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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Visualizing Domestic Violence: A Digital Archive of Evidence Photography in Legal Observation and Popular Media


As recent as the 1980’s, vigilance within the criminal justice system toward domestic violence prosecution was remarkably low. Activists and policy-makers “got tough” on domestic abuse through mandatory arrest and no-drop policing strategies. These strategies are reinforced by digital photographic evidence of abuse, leading to a debate on the role of new media and policy on victim agency in the prosecution of domestic violence. This paper examines the photographic archive of battered women and communicative approaches to adjudicating domestic violence. Focusing on the incorporation of new media within American courts, I consider how digital technology contributes to the establishment of legal facts, inquiring how new media may dangerously conceive violence against women as a technical question rather than an ethical one. Paper engages work on the politics of spectatorship, asking what theories of affect might bring to debates emerging in human-technological interaction, including personal computing and copyright, agency and authorship .

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