Imagining risk

The visual dimension in risk analysis

Authored by: Hermann Mitterhofer , Silvia Jordan

Routledge Handbook of Risk Studies

Print publication date:  April  2016
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138022867
eBook ISBN: 9781315776835
Adobe ISBN: 9781317691662


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Risk analyses of all kinds, be it on individual, organization or societal levels, heavily rely upon cultural technologies of representation. Technologies of identifying, evaluating, ranking and interrelating risks are not only technologies of writing and calculation; they also draw to a large extent on visual elements such as colours, graphs and diagrams. Consider the example of the risk map shown later in the chapter in Figure 28.3, which visualizes political risk in different geographical regions. By way of the simple use of colours, specifically through the darkest signal colour, this map invites the reader to perform an immediate categorization of different parts of the world as more or less ‘dangerous’. This particular form of visualizing risk therefore has specific effects of signalling and categorization, without requiring a more thorough understanding of the information on which the visualization of political risk is based. Although the numericalization of risk analysis through statistical concepts and tools has been subject to lively academic and practitioner debates (for example, Mikes, 2009; Power, 2007; Reddy, 1996; Taleb, 2008), much less attention has been paid to the visual dimension in risk analysis.

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