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Dr Lauren O'Hagan

Profile summary

Professional biography

Dr Lauren Alex O'Hagan is a Research Fellow in the School of Languages and Applied Linguistics at the Open University and an Affiliated Researcher in the Department of Media and Communication Studies at Örebro University. She has previously held postdoctoral researcher roles 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). She has 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.

Lauren is 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. Her work largely concerns late nineteenth/early twentieth-century material culture, multimodal literacy practices and performances of (class) identity in the context of Britain, Ireland and Sweden, with past projects focused on book inscriptions, postcards, food advertisements and WW1 trench art. Her current research 'Food Marketing and Selling Healthy Lifestyles with Science: Transhistorical Perspectives' is concerned with how science has been used historically in food marketing to convince consumers that products are ‘healthy’. 

Lauren also has a strong interest in ethnomusicology, particularly in the context of Ireland. Her interests include music memorabilia, media representations of Irish musicians, (online) fandoms and expressions of parasocial grief and collective mourning on social media. Lauren has used novel research methods to explore such topics, combining autoethnography with geosemiotics, putting forward the concept of "semiotic musicscapes" to extend our understanding of semiotic landscapes. She has published extensively on the Irish blues musician Rory Gallagher and is the co-creator and co-writer of the Rewriting Rory blog, which focuses on the last ten years in Gallagher's career. Her work with Rewriting Rory has received international acclaim, featuring in media publications and putting her in contact with a wide range of musicians and photographers, as well as relatives and friends of Gallagher.

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

Research interests

Lauren's research can be broadly split into four main strands:

1. Book inscriptions, multimodal literacy and performances of social class: She has 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: She has traced how language and other semiotic resources have historically been used by food companies to promote supposedly healthy eating discourses and convince consumers that products are “healthy". She has also explored the historical origins of seemingly contemporary food fads, as well as the long history of scientific discourse in food marketing.
3. Postcards, posters and propaganda: She has 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. Her research interests lie particularly in the UK women’s suffrage movement and the Irish fight for Home Rule in the early 20th century, but she has also researched the 1922 prohibition referendum in Sweden.
4. Music memorabilia, memories and identities: She has researched music memorabilia, particularly items of clothing and personal possessions, and how they are used by fans to signal individual and collective identity. She is also interested in (online) fandoms, participatory culture and expressions of parasocial grief and collective mourning on social media, as well as media representations of Irish musicians. Her interests also lie more generally in the history, sociology and musicology of 20th-century Irish popular music, particularly the music and life of blues musician Rory Gallagher.

To see an up-to-date list of all Lauren's publications, click here

Teaching interests

Although Lauren’s current role does not involve teaching or supervision responsibilities, she has previous experience in these areas within university and college settings. She has taught Sociolinguistics at undergraduate and postgraduate level (Cardiff University), and English as a Foreign Language in the community with international students, migrants and refugees (Cardiff and Vale College). She has supervised MA students in Strategic Communication (Örebro University, Sweden) and research assistants on her Reading, Writing and Rebellion project (Cardiff University).

Lauren currently helps convene the Open University's Language, Literature and Politics (LLP) Research Group, which brings together researchers investigating the relationship between language, literature (literary criticism and creative writing) and politics in the widest variety of contexts.

Impact and engagement

Collaborations and Connections (selected)

  • The Rory Gallagher Estate: Helped source and research archival items from Gallagher's 1990 UK tour for the All Around Man: Live in London (2023) release (credit in album's liner notes)
  • Heavy Metal Therapy: Produced blog posts about her own personal mental health experiences and music, and helped develop resources about the link between battle jackets and mental health
  • Actively Learn: Provided an easy-access version of her research on St Patrick’s Day and nationalism in Edwardian Ireland that can be used by secondary school and college pupils
  • Futurum: Translated her research on drones in visual culture into free educational resources that can be used by 14-19-year-olds interested in working in STEM and SHAPE

Exhibitions and Events (selected)

  • Museum in a Box: Creation of 10 digital collections based on her book inscription research to facilitate long-distance learning on social history and visual studies
  • Views from the Blue Digital Exhibition: Development and curation of a digital exhibition, which uses drone photography as a means of encouraging viewers to reflect on how drones have created new ways of visualising our world
  • Prize Books and Politics Digital Exhibition: Development and curation of a digital exhibition, which used images of book inscriptions to tell the stories of working-class individuals.
  • Family History Show: Ran a stall offering expert advice to the general public about how to use book inscriptions to research their family history. 

