"Still Underexposed"? – Some Remarks On The Problematic Relationship Between Visual Communication, Political Science, and Civic Education

  • Benjamin Drechsel


Political science in the German-speaking world is only concerned peripherally with pictures. In the course of the “iconic turn” during the 1990s visual political communication became an issue of more weight, but other disciplines like art history still have more competence when it comes to analysing pictures. Thus, the basic question remains: How can we achieve a sustainable “iconic turn” in political science and civic education? The article proposes an answer in three parts: Its first chapter describes the relationship between political science, civic education, and visual communication in the German-speaking world. The effort to map this scattered research landscape ought to be a contribution to its transnational connectivity. The second part reflects on the special “power of pictures”. It argues that pictures probably have specific persuasive power, but nonetheless are neutral political tools (just like words). Obviously they can be exploited by liars, but quite as well they can serve as helpful information resources (e.g. in civic education). Finally, the third chapter claims that political science should try and learn from visually more competent disciplines like art history or communication science. All in all this leads to the final conclusion that political communication research should turn its attention to pictoriality.