functions of creating photo albums (Chalfen 1987; Hirsch 1997/2002; Pauwels 2008; Rose 2010) continued by means of new technology, and in what way new patterns of ‘doing biography’ emerge?
    With in-depth-case analyses I provide insights to how the concept of ‘biography’ that has developed as a relevant social practice in modern societies undergoes more or less deep changes in the ongoing media shift.
    Self-financed project. Third-part funding applications in process.
  • Pictures in the social world - the social world of pictures. An interpretive approach to analysing visual data in the social sciences
    Habilitation project (2001 - 2009), funded by appointments as lecturer at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration (2001 - 2004); university assistant at the Institute of Sociology, University of Vienna (2004 - 2009); and a four month research fellowship at the International Institute for Cultural Research in Vienna (IFK) (2003-2004)
    The project resultet in a book "Sozialtheorie des Bildes. Zur interpretativen Analyse von Bildern und Fotografien", 2010, Bielefeld: transcript
  • Migration experiences – ‘Strangeness’ – Biography. On dea­ling with polarised worlds in Eastern and Western Europe
    PhD project, self-financed, 1993 - 2001
    The project resulted in the publication of a book, “Migrationserfahrung – Fremdheit – Biographie. Zum Umgang mit polarisierten Welten in Ost-West-Europa” in 2005. The first edition sold out in summer 2008. A second edition appeared 2009. 
  • The impact of World War II-experiences on the lives of Austrian men born between 1910 and 1938
    Independently initiated third-party project, funded by the Vorarlberg Regional Council, January 1997 - December 2001
  • Interview project with witnesses of National Socialism
    Independently initiated third-party project, funded by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), Washington, January 1999 - March 2000
  • Social Strategies in Risk Societies (SOSTRIS)
    EU project, 6th framework programme ‘Targeted Socio-Economic Research (TSER)’, Area 3: Research on Social Exclusion and Social Inclusion, 1996 - 1999
    General co-ordination: Prof Mike Rustin, Dr Prue Chamberlayne (Senior Researcher) at the University of East London
  • The impact of the Nazi past and war experiences in childhood on the generation born during the war
    PhD project, funded by a scholarship from the Protestant Study Foundation of Germany, 1989 - 1991
  • Community participation in the process of urban renewal in a Berlin district (Tiergarten)
    Project commissioned by a district council in Berlin, based on a two-year research appointment
  • Everyday life history of a co-operative housing estate in Berlin, from the Weimar Republic until 1958
    A project of the Berlin History Workshop, financed by the Senate of Berlin as part of the 750th Berlin anniversary celebrations, 1984 – 1987
  • ‘Sound Spaces’ 
    Research development project at the Technical University of Berlin, funded by the Commission for Fostering Young Academics, 1984 - 1985
  • Life histories and regional history. An account of the development of the industrial region of Solingen during the Weimar Republic and National Socialism, reconstructed by means of records and the life stories of social democrats and communists.
    Student Research project at the Free University of Berlin, Institute of Sociology, in conjunction with the trade union, DGB-Kreis Solingen, 1981 - 1984.



Department of Sociology
University of Vienna
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A-1090 Vienna

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