Optics in a political or social context is generally understood as the ways in which events or actions are or will be perceived by the public or otherwise by parties that will be made aware of them. Professionals whose work heavily involve optics are communicators, marketers, and public relations specialists as well as political pundits, political activists, and various other careers to differing extents. Optics is critically important in communication, justice, and peace development but it’s also understated which is kind of sad.
Why Do Optics Matter?
Optics matter for different reasons in different contexts. In politics understanding optics helps politicians and political activists gain a sort of foresight into how the public will react to a certain course of action or to events that are occurring and will be made public. This is excellent for tailoring messaging and creating strategies that resonate with targeted audiences.
In the context of justice understanding optics helps attorneys and prosecutors on one side or another create a more compelling narrative which can be a critical step in persuading a jury, judge, or clients to make a decision that benefits them. This is something that is so understood there are numerous articles talking about lawyers understanding narratives and optics as well as classes that some lawyers take that help them create compelling narratives. There are even books that indirectly touch upon this by and expand upon it by reminding lawyers that there is more than one courtroom and that not all courtrooms are chambers of a judge or barrister.
In peace development optics is of critical importance. A peace maker, peace builder, or peace keeper has to understand or be capable of learning to understand optics to gain an effective understanding of a developing conflict or a different but equally important understanding of a conflict that is being transformed but is still fragile and could revert to an earlier more violent stage. By understanding how parties in a conflict perceive the conflict in question a peace maker can help parties involved in mediation and arbitration come to a shared understanding of a conflict if that hasn’t already happened and there will be times in a peace maker’s life and career when that is the case. A peace builder who understands optics can more effectively create the conditions necessary for a conflict to cool off to the point where peace making/conflict transformation is possible. A peace keeper who understands optics can see when a situation and/or a disagreement has the potential to explode into a conflict and can react appropriately to prevent that from happening or at least mitigate the impact of the conflict to a manageable level.
There are of course clear intersections of each of these separate contexts and in life many of us will act as parties in these contexts separately and more than a few of us will blur these contexts in our careers and have to come up with unique and innovate understandings of optics and our duties as participants in a justice-achieving process, a political process, and a conflict management or transformation context.
For Future Reference:
This is intended to be an introductory post. From time to time the plan is to write about optics in additional contexts and to explore the optics of real life situations as well as how these real-life situations were reacted to by relevant parties such as folks responsible for them and folks in power who are responding to them such as political figures who issue statements following a series of events that rock a community. Lots of things intersect with optics and exploring that reality as well as how optics are used by those in power is neat and interesting to me as a peace professional and conflict worker.