In this busy world, visual communication is a concept which allows individuals to grasp the meaning behind an idea without spending hours reading through long and often boring reams of information. There are many forms of visual communication including information graphics, symbols and signs, shapes and colors, images and groups of images, charts and graphs, typography (the specific design of lettering), and cartoons and illustrations. Through these forms of communication, information and ideas can be conveyed in a quick and interesting way which either directly presents or allows the individual to make their own inferences – for example, typography is often designed to imply a meaning (such as red lettering to denote ‘hot’).
When the phone hacking scandal broke, the British public (along with much of their international partners) experienced a strong rise in political opinion (BBC News, 2011). Everybody knew the latest news and social networks such as Twitter and Facebook become prevalently used to convey public opinion and of course, newspapers such as The Guardian took care to present this and visual communication was used to do so.
Fig 1: The Guardian’s ‘Bubble Graph’ of the most commonly used words on Twitter during the MP questioning of James and Rupert Murdoch (Dant et al, 2011).
In the recent phone hacking scandal which surrounded News International, run by Rupert and James Murdoch, the world erupted with political commentary, questions and Twitter, the micro-blogging social networking site, really came into its own. British newspaper, The Guardian, presented the most commonly used words associated with the scandal as the Murdochs were being questioned in parliament. The above image is a still of the bubble graph – on the actual site, it features a timeline which moves along whilst the words surrounding the image change to feature the most commonly used words at that point in proceedings; the larger the bubble, the more frequently the word featured. At the moment where Rupert Murdoch is attacked with a shaving foam pie, the words erupt with ‘pie’, ‘face’, ‘attack’ and ‘foam’ being among the most commonly used words on Twitter at that point. The graph is a lovely portrayal of how a nation was responding to the proceedings and demonstrates the power of Twitter as a tool for expressing oneself. It effectively communicates how a nation was in uproar following the unfolding of events and demonstrates the wide spectrum of public opinion of the phone hacking scandal.
Fig. 2: Cartoon featured in the Atlanta Journal Constitution at the height of the phone hacking scandal (Luckovich, 2011).
This cartoon is designed to demonstrate how the News of the World phone hacking scandal spiraled out of control. It became clear as more and more events unfolded that anybody was potentially at risk of having had their phone hacked into and this cartoon portrays the British Queen as being equally as vulnerable. The humor is designed to make light of the situation whilst also demonstrating the potential for the depth of the scandal. As it continued to unfold, it quickly became clear that the scandal ran deep into the heart of the British government and the Metropolitan Police Force with even David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, being implicated. The British public were in uproar and by presenting the Queen as both reacting to the scandal as well as being portrayed as being equally as vulnerable as anyone else, this cartoon portrays the shock and interest which the entire British population took in the story. In short, the cartoon communicates its message effectively by demonstrating how the scandal rocked various British institutions to its core.
Fig. 3: CCTV photo of Rupert Murdoch being attacked by Jonnie Marbles during his parliamentary trial (Wintour, 2011).
This image was used under the Guardian newspaper headline of ‘Rupert Murdoch’s Phone-Hacking Humble Pie.’ The image displays the moment when Jonnie Marbles attacked the News Corp billionaire with a shaving foam pie. The event divided the nation: some felt that Murdoch deserved the embarrassment and attack whilst others felt that the attack detracted from the trial’s purpose and induced sympathy towards Murdoch. However, in this instance, the image is used to convey the message of Murdoch experiencing, first-hand, the opinion of the public and eating his humble pie. This image featured in hundreds of newspapers and hundreds more of news channels. The image effectively communicates the public opinion and reaction to the phone hacking scandal and towards Murdoch in particular. The trials were streamed live on television and millions of people tuned in to see the Murdochs questioned and so when Marbles launched his attack, this image was seen by everyone and caused a huge eruption on Twitter internationally (as discussed with Figure 1). The image completely captured the moment’s essence as dividing public opinion.
In conclusion, it is clear that visual communication played a big role in conveying the extent of the British public’s opinions about the phone hacking scandal which broke in July 2011. The story became massively interactive with the public voicing their opinions through any medium possible and papers such as The Guardian and the BBC News site quickly adopted visual communication tools to effectively display this.
BBC News. (2011). How world media are reporting News of the World hacking. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-14209537
Cavna, M. (2011). RUPERT MURDOCH: 9 Eye-Catching Hacking Scandal Cartoons. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/comic-riffs/post/rupert-murdoch-9-eye-catching-hacking-scandal-cartoons/2011/07/18/gIQAmvvbNI_blog.html
Dant, A. et al. (2011). Rupert Murdoch: How Twitter tracked the MPs' questions - and the pie. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/interactive/2011/jul/19/rupert-murdoch-twitter-pie
Wintour, P. (2011). Rupert Murdoch’s Phone-Hacking Humble Pie. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jul/19/rupert-murdoch-phone-hacking-pie?INTCMP=SRCH