Interviews/Keynotes/Podcasts (selected)

  • Invited Keynote Speaker: most recently at DN29:Visiolinguistics (2023), Lancaster University Literacy Research Centre (2021) and University of Leicester History and Politics Postgraduate Conference (2020)
  • Darton Watch Podcast: Developed and hosted a 20-minute episode on her book inscription research
  • BBC Berkshire Radio Interview: Discussed her research on the pineapple as a status symbol


  • Winner of 2023 Cobh Readers and Writers International Poetry Competition"Immortality"
  • Outstanding Paper, 2022 Emerald Literati Awards: "Commercialising Public Health During the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu Pandemic in Britain"
  • Outstanding Reviewer, 2022 Emerald Literati Awards: Journal of Historical Research in Marketing
  • 2021 Outstanding Postdoc Award, University of Sheffield


  • Open University Research Development Funding (2023): Research trip to Sweden in support of forthcoming edited volume on food marketing
  • Open University Open Learn Funding (2023): Development of a hub on online music fandoms and mental health
  • Open University Research Development Funding (2023): Scoping activities for a project on the material culture of menstruation
  • Cardiff University Innovation Fund (2020): Purchase of Museum in a Box and support activities
  • ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship (2019-2020): "‘Reading, Writing… and Rebellion: Understanding Literacies and Class Conflict Through the Edwardian Book Inscription"
  • Cardiff University Innovation Fund (2017): Support to undertake a30-credit Master’s level course in Archive Management 


External collaborations

Lauren is an Associate Fellow of both the Higher Education Academy and Royal Historical Society. She currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Victorian Culture and has served as peer reviewer for: Visual Communication, Gender and Language, Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Rock Music Studies, Popular Music and Society and Social Sciences, amongst other journals. She has also offered consultancy to the BBC, Heavy Metal Therapy, Sur in English, Echo Magazine, Sprudge and bookplate clubs in the UK and Australia.

She is currently a member of the following research groups and associations:

  • Edwardian Culture Network (since 2015)
  • British Association for Victorian Studies (since 2018)
  • FoodKom (since 2019)
  • Cosmetic Makeup and History Study Network (since 2022)
  • Digital Correspondence Community Interest Group (2023)
  • Discourse Net (2023)
  • Health Communication Special Interest Group (2023)

In 2021, she served as co-director of the Digital Society Network at the University of Sheffield.

As a member of FoodKom, Lauren frequently collaborates with researchers in the Department of Media and Communication Studies at Örebro University. To date, she has written three papers with Prof. Göran Eriksson on the marketing of radium-based products (Science Communication), cod liver oil (Food and Foodways) and the cough drop Läkerol (Social History of Medicine) in early twentieth-century Sweden. They are currently working on an edited volume to be published with Routledge in summer 2024. Through her work with FoodKom, Lauren has also collaborated with Dr Lame Maatla Kenalemang-Palm on a project exploring NIVEA sunscreen advertisements and Prof. Leif Runefelt on a project exploring quack medicines, including cannabis-infused food products and Phospho-Energon.

Away from FoodKom, Lauren has also collaborated with Dr Elisa Serafinelli (University of Sheffield) on papers related to their Drones in Visual Culture project and Dr Tereza Spilioti (Cardiff University) on a paper relating to her Reading, Writing and... Rebellion project.

Lauren is also a frequent writer for Heavy Metal Therapy - a CIC set up to bring together people who find rock/metal helpful for mental wellbeing.

Through her work with Rewriting Rory, Lauren has also contributed to the Cowper and Newton Museum's #AG250 project and the Cobh Readers and Writers Festival.

As an Affiliated Researcher of Örebro University, Lauren has ongoing research links with academics in the University's Department of Media and Communication Studies and is engaged in various collaborative research projects in the area of food communication (see above for more details).


