Special Issue: Images as Data

Visuals are a powerful communication tool. Images and videos can communicate information in a much more efficient and emotional way than their text or verbal counterfactuals, making them more likely to influence people’s attitudes and behavior. Moreover, visuals are a useful data source for measuring concepts that would otherwise be difficult to measure, such as the size of a protest, the sociodemographic characteristics of those attending a particular event, and ballot or any other type of document fraud. 

Recent years have seen an explosion of visual content (particularly online), which presents a methodological challenge for researchers. Manually coding and studying visuals is a very time-consuming task, and in turn, social scientists have often ignored them in their research. However, thanks to advances in computer vision, scholars can now use computational methods to automatically study and extract key information from visuals. 

Work across the social sciences has already started to leverage these methods to ask and answer innovative research questions. Growing the field even farther will require more substantive examples on how to use large-n visual information to answer theoretical questions of interest as well as more practical guides illustrating how people can use these computational methods in their own research. 

Computational Communication Research will fill these gaps by dedicating a special issue to images as data in social science research. In line with the identified needs, we welcome two different types of submissions:

  • [ A ] Research Articles: manuscripts using computational methods to study large datasets of images and/or videos in order to answer relevant theoretical questions in communications, political science, or the social sciences in general. 
  • [ B ] Workshop Articles: manuscripts explaining how to use an existing or novel computational method to study large datasets of visuals. Workshop manuscripts are expected to be very practical, to include open source code that readers can adapt for their own work, and to have clear recommendations about which fields/questions can benefit from the described method.

In both cases we welcome manuscripts combining visual data with other types of data (e.g. text, audio data). We highly encourage authors to discuss the ethics of their research (e.g. data collection, storage, replicability, privacy, biases) . 

Computational Communication Research is open access and completely free for authors and readers. You will retain copyright on your article and it will be published under a Creative Commons Attribution license. 

Submission Guidelines

All special issue extended abstracts should be submitted through the journal’s online system: https://computationalcommunication.org/ccr/about/submissions. In the "note to editor", please indicate that you are submitting to the special issue "Images as Data".

Extended abstracts are limited to 1,500 words (excluding a title page, references, tables, and figures) and should be single spaced. The abstracts should include the following sections to facilitate evaluation.

  1. Title page. The title page should include a title for your abstract, author(s) and affiliation(s), and a mention of the type of article you are submitting (research or workshop article).
  2. Proposed research (up to 1,000 words). For research articles, a brief introduction of relevant literature, research questions, hypotheses and methods. For workshop articles, a brief description of the computational method to be presented, what types questions can be unlocked and answered using the method, the data and cases you will use to illustrate the method, and details about the open source code you plan to share along with the piece.
  3. Timeline and milestones (up to 100 words). For example, when data will be collected and analyzed, and when sections of the draft will be completed. A concise table, chart, or bulletin list should be sufficient to summarize the information. 
  4. Contribution to social science research (up to 400 words). Describe the theoretical and empirical contributions of the proposed research to social science research broadly. How will this research impact scholarly communities moving forward?


Review criteria

The abstracts will be reviewed by the editors of the special issue (Andreu Casas and Nora Webb Williams), in consultation with relevant experts when necessary. Review criteria include how clearly the proposed research responds to the call of the special issue in addition to the research’s theoretical and empirical contributions to communication science, political science, or any other social science; methodological and scholarly rigor; broader impacts; and feasibility. Acceptance of abstracts to be developed into full paper submissions does not guarantee final publication in the special issue. All full paper submissions will be competitively peer-reviewed and reviewed by the editors.


  • Extended abstracts are due July 30th 2020
  • Decisions on the extended abstracts will be made by September 1st 2020
  • Full papers for accepted extended abstracts will be due January 15th, 2021. Papers will then be subject to external blind peer review.
  • Publication of final accepted articles is expected in the first half of 2021.


Inquiries for Guest Editors

Please feel free to contact the guest editors, Andreu Casas (a.casassalleras@uva.nl) and Nora Webb Williams (norawebbwilliams@gmail.com), if you have questions about additional details or whether your research fits the scope of the special issue.