1st Edition

Visual Culture and Public Policy
Towards a visual polity?

ISBN 9781138497382
Published March 28, 2018 by Routledge
244 Pages 19 B/W Illustrations

USD $51.95

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Book Description

Traditionally, images have played an important role in politics and policy making, mostly in relation to propaganda and public communication. However, contemporary society is inundated with visual material due to the increasing ubiquity of media and visual technologies that facilitate the production, distribution and consumption of images in new and innovative ways. As such, a visual culture has emerged, and a number of authors have written on visual culture and the technologies which underlie it. However, a clear link to policy making is still lacking.

This books links the emergence of this visual culture to policy making and explores how visual culture (and the growing number of technologies used to create and distribute images) influence the course, content and outcome of public policy making. It examines how visual culture and policy making in contemporary society are intertwined, elaborating concepts such as power, framing and storytelling. It then links this to technology, and the way this can enhance power, transparency, registration, surveillance and communication.

Dealing with the entire cycle of public policy making, from agenda-setting, to policy design, decision making to evaluation, the book contains diverse international case studies including water management, risk management, live-stock diseases, minority integration, racism, freedom of speech, healthcare, disaster evaluation and terrorism.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Living in a World of Images  1.1 Introduction  1.2 The Emergence of a Visual Culture  1.2.1 Characteristics of a Visual Culture  1.2.2 A Contested Concept  1.3 The Experience Economy: Where Does Visual Culture Meet the Consumer?  1.4 The Drama Democracy: Where Does Visual Culture Meet Politics?  1.5 Goal and Outline: Where Does Visual Culture Meet the Policy Process?  2. Visual Events and Visual Technologies: A Brief Historical Overview  2.1 Introduction  2.2 A Short History of Visuality  2.2.1 The Pre Industrial Era  2.2.2 The Industrial Era  2.2.3 The Digital Era  2.3 Technologies for the Visual: A First Categorization  2.4 Conclusion  3. The Power to Visualize  3.1 Introduction  3.2 Functions of Visuality  3.3 Functions of Visual Technology  3.3.1 Technological Instrumentalism  3.3.2 Technological Determinism  3.3.3 Social Construction of Technology  3.3.4 The Ecological Perspective  3.4 Discursive, Access and Resource Power: Between Concentration and Radical Democratization  3.4.1 Distribution of Power  3.4.2 Concentration and Homogenization  3.4.3 Radical Democratization  3.4.4 Real Time  3.4.5 Network Externalities  3.4.6 Coproduction  3.5 Conclusion  4. Visual Events and the Policy Process  4.1 Introduction  4.2 Politics and Policies  4.2.1 Politics  4.2.2 Policies and Policy Processes  4.2.3 Visual Spillovers  4.3 Conceptualizing the Policy Process: Four Perspectives  4.3.1 The Rationalist Approach  4.3.2 The Political Approach  4.3.3 The Institutional Approach  4.3.4 The Cultural Approach  4.3.5 Synthesis  4.4 Visual Events as Storytelling  4.5 Grasping the Meaning of Visual Events  4.5.1 The Rethorical Approach  4.5.2 The Semantic Approach  4.5.3 The Pragmatic Approach  4.6 Conclusion  5. Research Strategy  5.1 Introduction  5.2 Towards a Theoretical Framework  5.2.1 The Societal, Cultural and Political Context  5.2.2 The Policy Arena  5.2.3 Features of Visual Events and Visual Technologies  5.2.4 Construction and Distribution of Visual Events: Framing and Storytelling  5.2.5 Interactions with Other Actors  5.2.6 Shaping the Course, Content and Outcome of Policy Processes  5.3 Methodology  5.3.1 Analytical Model  5.3.2 A Comparative Case Study Method  5.3.3 The Case Studies  6. Agenda Setting: Setting the Wheels in Motion  6.1 Introduction  6.2 Societal and Political Context  6.3 The Policy Arena  6.4 Features of Visual Events and Visual Technologies  6.5 Construction and Distribution of Visual Events: Framing and Storytelling  6.6 Interaction with Others  6.7 Shaping Course, Content and Outcome  6.8 Summary  7. Policy Design and Decision Making: Unravelling Complexity  7.1 Introduction  7.2 Societal and Political Context  7.3 The Policy Arena  7.4 Features of Visual Events and Visual Technologies  7.5 Construction and Distribution of Visual Events: Framing and Storytelling  7.6 Interaction with Others  7.7 Shaping Course, Content and Outcome  7.8 Summary  8. Policy Evaluation: Who Is to Blame?  8.1 Introduction  8.2 Societal and Political Context  8.3 The Policy Arena  8.4 Features of Visual Events and Visual Technologies  8.5 Construction and Distribution of Visual Events: Framing and Storytelling  8.6 Interaction with Others  8.7 Shaping Course, Content and Outcome  8.8 Summary  9. Visual Culture and the Policy Process: Towards a Conclusion  9.1 Introduction  9.2 Societal and Political Context  9.3 Creation and Distribution  9.4 Framing and Frame Change  9.5 Interaction, Course, Content and Outcome  9.5.1 The Course  9.5.2 The Content  9.5.3 The Outcome  9.6 Summary  9.7 Limitations  10. Reflection: Towards a Visual Polity  10.1 Introduction  10.2 Towards a Visual Ecology: How Visual Technologies Co-evolve with Changes in Socio- political Environment  10.3 Towards a Political Economy of the Visual: Cui Bono?  10.4 Towards a Visual Polity: How Government Has Become Mediated  10.5 And What about Democracy?






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Victor Bekkers is Professor of Public Administration and Public Policy at Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Rebecca Moody is Assistant Professor of Public Administration and Public Policy at Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands.


'‘Performance’ has two sides of the same coin. It is ‘results’ and ‘putting something on stage’. This book brings these two sides together in a very smart way. Whether it is the policy cycle, or its governance and polity, the visual dimension becomes so dominant that reality risks to become the derivative. Convincing pictures show and prove the role of visual perception. In this book "What you see is really what you get".' - Geert Bouckaert, President of the International Institute of Administrative Sciences, KU Leuven, Belgium.

'In this powerful and important book, Viktor Bekkers and Rebecca Moody examine myriad influences of visualization on the content and course of public policy. As visual culture is more routinely and pervasively embedded in policy practices, the authors demonstrate persuasively through nine vivid, carefully selected cases, how visual culture is used by policy experts and stakeholders to frame--and shift the framing of--key policy problems and actions. As Bekkers and Moody argue cogently, scholars and practitioners in public administration and policy must update their understanding of the policy process as textuality gives way to visuality.' - Jane Fountain, Professor, University of Massachusetts, USA.