Visualizing Change in Armed Conflict: Complexity in the Eyes of the Beholder

Authors: Dr. Annette Idler, Dr. Jota Samper, Dr. Katerina Tkacova • Resource type: Working Papers


Violent conflict evolves and adapts to ever-changing conditions motivated by interactions between actors involved in conflict and the places in which it develops. Such a multifaceted interplay of variables complicates the understanding of dynamic conflict and requires sophisticated tools to explain the processes it involves. Challenging hegemonic epistemological processes in conflict studies and related fields, we argue that visualization offers opportunities to explore dynamic conflict in a more nuanced way than conventional approaches allow. Conflict studies involve numerous epistemologies that respond to the multifaceted character of conflict. Visualization, however, has been used traditionally to present findings only. Conventional disciplinary boundaries that prioritize text-based data and narrative impede the furthering of visualization narrative as a form of interdisciplinary communication and, maybe more critically, as a form of scientific inquiry. Beyond just offering findings, we content, visualization gives space for inquiry. Non-verbal data such as visualization facilitates reaching multiple audiences and further examining data in research on violence. We present conflict cases as evidence of the potential of such visual tools. Through these cases, we demonstrate that the value of such tools is often underestimated due to the lack of visual literacy among scholars in conflict studies and the general public. ​

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