The Uncertain Possibilities and Necessary Risks in Participatory Visual Communication: Towards an Emergent Ethics of Contestation in Global-Local Policy Spaces
This paper discusses the use of participatory visual processes to mediate between global policy makers and people living in poverty in the context of UN deliberations on a new global sustainable development framework. We start from the assumption that risk-taking is intrinsic to transforming the balance of social influence, in contrast to the conventional ethical urge to do no harm. Creative visual processes as a source of innovation always generate both hope for new possibilities and risks in terms of the dilemmas inherent in these processes. Recognizing this opens the opportunity to learn from practice experiences in context about how these tensions can be negotiated, and what this means for ethical research. We will consider digital storytelling and participatory video projects in South Africa, India and the Balkans to raise key critical questions about the balance between mutuality and critical transformation, the importance of iterative processes as an emergent ethical response to hope and the possibility of harm, the centrality of relationship building, and the need for flexible application of visual and creative methods in supporting particular social aims.