Monday, August 13, 2007

accounting for a more visual audience

Professor Richard K. Sherwin has written A Manifesto for Visual Legal Realism, to be published in 40 Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review (2007). He makes many astute points about the new challenges our increasingly visual culture poses for lawyers’ story-telling and persuasive efforts.

As he explains:
"The shift to visual representation and visual advocacy in contemporary legal practice has the potential to introduce an aspect of law that has long been under-represented in academic circles, namely: the aesthetic power to embody legal truth on the screen as a visual enchantment. A stable society agrees upon a shared repertoire of rhetorical moves, "a lexicon of normative action," that it recombines and supplements to meet the needs of changing times. In a visually literate society, these rhetorical moves build upon a visual code that over time is unconsciously assumed. What we see on the screen may appear real, but like the physical act of perception itself, it is, to a significant degree, artificially constructed and incomplete.

"It behooves legal advocates and cultural critics alike to understand how we get our visual knowledge from the screen, and what kind of knowledge this is. Only then can the gaps and distortions in such knowledge be consciously confronted and perhaps corrected by other, more accurate sources."


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