The (Semiotics of) Social Aesthetics in an Elite School in Singapore: An Ethnographic Study

  • Aaron KohEmail author
Part of the Cultural Studies and Transdisciplinarity in Education book series (CSTE)


The attention to the visual field is making significant methodological contribution in ethnographic research. Yet there is no one definitive ‘method’ and ‘theory’ agreed upon to deal with visual data because new (mobile) technologies and theoretical explorations are changing the methodological palette of doing ethnography. Indeed contemporary ethnography is but an evolving field. This chapter considers the methodological contribution of ‘social aesthetics’ to ethnography with a view to critique it. As a point of departure, specific to the ethnographic fieldwork conducted in an elite school in Singapore, taken from the bigger ‘Elite Independent Schools in globalizing circumstances: a multi-sited global ethnography’ project, this chapter argues for a semiotic turn to ethnography. Informed by a theory of semiotics, it is argued that the visual saturation in the school warrants a closer examination of the semiosis in the visual-scape of the school that also contributes to ethnographic knowing. The chapter introduces semiotic ecology as a new conceptual and methodological framework to think about epistemology, design and educational research that brings together the visual field, semiotics and contemporary ethnography.


Visual Data Service Learn Photo Image Ethnographic Fieldwork Mineral Water Bottle 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore

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