Social Policy and Social Change: Popular culture, New Media, and Social Work
With the resurgence of race- and gender-related movements globally, the need to further understand the tensions that may exist across the divided space is becoming increasingly evident. Each group seems to stand at polar opposites, fiercely defending an ideological position that promotes a platform for either resistance, or dissonance. Some may be likened to the oppressed, to be striving to make a change to the way in which they are viewed and able to contribute to society, whereas those who want to uphold dominant discourses and power structures at the cost of diversity and difference sit in a position of privilege, acting with pomp and sanctimony upon being challenged to think of other ways of being and becoming, knowing and doing, that might thrust their world into turmoil. No matter which polar opposite you follow, I am constantly intrigued by the need to look at pragmatic ways in which we, as global citizens, can better create localised perspectives that are more inclusive, and strive to counteract the burgeoning status quo of choosing one over the other. Rather than living in a world characterised by 'us and them', I believe social work, and its evolving relationships with visual practices and images, can create social action initiatives that in turn can assist in enacting social change, and social justice. The social work profession, founded on the premise of promoting equality, can be at the forefront of modelling practices that encourage a shift in policies to influence political will and action; and vice versa. I believe the evolving nature of government policies in Australia, especially around film and television practices, is starting to create better opportunities for diversity and differences to be understood more broadly, prompting a more inclusive society. It is within this space of visual representation that this chapter is written, with a view to exploring the challenges of power and difference as its theoretical base, and the notion that diversity does matter when policies are developed and implemented. The more pragmatic element of the theory and policy will come to the fore through the exploration of visual imagery and social action, social change and social work, followed by three key case studies that further outline and exemplify the impact that visual communication has on individuals, their place in community, and the wider society.