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Lauren Alex O' Hagan

Research Associate in Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield

I am currently Research Associate in the Department of Sociological Studies at University of Sheffield, where I work on the AHRC-funded project 'Drones in Visual Culture: Developing a New Theory of Visual Mobile Communication'.

Previously, I held Postdoctoral Researcher roles in the Department of Media and Communication Studies at Örebro University (Sweden) and the Centre for Language and Communication Research at Cardiff University (UK), where she researched communication on healthy and sustainable foods and class conflict in Edwardian book inscriptions, respectively.

I obtained my PhD in 2018 (Centre for Language and Communication Research, Cardiff University) with a research project entitled 'Class, Culture and Conflict in the Edwardian Book Inscription: A Multimodal Ethnohistorical Approach'. As part of my doctorate, I developed an ethnohistorical approach to multimodality, which blends social semiotic analysis with archival and historical research, in order to gain a better understanding of the ways in which people contest or perpetuate their social class, using language and semiotics to perform identity.

I am passionate about interdisciplinary research and its real-life applications; my own work is strongly informed by my professional experience as an antiquarian bookshop manager, archive assistant and translator.

My research can be broadly split into four main strands:
1. Book inscriptions and performances of social class/power mediation: I have investigated how different class groups in the late 19th/early 20th century used book inscriptions to contest or perpetuate their class identities by using language, image, colour, typography, texture and materiality. An important aspect of this research has been unlocking the 'hidden histories' of working-class and lower-middle-class individuals who have typically been left out of official records of the Edwardian era.

2. Food advertising/packaging and public health communication: I have explored how food companies can circumvent legislation on food packaging and advertising by using semiotic resources to promote supposedly healthy eating discourses and convince consumers that a product is “healthy”. I have also investigated how marketers shape public understanding of science by drawing upon the meaning potentials of language and other semiotic resources.

3. Postcards and propaganda: I have a keen interest in the historical use of postcards to promote and spread political propaganda in a palatable format to the general public. My research interests lie particularly in the women’s suffrage movement and the Irish fight for Home Rule in the early 20th century.

4. Rock memorabilia: More recently, my attention has turned to rock memorabilia, particularly battle jackets, and how they are used by fans to signal individual and collective identity. I am also interested in ‘authentic fandom’ and participatory culture and have explored this in relation to such musicians as Rory Gallagher, Phil Lynott and Tom Petty.


  • 2021–present
    Research Associate, University of Sheffield
  • 2020–2020
    Researcher, Örebro University
  • 2019–2020
    Postdoctoral Research Associate, Cardiff University
  • 2019–2019
    Visiting Scholar, Örebro University
  • 2016–2018
    Research Assistant, Cardiff University