This visual research project investigates how symbols found in urban spaces of defined socio-historical contexts construct a new social imaginary that is simultaneously local, national and global. The outcomes of this investigation contribute to our understanding of the processes of globalization and how the global imaginary is symbolically and socially produced.
At the dawn of the twenty-first century the increasing production, circulation and consumption of hybrid cultural assemblages that ‘condense’ symbolic-spatial scales of local, national and global are raising a new visual economy of the global. This new visual global regime of signification is the result of a shifting mindset—the ‘global imaginary’ that is affecting cultural identities and nation-states at local-global scale. However, while it is easy to observe these particular types of visual images, intimately and inextricably linked to the social life, developing a compelling research strategy to grasp how this common sense of the global is symbolically and socially produced is still a challenging task. Furthermore, although the scholarship on globalization is greatly expanded, it is mainly focused on ‘objective’ dynamics such as the economic and technological ones. This kind of perspective is therefore missing to provide an account of the concrete, complex ways in which this phenomenon is symbolically and socially produced at subjective-reflexive level. This visual archive project aims to understand the symbolic construction of the global imaginary—the images and metaphors that constitute the common sense of the global. Although these images are highly ‘subjective’, selected and limited, they are crucial keys to access the increasing ‘global consciousness’.
The visual archive is a collection of digital still images that investigate globalization as a material and ideational process at local-global scale. The collected visual images explore, in their own right, the symbolic and social construction of the global imaginary with particular focus on the Asia-Pacific region, although not exclusively. In this respect these images can be further analyzed and interpreted to better understand social change in the global age. Indeed, The Visual Archive Project of the Global Imaginary is a vast and ambitious project, not only in terms of its archival sources but also with respect to its philosophical and historical intent and to the methodological and representational challenges it poses. This study also offers a new research pattern due to its conceptual organization—the ontological breakdown of the phenomenon into categories and the archive presentation as one gallery conceived as experimental model for a new way to grasp change—history, aesthetically-philosophically oriented, with socio-political and cultural intent.
The website includes a dedicated Blog that aims to rise a debate on the ‘visual-ideological’ aspect of globalization. Since there is a dearth of research on this particular, nevertheless important topic, contributions from scholars of new global studies and other fields of research would be highly beneficial.
From 2009 to 2013 the research project was assisted and hosted by the Globalization and Culture Program of Global Cities Research Institute in cooperation with Globalism Research Centre of the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT University), Australia. Currently the visual archive project is an independent and self-managed digital database.