Walkin’ Blues: Exploring the Semiotic Musicscape of Rory Gallagher’s Cork City (2024)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Ethnomusicology Forum ((in press))

Going Bananas! The Scientific Marketing of a ‘New’ Fruit in Early 20th-Century Sweden (2024)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Food, Culture and Society ((In press))

[Book Review] The Edwardian Picture Postcard as a Communications Revolution: A Literacy Studies Perspective (2024)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Victorian Review ((In press))

‘Foodstagramming’ in early 20th-century postcards: a transhistorical perspective (2023-11)
O'Hagan, Lauren
Visual Communication, 22(4) (pp. 731-744)

Music for Mental Health: An Autoethnography of the Rory Gallagher Instagram Fan Community (2023-10)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 52(5) (pp. 633-663)

An Eye for an I: The Rebus as an Historical Form of Emoji (2023-09)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
DiscourseNet: Collaborative Working Paper Series(9)

In Memoriam. Documenting Illness, Death and Grief in the Book Inscription (1870-1914) (2023-01-13)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Textual Cultures, 15(2) (pp. 129-58)

“Classifying” Margarine: The Early Class-Based Marketing of a Butter Substitute in Sweden (1923-1933) (2023)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Global Food History, 9(1) (pp. 20-46)

“Alcohol is humanity’s enemy!” Propaganda Posters and the 1922 Swedish Prohibition Referendum (2023)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Scandinavian Journal of History, 48(2) (pp. 179-205)

In search of the social in social semiotics: a historical perspective (2023)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Social Semiotics ((Early access))

Selling Swedish Summer: The Marketing of Pommac, 1920-1960 (2023)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
History of Retailing and Consumption, 8(2) (pp. 171-199)

From Fatigue Fighter to Heartburn Healer: The Evolving Marketing of a Functional Beverage in Sweden (2023)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Journal of Food Products Marketing, 29(1) (pp. 19-40)

Rethinking Verticality Through Top-Down Views in Drone Hobbyist Photography (2023)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex and Serafinelli, Elisa
Visual Studies ([Early Access])

“The golden path to health”: marketing Postum as a cure for coffee abuse in early twentieth-century Sweden (2023)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Food, Culture and Society ((Early Access))

Welcome to Pure Food City”: Tracing Discourses of Health in the Promotional Publications of the Postum Cereal Company, 1920-1925 (2023)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Journal of Historical Research in Marketing ((in press))

Educación en inglés y la perpetuación de la desigualdad de las niñas: inversión parental y aspiraciones de género en Nepal [English education and the perpetuation of girls' inequality: parental investment and gender aspirations in Nepal] (2023)
Hultgren, Anna Kristina; Upadhaya, Anu; O'Hagan, Lauren Alex; Wingrove, Peter; Adamu, Amina; Greenfield, Anne-Mari; Lombardozzi, Lorena; Sah, Pramod; Tsiga, Ismaila; Umar, Aishat and Wolfenden, Freda
Cuadernos de pedagogía, 2023(543)

Blurring the Boundaries Between Medicine and Food: The Canny Marketing of Läkerol in Early Twentieth-Century Sweden (2023)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex and Eriksson, Göran
Social History of Medicine ((In press))

Transhistoricizing the Drone: A Comparative Visual Social Semiotic Analysis of Pigeon and Domestic Drone Photography (2022-12)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex and Serafinelli, Elisa
Photography and Culture, 15(4) (pp. 327-351)

Introducing Ethnohistorical Research to Multimodal Studies (2022-12)
O'Hagan, Lauren
Multimodality and Society, 2(4) (pp. 355-378)

Modernity, Beauty and the Swedish ‘Way of Life’: Lifestyle Marketing in Stomatol Toothpaste Advertisements, 1900-1950 (2022-10-27)
O'Hagan, Lauren
Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, 14(4) (pp. 424-452)

Modern Science, Moral Mothers and Mythical Nature: A Multimodal Analysis of Cod Liver Oil Marketing in Sweden, 1920-1930 (2022-10)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex and Eriksson, Göran
Food and Foodways, 30(4) (pp. 231-260)

All that glistens is not (green) gold: historicising the contemporary chlorophyll fad through a multimodal analysis of Swedish marketing, 1950–1953 (2022-07-29)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, 14(3) (pp. 374-398)

