Date of Award

Winter 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Public Service

Committee Director

Meagan M. Jordan

Committee Member

Berhanu Mengistu

Committee Member

Kristine E. Sunday


This critical interpretive study explores the relationship between public policy and visual culture. Drawing from five areas of research literature on (1) policy feedback theory, (2) the spectacle, (3) art and visual culture, (4) Black feminist theory, (5) and critical philosophies of resistance, images of contemporary antiracist activism are conceptualized as a form of policy feedback. Photographs of Ieshia Evans, Bree Newsome, and a self-portrait by Nona Faustine are reverse searched through Google Images. Utilizing constructivist grounded theory, a collection of publicly available news articles, blogs, and social media content are analyzed to better understand how mass publics engage with these images online.

The findings reveal that a unique form of social learning takes place as publics orient themselves to the images in terms of lived experience, current events, and history; as they make sense of images by connecting novel information to previously learned information; and, as they apply the images in a variety of ways in civil society, politics, and market. This form of extra-institutional learning appears to be consistent with current literature on public pedagogy. Implications for the field of public policy are discussed.