crimvisThe "Routledge International Handbook of Visual Criminology" is a study about the use and application of visualization in criminal activities. It explains how imagery is playing an increasingly greater role in this area, while describing methods and techniques often used. This book ask important questions about evidence, representation of evidence and the connection to criminal justice. This text is comprehensive in scope and ground-breaking for presenting information about this new and emerging area. 



Routledge International Handbook of Visual Criminology


Edited by

Michelle Brown and Eamonn Carrabine



578 pages | 22 Color Illus. | 131 B/W Illus. ISBN: 9781138888630

Reviewed by

Jeff Thurston


Visualization plays an integral role in criminology, the nature of crime and social studies. Both theoretical and methodology are included in this ground-breaking book that aims to meet several challenges.

This book is divided into five parts that each highlight a key aspect of visual criminology, exploring the diversity of methods, techniques and theoretical approaches currently shaping the field:

• Part I introduces formative positions in the developments of visual criminology and explores the different disciplines that have contributed to analysing images.

• Part II explores visual representations of crime across film, graphic art, documentary, police photography, press coverage and graffiti and urban aesthetics.

• Part III discusses the relationship of visual criminology to criminal justice institutions like policing, punishment and law.

• Part IV focuses on the distinctive ethical problems posed by the image, reflecting on the historical development, theoretical disputes and methodological issues involved.

• Part V identifies new frameworks and emergent perspectives and reflects upon the distinctive challenges and limits that can be seen in this emerging field.

 As might be expected, this text is centered on the topics of "evidence" and "representation" pertaining to criminal activity - particularly in terms of visual evidence. The editors begin by explaining fully, what evidence and representation mean on this basis. At the center of this lies the goal to challenge and meet standards of truth. Since visualization comes in many forms and can be altered and manipulated, it is important to recognize what legal methods and procedues expect in terms of rightfulness. The actions of seeing, observing and viewing can prove to be challenging, and this becomes more apparent when tied to cultural and social norms. 

Visualization often involves photography, and many examples in this book are oriented toward photography and phoo-documentation. As pointed out, both inclusion of photographic material and lack of images or omission also tell a story at the same time. What is chosen in terms of imagery can drive perspective and understanding, while connection to others can be established and identitification can be improved or even changed. 

Films also play an important role in terms of ciminology, since so many people are nurtured into criminal understanding and entertainment through movies and cinematography. And while film has brought the criminology world closer to people, can we say that criminology has brought new forms of films to us as well? The editors ask these kinds of questions as this book dives into not only describing visualization in crime but also asking the important, and often thought provooking questions that are only just beginning to arise with the wealth of visual activity in this field. 

Readers will learn about the methods and approaches criminologists use when it comes to use of visualization. This includes data visualization approaches and ethical issues. Carceral geography is now emerging as a study area with it's own spatial context as it relates to prisons and social situations within them. In this sense new visual perspectives arise and details about these infrastructure and social dynamics are also seeing a rise in scholarship activity. 

New forms of visual connection (ie. Big Data) are also present in revealing inter-connectivity between individuals and organizations. Deciphering these connections is also given rise to computation techniques and abilites that present visual cues and understanding across broad, voluminous archives and data storage systems. At the same time, visualization can be used to sway public and social perceptions along criminal borders when it used in a staged way that aims to increase doubt and sway truth. 

In summary, "Routledge International Handbook of Visual Criminology" is a very unique book that brings criminology and visualization relatedness closer together. Readers learn how visualization are being used and applied from theoretical to methdology to research activities. The editors have carefully constructed an understanding based on historical record and investigation, while at the same time integrated new visual techniques and approaches into traditional investigative approaches. They also ask improtant questions and ask readers throughout the book to think about impacts that new visualizations may have on those traditional social conventions. Those involved with photography, animation, graphic arts, lighting and illustration will immediately see the connection to many new technologies, including computational.

With many graphics in this book, the editors keep the audience connected to the written text. This book will be useful for those involved in crime and visualization. But it will also connect with anyone seeking to legally integrate visualization that coincides with the social and justice systems - and that audience is quite wide. There is much to learn in this book that is truly unique and breaking new ground.