Visual Communication Studies Division

Conference Call for Papers

Mary Angela Bock, Program Planner 

University of Texas at Austin, School of Journalism

300 W. Dean Keeton A1000 BMC 3.360

Austin, TX 78702-1073

Pronouns: she, her, hers

The Visual Communication Studies (VCS) Division of ICA invites your submissions to the 2021 annual meeting in Denver, Colorado.  Our Division seeks to enhance the understanding of the visual in all its forms, from still and moving images in television, video, film and photography to layouts and displays in art and design, print and digital media, space and the built environment. The VCS Division provides a unique forum for the discussion of theory and research in the creation, processing, function, meaning, and critical consequences of visual communication, encompassing diverse research traditions from the social sciences and the humanities. As an area that intersects with other communication fields and ICA Divisions, the VCS Division welcomes interdisciplinary study as well as targeted analyses of all aspects of the visual communication experience, including perception, production, distribution, representation, circulation, reception, use, and interpretation. 

In keeping with the 2021 general conference theme, “Engaging the Essential Work of Care: Communication, Connectedness, and Social Justice,” individual submissions and session proposals that address ideas and practices of care in its many forms in the field of visual communication research – whether conceptually, methodologically, and/or empirically – are encouraged. 

The 2021 Conference will be planned from the start as a hybrid (dual online/in person) conference. Participants will have the option to choose whether to attend as an in-person attendee (with simultaneous access to the virtual space) or as a “virtual only” attendee using the online platform. 

The VCS Division invites paper, extended abstract and poster (interactive paper) submissions, as well as pre-constituted session proposals, including panels, roundtables, hybrid high-density sessions and proposals for innovative presentational formats focusing on visual communication in the broadest sense. All proposals are evaluated through a blind peer review process along the following criteria: relevance for the study of the visual; level of innovation/originality; conceptual/theoretical rigor; analytical/methodological rigor; and robustness of argumentation and conclusions. 

The VCS Division strives to be inclusive. Empirical, theoretical and methodological submissions are encouraged. However, submissions that only nominally concern visual media, without exploring or addressing issues that are specifically visual in nature will be at a competitive disadvantage. Completed papers and fully developed session proposals are preferred but extended abstracts will be considered.

Proposals for pre-constituted sessions that include contributions from at least two different countries, feature gender balance, and include not more than one contributor from a single faculty, department or school will be viewed most favorably. 

Submission formats

The VCS Division accepts following types of submissions:

Full papers and extended abstracts will typically be programmed as a traditional paper session with 4-5 presentations. However, when submitting a full paper or extended abstract proposal, please indicate in the notes section whether your work would also be suitable to the visual/interactive format of the poster presentation, and whether you would be willing or not to present it in the conference-wide interactive paper session. 

In addition, the VCS Division also welcomes pre-constituted session proposals, including:

Acceptable formats include: 

If you are interested in having your pre-constituted session co-sponsored with another division or interest group, please indicate this in the notes section when submitting and notify the program planner via email at the time of submission. 

ICA also accommodates Blue Sky Workshops (BSWs), or “open conversation meetings dedicated to specific future research challenges” (e.g. new research strategies, best-practices recommendations), which enable active discussion among all attendants and, therefore, should be limited to approximately 20 participants. Please note that BSWs are NOT bound to ICA divisions but are managed by a separate work team and assigned at the discretion of the overall program planner and the ICA executive director. Proposals should contain a session title, the name and contact information of the proposing session chair, a brief summary for the conference program (120 words) as well as a longer description of the topic, goals, and planned schedule of the session (up to 500 words). BSWs are typically held in rooms without audiovisual capabilities. If you need A/V for your BSW you must make that clear on your proposal. Proposals for BSWs can be submitted through the paper submission website as well and adhere to the same deadlines. 


All submissions should be accompanied by a file that is uploaded to the ICA Conference website. Video/multi-media uploads should be embedded as links in a paper rather than as separate uploads. Please double-check to make sure that uploads are successful. To insure against technical problems, early submission is strongly encouraged. 

All paper, extended abstract and poster submissions must be anonymized, or else they will be disqualified. Student submissions should be clearly identified as such so that they may be considered for the student paper competition. Papers coauthored by students and faculty are not considered student papers. Each paper, extended abstract or poster submission should include the word count on the cover page. Individual submissions should adhere to general ICA guidelines but the word limits stated in this CFP take precedence.

All submissions must be made online, no later than 12:00 noon EST,  Friday, 6 November 2020. 

Please note that submitting a paper, extended abstract or poster proposal entails the commitment on the part of at least one author of an accepted submission to present this work at ICA 2021 as a registered attendee for the hybrid or online-only conference. Likewise, each participant in a pre-constituted session must be willing to register for and attend the conference in (person or online) if the proposal is accepted.

Awards & travel grants

The VCS Division recognizes excellence by granting (monetary) awards to top-ranked paper and poster submissions. There are separate competitions for faculty, student, and poster/interactive papers. The awards will be presented at the Division’s business meeting. 

Student members of the VCS Division can apply for a divisional travel grant by writing a letter of inquiry stipulating the conditions of their request for funding (including (estimated) travel expenses and budget) and sending a C.V. to the 2021 program planner ( by Friday, 19 February 2021. There is no set amount to this grant and its allocation depends on the funds available and on how many apply and with what kind of needs. 

Call for reviewers

The VCS Division is a particularly vibrant community which puts high premium on a thorough, qualitative review of submissions. Therefore, we are deeply grateful to all faculty members and PhD students who volunteer as a reviewer, and thus actively contribute to the high-quality program the Division stands for. To do so, please go to the ICA paper submission site and then click “Volunteer to be a Reviewer”. Reviews will be assigned based on the keywords and personal information provided in your member profile. We strive towards a number of 3-4 assignments per reviewer, which may include all types of submission formats mentioned above. 

Please note that if you submit, you will be added to the reviewer pool, which implies that you may be called upon to aid in the review process in case the number of volunteers does not allow to cover the volume of submissions received in a reasonable fashion. 

As a way of recognizing the contribution of volunteer reviewers and to encourage quality feedback, the VCS Division also grants a conference fee waiver to a ‘top reviewer’ whose reviews are many and whose feedback to authors is constructive, encouraging, and demonstrates a close reading. 


Any questions concerning this CFP, or general queries regarding the VCS Division’s ICA 2021 program, including pre- and post-conference proposals, should be directed to the program planner, Mary Angela Bock,