The dis/ablement of bodies in semiotic landscapes – a citizen science approach

Stina Ericsson, Daniel Wojahn, Lilian Müller, Per-Olof Hedvall

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Much of our built environment is constructed to accommodate ‘normate’ (Garland-Thomson 1996; Hamraie 2017) bodies. This fact may remain invisible to normate users of public space, much as the ordering of human interaction through categorisation is often invisible (Bowker & Star 1999). Reading semiotic landscapes through the dis/abling (Campbell 1999) of bodies that (attempt to) move through them, in this talk we investigate how dis/ablised bodies and places are co-constituted and how hegemonic constructions of space can be noticed and problematised.

Data was collected using a citizen science approach (e.g. Purschke 2017), whereby the public were invited to contribute data on experiences of categorisation in relation to exclusion and inclusion in public places. This was done using a purpose-designed app. Participants were encouraged to take and submit photos, write a comment about the photo and their experience, and to select one of three emotions, viz. happy, sad, or angry. To date, around 100 submissions have been collected.

Data is analysed using visual multimodal analysis (Ledin and Machin 2018, expanded to include movement through, and presence in, space, as well as properties ascribed to the particular body acting in the place). This is also combined with a critical, multimodal discourse approach to dis/ability (cf. Grue 2015; Machin, Caldas-Coulthard & Milani 2016).

The data includes examples of both ablement and disablement. Participants’ choices and descriptions of physical objects and places (signs, the placement of buttons to be pressed, contrast markings, etc.) reveal bodily requirements (linguistic competences, body height and dexterity, sight, etc.) and pinpoint the body in the landscape.

The talk adds to the field of Linguistic Landscapes by considering the dis/ablement of users in semiotic settings of signs and the built environment. It also adds to the field by further developing citizen science approaches to linguistic landscapes.

Bowker, G.C. & Star, S.L. 1999. Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Campbell, F. 1999. ‘Refleshingly Disabled’: Interrogations into the Corporeality of ‘Disablised’ Bodies. Australian Feminist Law Journal 12 (1): 57–80.

Garland-Thomson, R. 1996. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. 1st ed. Columbia University Press.

Grue, J. 2011. Discourse Analysis and Disability: Some Topics and Issues. Discourse & Society 22 (5): 532–546.

Hamraie, A. 2017. Building Access: Universal Design and the Politics of Disability. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Ledin, P. & Machin, D. 2018. Doing Visual Analysis: From Theory to Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Machin, D., Caldas-Coulthard, C.R. & Milani, T. 2016. Doing critical multimodality in research on gender, language and discourse. Gender and Language, 10(3): 301–308.

Purschke, C. (2017). Crowdsourcing the linguistic landscape of a multilingual country. Introducing Lingscape in Luxembourg. Linguistik Online, 85(6).
Original languageSwedish
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventLL12 The political economy of language and space/place - University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden
Duration: 2021 Sept 12021 Sept 3


ConferenceLL12 The political economy of language and space/place
Internet address

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Human Geography

Free keywords

  • Universal Design
  • Dis/Ability
  • Citizen Science

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