Law in the Age of Images
To an increasing extent, storytelling in popular culture today is visual. Digital pictures, conveyed through television, movies, videos, CD-ROM, DVD, the Internet, and traditional print media, have come to dominate our entertainments, our politics, our news, and our methods of education, and now they are infusing law practice and law teaching as well.
But what happens if, through the increasing use in legal practice of pictures and their accompanying logic of emotional and cognitive association, legal discourse is increasingly guided and informed by feelings at the expense of more deliberate, critical analysis? Will the consequence for legal argument (not to mention public discourse as a whole) be a decline in rational decision making, or will it simply mark a shift in the conventional criteria for proof and persuasion? Is entertainment slated to become the final arbiter for conflict resolution?
We are already seeing popular legal conceptions from television and film seeping into the courtroom. Expectations generated by pop culture are changing the behavior of trial lawyers, as well as experts and police officers who testify at trial. (“Where’s the DNA evidence?” jurors protest based on what they’ve seen on such popular TV shows as ‘CSI’.)
In democratic societies each generation must face the task of working out anew the terms of law’s legitimacy based on notions of individual dignity and respect that reflect current cultural conditions. That is why today we turn to the screen – including television, film, and computer screens – to assess the impact of visual representation and persuasion on the search for truth and the fate of law an democracy in our time.
In this part of the Visual Persuasion website you may explore recent visual mass media events, including films, television shows, and news items that pertain to law and the role of images in the legal process. If the shift to the visual is altering our minds as well as our culture it behooves us to see how this change is occurring and with what affect on the law.
This site is sponsored by New York Law School’s Visual Persuasion Project (Professor Richard K. Sherwin, founder & director, Curriculum Vitae, Google+).