Fashioning the “People’s Guitarist”: The Mythologization of Rory Gallagher in the International Music Press (2022-03-10)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Rock Music Studies, 9(2) (pp. 174-198)

[Book Review] Music, the moving image and Ireland, 1897–2017 by John O’Flynn (2022)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Irish Studies Review, 30(3) (pp. 369-372)

Drone Views: A Multimodal Ethnographic Perspective (2022)
Serafinelli, Elisa and O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Visual Communication ((Early access))

“It’s always nice to head for home”: Music-Making, Sense of Place, and Corkonian Identity in the Rory Gallagher Irish Tour ’74 Documentary (2022)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Journal for the Society of Musicology in Ireland, 17 (pp. 47-77)

Flesh-Formers or Fads? Historicising the Contemporary Protein-Enhanced Food Trend (2022)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Food, Culture and Society, 25(5) (pp. 875-898)

“My Musical Armor”: Exploring Metalhead Identity Through the Battle Jacket (2022)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Rock Music Studies, 9(1) (pp. 34-53)

Scam Science: The Case of Biomin, “Your Daily Energy Source" (2022)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Graduate Journal of Food Studies, 9

‘Rory Gallagher’s Leprechaun Boogie’: Irish Stereotyping in the International Music Press (2022)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
RISE, 5(2)

Drones in Visual Culture: A Conversation with Anna Jackman, Lauren Alex O’Hagan and Elisa Serafinelli (2021-11-22)
O'Hagan, Lauren; Serafinelli, Elisa and Jackman, Anna
Association for the Arts of the Present Journal

Commercialising Public Health During the 1918-19 Spanish Flu Pandemic in Britain (2021-11-18)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, 13(3/4) (pp. 161-187)

The Edwardian Selfies: A Transhistorical Approach to Celebrity Culture and Pictorial Bookplates (2021-10)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex and Spilioti, Tereza
Discourse, Context and Media, 43, Article 100522

Selling “healthy” radium products with science: A multimodal analysis of marketing in Sweden, 1910-1940 (2021-09-08)
Eriksson, Göran and O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Science Communication, 43(6) (pp. 740-767)

A Voice for the Voiceless: Improving Provenance Practice for Working-Class Books (2021-03-01)
O'Hagan, Lauren
Journal of Librarianship & Information Science, 53(1) (pp. 16-28)

[Book Review] The Picture Postcard: A New Window into Edwardian Ireland, by Ann Wilson (2021)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Review of Irish Studies in Europe, 4(2) (pp. 139-141)

Instagram as an Exhibition Space: Reflections on Digital Remediation in the Time of COVID-19 (2021)
O'Hagan, Lauren
Museum Management and Curatorship, 36(6) (pp. 610-631)

Blinded by Science? Constructing Truth and Authority in Early 20th-Century Virol Advertisements (2021)
Ohagan, Lauren
History of Retailing and Consumption, 7(2) (pp. 162-102)

[Book review] Made in Ireland: studies in popular music edited by Áine Mangaoang, John O’Flynn and Lonán Ó Briain (2021)
O'Hagan, Lauren
Irish Studies Review, 29(4) (pp. 542-544)

“Rory played the greens, not the blues”: Expressions of Irishness on the Rory Gallagher YouTube Channel (2021)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Irish Studies Review, 29(3) (pp. 348-369)

The Irish Rover: Phil Lynott and the Search for Identity (2021)
Ohagan, Lauren
Popular Music and Society, 44(1) (pp. 26-48)

Pure in Body, Pure in Mind? A Sociohistorical Perspective on the Marketisation of Pure Foods in Great Britain (2020-04)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Discourse, Context and Media, 34, Article 100325

Contesting Women’s Right to Vote: Anti-Suffrage Postcards in Edwardian Britain (2020)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Visual Culture in Britain, 21(3) (pp. 330-362)

Social Posturing in the Edwardian Bookplate, 1901-1914 (2020)
Ohagan, Lauren
Book Collector

Steal Not This Book My Honest Friend: Threats, Warnings and Curses in the Edwardian Book. (2020)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Textual Cultures, 13(2) (pp. 244-274)

