Creative reconstructions of political imagery in an Instagram-based election campaign: implications for visual rhetorical literacy

    Katarzyna Molek-Kozakowska   Affiliation
    ; Agnieszka Kampka   Affiliation


This article reviews literature on visual rhetoric in political campaigning and synthesizes several strands of current research devoted to the rhetorical potential of communicating with visuals in online environments. It uses rhetorical concepts of identification and manoeuvring, as well as the category of topos, to discuss the implications of an abductive analysis of a coded corpus of 1976 Instagram images posted during 2019 election to the European Parliament campaign in Poland. On this basis, the article offers recommendations related to the awareness of topoi in visual rhetoric to foster users’ creative inventory. In the context of increasingly strategically designed and creative online political communications, scholarship should offer guidance on how to parse images according to how they (mis)represent political reality to fit the purposes of elite communicators, and how to challenge them.

Keyword : creative reconstruction, Instagram, political campaign, rhetorical literacy, topos, visual manoeuvring

How to Cite
Molek-Kozakowska, K., & Kampka, A. (2021). Creative reconstructions of political imagery in an Instagram-based election campaign: implications for visual rhetorical literacy. Creativity Studies, 14(2), 307-322.
Published in Issue
Aug 18, 2021
Abstract Views
PDF Downloads
Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Borgerson, J. L., & Schroeder, J. E. (2005). Identity in marketing communications: an ethics of visual representation. In A. J. Kimmel (Ed.), Marketing communication: new approaches, technologies, and styles (pp. 256–277). Oxford University Press.

Burke, K. (1969). A rhetoric of motives. University of California Press.

Champagne, M., & Pietarinen, A.-V. (2020). Why images cannot be arguments, but moving ones might. Argumentation, 34, 207–236.

Conole, G., & Dyke, M. (2004). What are the affordances of information and communication technologies? ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 12(2), 113–124.

Dan, V., & Arendt, F. (2021). Visual cues to the hidden agenda: investigating the effects of ideology-related visual subtle backdrop cues in political communication. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 26(1), 22–45.

DeLuca, K. M. (2006). The speed of immanent images: the dangers of reading photographs. In D. S. Hope (Ed.), Visual communication: perception, rhetoric, and technology (pp. 79–90). Papers from the William A. Kern Conferences in Visual Communication. Rochester Institute of Technology. Hampton Press.

Driessens, O., Raeymaeckers, K., Verstraeten, H., & Vandenbussche, S. (2010). Personalization according to politicians: A practice theoretical analysis of mediatization. Communications: European Journal of Communication Research, 35(3), 309–326.

Edwards, J. L. (2012). Visual literacy and visual politics: photojournalism and the 2004 presidential debates. Communication Quarterly, 60(5), 681–697.

Eemeren, van F., Garssen, B., & Meuffels, B. (2009). Argumentation library: Vol. 16. Fallacies and judgments of reasonableness: empirical research concerning the pragma-dialectical discussion rules. Springer.

Eemeren, van F. H., & Houtlosser, P. (1999). Strategic manoeuvring in Argumentative Discourse. Discourse Studies, 1(4), 479–497.

Erickson, K. V. (2000). Presidential rhetoric’s visual turn: performance fragments and the politics of illusionism. Communication Monographs, 67(2), 138–157.

Fenton, N., & Barassi, V. (2011). Alternative media and social networking sites: the politics of individuation and political participation. The Communication Review, 14(3), 179–196.

Frosh, P. (2002). Rhetorics of the overlooked: on the communicative modes of stock advertising images. Journal of Consumer Culture, 2(2), 171–196.

Holtz-Bacha, Ch., Novelli, E., & Rafter, K. (Eds.). (2017). Political Advertising in the 2014 European Parliament Elections. Palgrave Macmillan.

Janks, H. (2010). Literacy and power. In S. Nieto (Ed.), Language, culture, and teaching. Routledge.

Kampka, A., & Molek-Kozakowska, K. (2020). Instagram w autoprezentacji politycznej. Analiza wizualna postów polskich kandydatów do Europarlamentu w 2019. Polityka i Społeczeństwo, 1(18), 41–62.

Lehmuskallio, A., Häkkinen, J., & Seppänen, J. (2019). Photorealistic computer-generated images are difficult to distinguish from digital photographs: a case study with professional photographers and photo-editors. Visual Communication, 18(4), 427–451.

Livingstone, S. (2004). Media literacy and the challenge of new information and communication technologies. The Communication Review, 7(1), 3–14.

Machin, D. (2007). Introduction to multimodal analysis. Hodder Education.

McKeon, R. (1973). Creativity and the commonplace. Philosophy and Rhetoric, 6(4), 199–210.

Messaris, P. (2012). Visual “Literacy” in the digital age. Review of Communication, 12(2), 101–117.

Mourćo, R. R., & Robertson, C. T. (2019). Fake news as discursive integration: an analysis of sites that publish false, misleading, hyperpartisan and sensational information. Journalism Studies, 20(14), 2077–2095.

NapoleonCat. (2019). Instagram users in Poland: May 2019.

Ott, B. L., & Dickinson, G. (2009). Visual rhetoric and/as critical pedagogy. In A. A. Lunsford, K. H. Wilson, & R. A. Eberly (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of rhetorical studies (pp. 391–406). SAGE Publications, Inc.

Phillips, K. R. (2018). “The safest hands are our own”: Cinematic affect, state cruelty, and the election of Donald J. Trump. Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 15(1), 85–89.

Ravelli, L. J., & Leeuwen, van Th. (2018). Modality in the digital age. Visual Communication, 17(3), 277–297.

Roozenbeek, J., & Linden, van der S. (2019). The fake news game: actively inoculating against the risk of misinformation. Journal of Risk Research, 22(5), 570–580.

Seo, H. (2014). Visual propaganda in the age of social media: an empirical analysis of Twitter images during the 2012 Israeli–Hamas conflict. Visual Communication Quarterly, 21(3), 150–161.

Sheridan, D. M., Ridolfo, J., & Michel, A. J. (2005). The available means of persuasion: mapping a theory and pedagogy of multimodal public rhetoric. Journal of Rhetoric, Culture, and Politics, 2(4), 803–844.

Tuunanen, Y., & Hirsto, H. (2018). Civic voice in multimodal news narratives. In M. Patrona (Ed.), Crisis and the media: discourse approaches to politics, society and culture (pp. 205–229). John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Veneti, A., Jackson, D., & Lilleker, D. G. (Eds.). (2019). Visual political communication. Palgrave Macmillan.

Warnick, B., & Heineman, D. S. (2012). Rhetoric online: the politics of new media. In B. Gronbeck & M. S. McKinney (General Eds.), Frontiers in political communication: Vol. 22. Peter Lang.

Young, M., & Kendall, C. (2009). The consequences of rhetoric and literacy: power, persuasion, and pedagogical implications. In A. A. Lunsford, K. H. Wilson, & R. A. Eberly (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of rhetorical studies (pp. 335–352). SAGE Publications, Inc.