Social Visibility: Conceptual Explorations

Monday, 16 July 2018: 10:30-12:20
RC35 Conceptual and Terminological Analysis (host committee)

Language: English

The panel is devoted to enlarge the exploration of visibility as a workable sociological category. How can visibility be conceptualized? What is the meaning of inter-visibility relations? How are visibility asymmetries technologically and culturally put in place, and with what consequences? Which newly emergent diagrams and measures of visibility are appearing in our age?

Notably, the notion of visibility does not simply coincide with visuality. Instead, visibility is a ‘field’ or ‘element’ of the social in which the distinction between the relevant and the irrelevant is each time drawn, contested and retraced by actors. As visibility turns into a valuable resource for action and imagination, it also configures a field of struggles, controversies, and a new principle of social hierarchy. Suffice to consider, for instance, academic rankings and performance benchmarking. Consequently, the experience of visibility also acquires a new set of meanings and new affective connotations in people's lives.

The technological devices, architectural diagrams and political import of visibility call for more extensive and in-depth conceptualization and investigation. How do visibility regimes emerge and gain acceptance? What is the relationship between invisibility and social marginality? To which extent are new media technologies transforming visibility dynamics, scales and rhythms? What happens when the quest for visibility breeds addictive phenomena? Under which conditions does visibility go astray or turn into a nemesis, as it occurs for instance with public scandals?

These are just some of the many questions we suggest to consider and further explore.

Session Organizer:
Andrea BRIGHENTI, University of Trento, Italy
Andrea BRIGHENTI, University of Trento, Italy, Italy
Oral Presentations
Visibility Cycles, (In)Visible Institutions and the Making of Scandals
Felicitas HESSELMANN, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Germany; Martin REINHART, German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies, Germany
The Nexus of Transparency and Secrecy
Leopold RINGEL, Bielefeld University, Germany