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SKAPE: Research


Beyond Winners and Losers: Visual Rankings as Alignment Devices in Global Public Policy

Event Name Beyond Winners and Losers: Visual Rankings as Alignment Devices in Global Public Policy
Start Date 28th Oct 2020 11:30am
End Date 28th Oct 2020 12:30pm
Duration 1 hour

On 28 October, we welcome Sotiria Grek (Social Policy, Edinburgh) and Justyna Bandola-Gill (Social Policy, Edinburgh) as part of the SKAPE Seminar Series 2020-21.

The presentation will explore visualizations as instruments of the expansion of rankings into increasingly new domains of the society and the economy. In global public policy, rankings adapt to the evolving paradigms of governing global challenges, best exemplified by the introduction of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In contrast to previous global measurement agendas, the SDGs are characterised by an emphasis on country-led and democratic decision-making. Consequently, the pressures to decolonize performance measurement have resulted in changes of rankings themselves. This recalibration is saliently manifested through the way rankings are visualized in global governance. 

This presentation will investigate the strategies that the visualization experts adopt in the measurement of global poverty and wellbeing, focusing on a variety of interactive visual rankings produced by the OECD, the World Bank, and the Gates Foundation. Building on visual and discourse analysis, the study details how the politically and ethically sensitive nature of such settings and the increasing pressures for ‘decolonizing’ development influence how rankings are visualized. The study makes two contributions to the study of rankings. First, it details the move away from league table formats towards multivocal interactive layouts that seek to mitigate the competitive and potentially dysfunctional pressures of the display of ‘winners and losers’. Second, it theorizes visual rankings in global governance as ‘alignment devices’ that entice country buy-in in performance measurement exercises and seek (by avoiding antagonising lower performers) to align actors around common global agendas.

The seminar will take place online via Zoom (for link details, please email the Co-Directors - if you are already a member/associate member of SKAPE, then you will receive a Zoom link two days before the start of the event).