Picture a Pandemic: The Visual Construction of Meaning in Digital Networks


The pandemic has been a global experience. But we have responded, adapted, negotiated real-world challenges in local ways. Connecting the local to the global are digital communication networks. And predominantly, it's the images we create, share, and view that tell the story of the pandemic – empty streets, healthcare workers, people in masks. And at the same time, visual graphics have created a shared global experience – marking social distance, explaining new social rules. Data graphics and tables allow us to visualize the effects of the pandemic (cases, hospitalizations, deaths). A new visual language comes to frame social experiences. New visual grammars, patterns, genres have seemed to appear. They connect to the cannon of image-making while offering new ways of seeing. In this year's conference, we are interested in understanding what is new -- and what's not -- in the long history of image-making. And how has the connection of local space to global flows supported by digital networks shaped the visual construction of social meaning of the pandemic itself? In other words, how might picturing a pandemic have changed the practice of image-making, and how might that practice change the meaning we make in society, and what do digital networks as another kind of historical force, lend to this dual process.