Visualizing Law in the Age of the Digital Baroque
Arabesques & Entanglements
Routledge – 2011 – 270 pages
Series: Discourses of Law
Visualizing Law in the Age of the Digital Baroque explores the profound impact that visual digital technologies are having on the practice and theory of law. Today, lawyers, judges, and lay jurors face a vast array of visual evidence and visual argument. From videos documenting crimes and accidents to computer displays of their digital simulation, increasingly, the search for fact-based justice inside the courtroom 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. Law as image also shares broader cultural anxieties concerning not only the truth of the image but also the mimetic capacity itself, the human ability to represent reality. What is real, and what is simulation? This is the hallmark of the baroque, when dreams fold into dreams, like immersion in a seemingly endless matrix of digital appearances. When fact-based justice recedes, laws proliferate within a field of uncertainty. Left unchecked, this condition of ontological and ethical uneasiness threatens the legitimacy of law’s claim to power. Visualizing Law in the Age of the Digital Baroque offers a jurisprudential paradigm that is equal to the challenge that current cultural conditions present.
Sherwin is perhaps the world's leading scholar of the visual life of law, and this masterful book advances a new perspective on the cultural life of law, what Sherwinn calls a "visual jurisprudence." As Sherwin sees it, the very legitimacy of law in our era depends on the cultivation of visual literacy and an appreciation of the ethical and political dimensions of our visual experiences. Theoretically sohphisticated and lucidly argued this book is an example of interdisciplinary legal scholarship at its best.
Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence, and Political Science, Amherst College.
Richard Sherwin's Visualizing Law in the Age of the Digital Baroque is an outstanding piece of thinking and writing. Sherwin is an apt historian of ideas, ranging authoritatively from the Bible to video games, from the Renaissance to Enlightenment philosophers, from the baroque to the 'post-Foucauldian" epoch in which we now live. His project is spectacuarly successful. He develops a thesis that begins with law but utimately analyzes America Society and culture in the 21st century. This is a wise as well as informed book that will find a wide audience among thos interested in cultural studies, law, and visual culture.
Richard Schechner, University Professor, Professor of Performance Studies, NYU
1.Introduction: Law’s oscillation between power and meaning; 2. Law’s Screen Life: Visualizing law in practice; 3. Images Run Riot: Law on the landscape of the neo-baroque; 4. Theorizing the Visual Sublime: Law’s legitimation reconsidered; 5. The Digital Challenge: Command and control culture and the ethical sublime; 6. Conclusion: Visualizing Law as Integral Rhetoric – Harmonizing the ethical and the aesthetic; Bibliography; Index
Richard K. Sherwin is Professor of Law and Director of the Visual Persuasion Project at New York Law School