Bayerischer Forschungsverbund “Zukunft der Demokratie” (ForDemocracy)

Project 06
Visualisation of democracy ViDe(m)o


The project examines images of democracy by adopting a twofold approach. On the one hand, the visualization of democracy on magazine covers is investigated, on the other hand citizens are invited to produce their own images of democracy. The aim is to integrate the findings concerning our knowledge of the visual.

Project Description

The debate on the future of liberal democracy brought about by the electoral suc-cess of populist parties across Europe has rarely been addressed from a visual analysis perspective. Considering the influence images can have on human thinking and action, this finding seems somewhat surprising. This lack of academic interest in the visual might be due to specific methodological challenges, e.g. the ambiguity of images.

Taking this research gap as a starting point, the project examines the relationship between democracy and its images by focusing on two levels. An analysis on the meso-level investigates how democracy and political power are visually communicated by German news magazines. For this purpose, a database is created including 7000 covers of Der Spiegel, stern and FOCUS. On the micro-level, on the other hand, the images of individuals are taken into account. What do citizens have in mind when thinking of democracy? For a representative survey conducted in the state of Bavaria the draw-and-write method is applied, in the context of which people are invited to draw their images of democracy.

The project aims at integrating the findings from both perspectives in order to gain knowledge that complements the results of text-based political science research. Furthermore, a teaching concept for the understanding and analysis of picture language will be created.

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Projekt 06 Prof. Dr. Horst-Alfred Heinrich, Lorenz Klumpp

Horst-Alfred Heinrich (right)
Lorenz Klumpp (left)