Fighting with images: The production and consumption of violence among online football supporters
With a few notable exceptions, mainstream criminology has shown no real sustained interest in the cultural meanings of images. According to Mariana Valverde (2006), in a recent book on images, law, and order, this reluctance to engage with the visual has much to do with the primacy of nineteenth-century enlightenment thinking within fields such as criminology and jurisprudence. Traditional social science, she claims, has only trusted ‘hard facts’, while image analyses have been largely dismissed as lacking objective value. Even social constructionist or critical approaches within criminology have privileged face-toface interaction or discourse analysis as their primary methods for gathering data. However, a change is clearly under way, as various cultural criminologists have begun undertaking what Prosser (2003) calls image-based research (e.g. Carney, 2004; Young, 2005, 2007; Valverde, 2006; Ferrell et al., 2008). In a recent issue of the journal Crime, Media, Culture, the editors argue that ‘the visual constitutes perhaps the central medium through which the meanings and emotions of crime are captured and conveyed to audiences. Indeed, we would suggest that it is the visual that increasingly shapes our engagement with, and understanding of, key issues of crime, control and order’ (Greer et al., 2007: 5). This is clearly the case. We can no longer afford to neglect the force of the image, whether in relation to our specific understanding of crime and punishment, or more generally in terms of the way the visual media shape our perceptions and influence the way we construct and present our identities.