Con‘text’ualizing images of enterprise: an examination of ‘visual metaphors’ used to represent entrepreneurship in textbooks

Robert Smith

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

10 Citations (Scopus)


It is widely accepted that despite a considerable research effort no generic definition of entrepreneurship exists. This was ably articulated by Bill Gartner over 20 years ago (see Gartner 1988). Indeed, Gartner further argues that there is a problem with obtaining conceptual clarity (Gartner 1989). This led him to argue that it is especially important in entrepreneurship that we examine and articulate our logic of discovery, and most especially, the ‘assumptions we make about this phenomenon’ (Gartner 2001: 27). Given that it is so difficult to define the phenomenon, how easy is it to visualize it? The famous phrase ‘You will know it when you see it’ springs to mind. In this chapter, we will therefore concern ourselves with contextualizing what entrepreneurship looks like. In researching the visual (as advocated by Emmison and Smith 2002), this chapter explores the linkages between images, imagination and imagining the complex social phenomenon that is entrepreneurship. In particular, the chapter concentrates on visual images associated with entrepreneurship in its myriad forms and delves into the messy world of semiotics and visual metaphors. To illustrate this methodological approach, I carry out a worked example, using images from entrepreneurship textbooks, and consolidate this via learning exercises. This approach is important because for many of us, especially undergraduates and postgraduate students, entrepreneurship is a social context we first encounter in textbooks.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of qualitative research
Subtitle of host publicationtechniques and analysis in entrepreneurship
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)9781849809870
ISBN (Print)9781849809863
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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