Exposing the Power of Globalization: Visual Approaches to Researching Global Interconnectivity and Inequality in the Urban Everyday

Monday, 16 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Luc PAUWELS, University of Antwerp, Belgium
This presentation explores how visual approaches to globalization as expressed and enacted in everyday life may enrich and complement the more abstract and mainly quantitatively supported discourses around this convoluted phenomenon. Visual methods, with their focus on empirically observable aspects of culture indeed have the capacity to uncover forms of global interconnectivity and power play in urban settings, by looking carefully at the material environment and artifacts as cultural expressions and at visual practices and performances of people within those spaces. This contribution will cover the visual dimensions of globalization both as a directly observable and as a ‘mediated’ field. Empirical (non-visual) data on aspects of globalization can be ‘visualized’ in the sense of being transformed from symbolic into more iconic and metaphoric form and thereby provide a better understanding of interrelations and trends as well as adding a spatial dimension to the data. However, one can also depart from visible elements of (urban) culture (artifacts and behavior) and instigate the production of visual records of those aspects for further scrutiny. Finally, a visual approach may not only document a phenomenon in rich detail (while inevitably a selective and reductive act) but also involve more metaphorical and constructive approaches that go beyond depicting the world but seeking to reveal a specific take on a phenomenon rather than simply depicting aspects of it. Such an ‘expressive’, interpretative effort embodies the transition from mere data to the visual (multimodal) materialization of insight. Visual approaches to globalization and cultural exchanges thus may provide a more valid, unobtrusive way to assess and understand the impact of culture in the daily life of inhabitants of cities around the world and add a unique ‘localized’, cross-cultural empirical perspective to the many divergent views and discussions about the presumed beneficial or detrimental nature of these processes.