4. From the Kino-Eye to the Postimage

In this last post, we want to explore the relation between vision, image and machine. With film, or already with photography, a new age has started: that of machine vision, of machines that see (for us). The logical consequence is that at some point, these machines will no longer need us to function (we’ve already come a long way from hand-cranked cameras to webcams) or to look at their images (think of automated CCTV surveillance or assembly robots). They may still see for us, but will do so without our involvement, as with self-driving cars for instance. What is at stake then in the age of machine vision is not only the status and concept of the image (what does “seeing” mean for a robot equipped with various sensors, among them visual ones?), it is also the status and concept of the human as the producer and consumer of images. Read More »

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3. Softimage and Hardimage

PS to our previous blog, “On the Invisible (Image and Algorithm)”.  As a friend suggested, we should have imagined Paglen’s photo of a secret military base in the so-called top-secret lab run by Sergey Brin “in an undisclosed Bay Area location”: here is the place for thinking about secrecy. In fact, Google seems intentionally to be creating an atmosphere of mystery around “a pair of otherwise ordinary two-story red-brick buildings about a half-mile from Google’s main campus” [1]. It is impossible to find much information on Google (sic!) apart from two journal articles. In the one published in The New York Times in 2011 we can read: “It’s a place where your refrigerator could be connected to the Internet, so it could order groceries when they ran low. Your dinner plate could post to a social network what you’re eating. Your robot could go to the office while you stay home in your pajamas. And you could, perhaps, take an elevator to outer space.” [2] Read More »

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2. On the Invisible (Image and Algorithm)

First we want to specify a point concerning the last sentence of our first post. In his “Postscript on the Societies of Control”, published in French in 1990 (that is, a few years before the launch of the first public web browser), Deleuze opposes the old disciplinary societies as analyzed by Foucault to the present societies of control. He writes:  Read More »

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1. Image and Programme

As an attentive reader has pointed out to us, the word ‛programme’ appears in our book Softimage within a family of terms: algorithm, software, computation, processing, programming. If these terms, all gravitating around digitalization, seem almost interchangeable, we are in fact using the term ‛programme’ in a larger yet very specific sense, that of the programme of the image, or the image as a programme, which is not a condition that emerged with digitalization, but one that dates back to the Renaissance. Our first blog will explore the way the programme of the image develops in the 15th century in an intricate relation with the political programme of the time and the birth of the humanist episteme. Read More »

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V. Images in Common

In communicative capitalism, we communicate with words and images – what I’ve been referring to as “secondary visuality.” Communicative utterances that might have once been speech acts – like talking on the phone or sending a letter to the editor – now mix words and images: a text with emojis, an animated gif inserted into a comment thread, a meme. New kinds of visual conversations make stories out of photos and short videos (Snapchat). As interactions that flow across our screens, multiple images envelop us in a montage of humor, horror, the mundane, and the bizarre. Words and images are equivalent. One does not replace or subordinate the other. They intermix, mash, and mingle such that neither alone can be said to be the repository of truth. Read More »

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IV. Images without Viewers: Imitation, Repetition, Circulation

My posts have been exploring secondary visuality as a key attribute of communicative capitalism. Secondary visuality names the primacy of the image in technologically mediated mass personal communication. Rather than the privilege of top-down communication (broadcast media, advertising) or a means of expression confined to artists and professionals, visual communication is part of everyday communication in digital networks. Read More »

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III. Images without Viewers: Selfie Communism

Selfies are a communist form of expression.

The critical reflex is to dismiss selfies as yet another indication of a pervasive culture of narcissism. I disagree. The narcissism critique approaches the selfie as if it were analyzing a single photograph. It views the person in that photograph as the photograph’s subject. Selfies, though, should be understood as a common form, a form that, insofar as it is inseparable from the practice of sharing selfies, has a collective subject. The subject is the many participating in the common practice, the many imitating each other. The figure in the photo is incidental. Read More »

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II. Images without Viewers: Emoji

A smiley face streaming tears of joy was the Oxford Dictionaries’ 2015 word of the year. That an emoji is not a word didn’t matter. Or, better, it is what actually did matter. “Face with tears of joy” was chosen to mark the fact that images are taking the place of linguistic expression of feelings and ideas. They are blending into, merging with, and displacing words and sentences in digitized personal communication. Visuals accompany and absorb text just as physical gestures augment oral communication. Multiple, repeatable, and generic images are less “of” than they are “for”– for circulation in the rich media networks of communicative capitalism. Read More »

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