What is Visual Jurisprudence?
Friday, September 26, 2014, 12:30pm to 2:00pm
IKB Room 2027
Prof. Richard K. Sherwin, New York Law School
In contemporary legal practice, lawyers, judges, and lay jurors face a vast array of visual evidence and visual argument both inside the courtroom and in the court of public opinion. From videos documenting crimes and accidents to computer displays of their digital simulation, increasingly, the search for fact-based justice is becoming an offshoot of visual meaning making. But when law migrates to the screen it lives there as other images do, motivating belief and judgment on the basis of visual delight and unconscious fantasies and desires as well as actualities.
This presentation addresses what it means for jurists to develop a workable visual jurisprudence, offering two different epistemological and ontological models for warranting visual belief. In one model, images serve as copies of an original; in the second model, images operate as event (as performative interaction rather than imitative fact). With this framework in place, we may begin to explore diverse criteria for visual credibility ranging from empirical measurements of truth as ‘correctness’ to the aesthetics of ‘delight’ and the experience of visual ‘presence’ (the image made flesh).
Professor Richard Sherwin is an expert in visual communication, particularly in the domain of visual persuasion in litigation and litigation public relations. His scholarship explores the two-way street between law and culture. In recent works, drawing from a variety of sources (including film, literature, performance studies, cognitive psychology and philosophy), he has been investigating how new communication technologies, particularly the proliferation of visual digital images, are changing the practice and theory of law. What happens, for example, when trial witnesses give way to videos and digital animations of accidents and crimes? Does watching turn the viewer into an “eyewitness”? How does one cross-examine an image? Is anything essential lost in the shift from live testimony to teleconferencing? Is there presence in a digital animation? What is real, and what is simulation? Professor Sherwin argues that jurists need to cultivate visual literacy in order to meet the legitimation demands of law in the current “digital baroque” era. Professor Sherwin gained nationwide attention with his well-received book, When Law Goes Pop: The Vanishing Line between Law and Popular Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2000, 2002),which explores the two-way street between law and popular culture.
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