My research concentrates upon using quantitative methods to assist in the iconographic analysis of viral imagery. By using data provided from social media platforms, I look at users’ patterns of sharing and commentary, and demonstrate how those patterns are connected to long-standing image practices and themes. Some of these go back millennia, and I argue that they structure what we see.


PhD Visual Studies, 2018 (projected), Manchester Metropolitan University. Thesis title: “Algorithmic Iconography: Intersections between Iconography and Social Media Image Research”.
MA Information Studies, 1996, University of Sheffield. Thesis title: “The Use of Internet Technologies as Alternative Resources for Teaching the History of Art”.
MA History of Art, 1995, Princeton University.
BA History of Art, New College of Florida. Thesis title: “Imago Meditationis: The Role of Devotional Practice in Fifteenth-Century Flemish Art”.


(2018). “Iconography for the Age of Social Media“. Humanities 7(1).

(2016). (with An Xiao Mina). “An Art-Historical Perspective on the Baton Rouge Protest Photo that Went Viral“. At: HyperAllergic.

(2016) “The Visual Propaganda of the Brexit Leave Campaign“. At: HyperAllergic.

(2015). “On the Iconology of Aylan Kurdi, Alone”. In: Vis, F. and O. Goriunova (eds), The Iconic Image on Social Media: A Rapid Research Response to the Death of Aylan Kurdi. pp 47 Sheffield: Visual Social Media Lab, pp. 47—49. Sheffield: Visual Social Media Lab.


(2018). (with An Xiao Mina). “Dictator Selfies and a Superhero Trailer: Glimpses of the New Propaganda from Trump’s Recent Summits“. At: HyperAllergic.
(2017). “Interview: Ray Drainville on the Images We Use“. At: The New Floridian.
(2015). “Aylan Kurdi—Iconography in Action“. University of Sheffield Channel. At: YouTube.

Talks: Conferences, workshops, and invitations

2018. “Algorithmic Iconography: Method and Practice” at the Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business of the University of Waterloo, Stratford, Ontario, Canada, 22 August 2018.

2018. “Pathosformeln and Visual Habitus in Times of Conflict“. In “Pictures of War: The Still Image in Conflict since 1945”. Manchester, UK: Manchester Metropolitan University, 24 May 2018.

2017. “The Iconography of Social Media Image Analysis: Exploring the Potential of Methodological Transversals in Practice“. In “New Theories and Methods for the Study of Social Media Images Within and Beyond Academia”. San Diego, USA: 67th Annual International Communication Conference, 26 May 2017.

2017. “Iconography of Social Media Imagery: Introduction to Method” (plus practical workshop). In “Developing New Approaches for Analysing Social Media Images”. Barcelona, Spain: Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), 18 February 2017.

2016. “Fig Leaves and Brexit Ads: The Coded Images of the UKIP and Vote Leave Campaigns“. In “Culture and the Politics of Data”. Sheffield, UK: University of Sheffield, 10 October 2016.

2016. “On the Iconology of Alan Kurdi: The Emergence of Sympathy”. In “The Impact of an Image”. Oslo, Norway: Forskerkollektivet, 2 September 2016.

2016. “Interdisciplinary Research and the History of Art: Reflections on an Origin of a Discipline”. In “Picturing the Social”, Manchester, UK: Manchester Metropolitan University, 21 June 2016.


College Art Association (USA)
Association of Art Historians (UK)

Raymond Drainville

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