Packaging Inner Piece: A Sociohistorical Exploration of Nerve Food in Great Britain (2020)
O'Hagan, Lauren
Food and History, 17(2) (pp. 183-222)

The Anatomy of a Battle Jacket: A Multimodal Ethnographic Perspective (2020)
Ohagan, Lauren
Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 50(2) (pp. 147-175)

“Home Rule is Rome Rule”: Exploring Anti-Home Rule Postcards in Edwardian Ireland (2020)
O'Hagan, Lauren
Visual Studies, 35(4) (pp. 330-346)

Autodidactic Book Series in Edwardian Britain, 1901-1914 (2020)
O'Hagan, Lauren
The Book Collector

The Advertising and Marketing of the Edwardian Prize Book: Gender for Sale (2019)
O'Hagan, Lauren
English Literature in Transition 1880-1920, 62(1)

Towards A Multimodal Ethnohistorical Approach: A Case Study of Bookplates (2019)
O'Hagan, Lauren
Social Semiotics, 29(5)

The Dip Pen as a Source of Social Distinction in Victorian Britain (2018)
Ohagan, Lauren
History of Retailing and Consumption, 4(3) (pp. 187-216)

The Evolution of Prize Bindings 1870-1940: Their Design and Typography (2018)
Ohagan, Lauren
The Book Collector ((Early access))

Clean nails are the mark of a well brought-up girl”: Exploring Gender in a Post-Edwardian Girls’ School Exercise Book (2018)
O'Hagan, Lauren
Women's Studies, 47(8) (pp. 765-790)

Principles, Privilege and Powerlessness in the Edwardian Prize Book: Bridging the Gap between Two Opposing Worlds (2017-05-13)
O'Hagan, Lauren
English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920, 60(4) (pp. 506-529)

The Sociocultural Functions of Edwardian Book Inscriptions: Taking a Multimodal Ethnohistorical Approach (2021-03-23)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex
Routledge Research in Literacy
ISBN : 9780367745653 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : New York, USA

Breaking the “Class” Ceiling: The Challenges and Opportunities of Creating a Digital Archive of Edwardian Working-Class Book Inscriptions (2022-11-05)
O'Hagan, Lauren
In: Schwan, Ann and Thomson, Tara eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Digital and Public Humanities (p 275)
Publisher : Palgrave | Published : Cham

Lauren Alex O'Hagan (2022-09-12)
O'Hagan, Lauren
In: Women in Academia Support Network, ed. researcHER: The Power and Potential of Research Careers for Women (pp. 109-112)
ISBN : 978-1-80382-734-6 | Publisher : Emerald | Published : United Kingdom

Researching Instagram: Computer-Mediated Research Methods in Practice (2022-03-01)
Serafinelli, Elisa and O'Hagan, Lauren
In: Kozinets, Robert ed. SAGE Research Methods: Doing Research Online
Publisher : SAGE

Class, Culture and Conflict in the Edwardian Book Inscription: A Multimodal Ethnohistorical Approach (2019-12)
O'Hagan, Lauren
In: Wildfeuer, Janina; Pflaeging, Jana; Bateman, John; Seizov, Ognyan and Tseng, Chiao-I eds. Multimodality: Disciplinary Thoughts and the Challenge of Diversity
Publisher : De Gruyter

Running Down an American Dream: Tom Petty and the Tour T-Shirt (2019-05)
Ohagan, Lauren
In: Sands, Crystal ed. Tom Petty: Essays on the Life and Work
Publisher : McFarland

Rebellious Writing: Contesting Marginalisation in Edwardian Britain (2020-09-28)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex ed.
Writing and Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century,
ISBN : 9781789972917 | Publisher : Peter Lang | Published : New York, NY

Determining the Funding Requirements of the Voluntary, Community and Cultural Sectors of the City of Milton Keynes (2023-09)
Turner, Wendy; Mutwarasibo, Fidèle; O'Hagan, Lauren Alex and Greenfield, Mari
The Open University, UK.

The View from Above: A Drone’s Perspective on the World (2021-12)
O'Hagan, Lauren Alex and Serafinelli, Elisa