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Lauren Alex O'Hagan

Research Associate, The Open University

I am a Research Associate in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies at the Open University and a Visiting Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Media and Communication Studies at Örebro University. I previously worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Örebro University (Communication of 'Good' Foods and Healthy Lifestyles project), the University of Sheffield (Drones in Visual Culture project) and Cardiff University (Reading, Writing and... Rebellion project). I hold a PhD in Language and Communication (Cardiff University), MA in Applied Linguistics (Cardiff University) and BA Hons in Modern Language Studies (Open University), as well as professional qualifications in Spanish, Italian, French, Teaching English as a Foreign Language and Archive Management.

I am an experienced historical sociolinguist with extensive knowledge in the practical applications of visual analysis techniques, specialising particularly in visual social semiotics and multimodal critical discourse analysis. My work largely concerns late nineteenth/early twentieth century material culture, social class and identity, with past projects exploring book inscriptions, propaganda postcards and food advertisements from this perspective. My current research 'Selling Healthy Lifestyles with Science: A Transhistorical Study of Food and Drink Marketing in the UK and Sweden' is concerned with how science has been used historically in food marketing to convince consumers that products are ‘healthy’. I also have a growing interest in music memorabilia and (online) fandoms, and am the co-creator and co-writer of the Rewriting Rory blog, which focuses on the last ten years in the career of Irish blues musician Rory Gallagher.

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, posters and propaganda: I have a keen interest in the historical use of postcards and posters 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, but I have also researched the 1922 prohibition referendum in Sweden.

4. Music memorabilia, memories and identities: More recently, my attention has turned to music memorabilia, particularly battle jackets and tour t-shirts, and how they are used by fans to signal individual and collective identity. I am also also interested in (online) fandoms, participatory culture and media representations of musicians, and has explored this in relation to Rory Gallagher, Phil Lynott and Tom Petty. My interests also lie particularly in the history, sociology and musicology of 20th-century Irish popular music.


  • 2022–present
    Research associate, Open University
  • 2020–present
    Researcher, Örebro University
  • 2020–2021
    Research associate, Sheffield University
  • 2019–2020
    Postdoctoral Research Associate, Cardiff University
  • 2019–2019
    Visiting Scholar, Örebro University
  • 2016–2018
    Research Assistant, Cardiff University