Monday 8 March 2010

Visualising EU law

It's just a thought that I had a minute ago because I am working on images in politics right now: Why not try to visualise EU law?

Earlier this morning, via the EU Law (Wordpress) blog, I came across the newly published Rules of Procedure of the European Commission.

I don't think many people outside the institutions will actually read this. It is boring. It is interlaced. As most EU law.

But the rules of procedure (or the Lisbon Treaties), if you read and understand them, produce a visual image of personalities and interactions in your mind, simplified representations of the legal provisions translated into simple pictures or simplified real-life situations.

This should be translated into visual laws.

I am not a very artistic person. That is why I cannot come up with a visual solution myself. But some of you might.

What I am thinking of is an iconographic way of re-writing pieces of law: One could use existing images or invent icons for each and every institution, procedure, document type etc. On can use arrows and other meaningful symbols to show relations of hierarchy, co-operation etc.

When one replaces major parts of existing legal text with these icons and images, one could quickly go through a law and see the connections between its parts through the same or similar visual representations. Complexity of language that is made for and by legal professionals could be reduced to images that can be understand by non-professionals.

And with a click on every image one would get an explanation explaining for what it stands, and, maybe, what other images are directly linked to this image.

Probably this is not very innovative, it must have been thought before. Probably it is not doable because it might have been used already if it was. Probably it's just a thought.


Anonymous said...

It has:

Matic Bitenc said...

I completely agree, and not only law, we need great visualisations of the whole institutional framework. Imagine the entirety of EU's institutions being put on a giant interactive "mind map" with the less detailed zoomed out view and a a zoom in to each institution and the framework of it's interactions with others. Sort of a visual Wikipedia for the EU based on the same principles of openness and open standards (so the data could be read and encapsulated in other visualisations and software as well). I always imagine this when studying EU literature, yet never get to creating this Colossus of a project later.

Julien Frisch said...

Yeah, that is hell of a work indeed...

Anna Lena Schiller said...

Nice idea! Andreas just sent me the link to your blog.

Here are some excellent free icons:

A great video where they have been used:

And if someone somehow finds money to finance this I'd be glad to make some visual sensemaking. I also have contacts who can make an interactive online version.

I always love it when people just put their ideas out there - thanks for sharing.

Anna Lena

Julien Frisch said...

Hi Anna Lena,

thanks for your comments and your links, quite interesting stuff!

Hope to meet you on re:publica if you like...

Max Steinbeis said...

check out this other project of mine (besides the Verfassungsblog):

Most laws, not only on the EU level, come into existence largely unnoticed simply because they make a lousy story. No journalist will touch that insider stuff, and if he does, no one will read it. You need tension for a story, colorful personalities, conflict and suspense. Laws mostly are products of long-winded negotiations, of compromises and deals among some anonymous bureaucrats. Lousy story indeed.

Visual maps of laws and the pros and cons behind them could go a long way in that respect. We will see much more of them in the future, hopefully.