Climate Change in Visual Communication: From ‘This is Not a Pipe’ to ‘This is Not Fukushima’

This text was written for a workshop on « Risk and Climate Change: The Shaping of a Cosmopolitan Future », held in Paris on 10-11 December 2012, in the frame of the Chaire of Ulrich Beck entitled « Cosmopolitan Risk Communities » at the Collège d’études mondiales.

How can we mediate the global risks such as climate change? The aim of the paper is to explore the problematique through sociological inquiry into the capacity of visual communication. In the first half of the paper, main discussion lies in the direction from the visual to the social in mutual construction process of the two (F. Kurasawa). In the section the power of the visual per se is emphasized as it is thought that in the tradition of sociological theory the power has been relatively neglected (W.J.T. Mitchell). The argument is related to the process of cosmopolitization in the consideration that the visual as the easiest ‘world traveler’ becomes more and more relevant in contemporary society. In the second half of the paper, the opposite direction from the social towards the visual is focused. To the direction, the contextualization in mediating climate change in the region of East Asia becomes most relevant. In the contextualization the paper suggests the need for serious consideration on historical occurrences and their social impact in the region; warfare in the area. Facing the warfare in the region we can explore and analyze the mediating process of the global risks (nuclear energy plant explosion in Fukushima, climate change / climate destruction) in visual communication in both directions between the social and the visual.

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14 June 2013

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