Media temporalities and the technical image

Barker, T. (2023) Media temporalities and the technical image. In: de Vaujanay, F.-X., Holt, R. and Grandazzi, A. (eds.) Organisation as Time: Technology, Power and Politics. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781009297257

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This chapter begins from a rather simple observation: that something has changed in the condition of the image. Over the last two decades or so, one type of image has been coming to an end, in place of another. The photographic image and the cinematic image have been replaced by what scholars such as Steven Shaviro (2010) and Shane Denson (2020) call the ‘post-cinematic’ imaging regime, which includes the cinematic and photographic, but only inasmuch as they are now seen as data to be computed. Once, the photographic and – by extension – the cinematic was dominant in culture. But now that all images are reduced to digital information processed by computers, the images that are the outputs of programs have become the form on which visual culture is produced, whether in films and television, video games, surveillance, art or advertising. This has implications for the way that we discuss the ontology of images, but also for the conditions of representation, particularly the conditions for the representation of time and by extension the conditions for the possibility of being-in-time. As is no doubt well known to readers of this chapter, discussions of time, the image, and analogue media have a long history: McLuhan wrote about the temporality of both older inscription technologies and newer electronic media such as television, Roland Barthes wrote about the temporality of the photograph, Gilles Deleuze the temporality of cinema and Mary Ann Doane and Jonathan Crary have linked the temporality of the image to the discourses of modernity, progress and machines. But now, as computers rather than cameras become the be-all-and-end-all of imaging systems, a new type of temporality has replaced the time-image of cinema and the memories expressed in the photographic. This chapter continues my recent research on the idea of contemporaneity and what it means to live ‘in the present’ by exploring the conditions for representation produced by such images. Beginning with the media philosopher, Vilém Flusser, I unpack the term ‘technical image’, which he uses to signify images produced by photographs, films, television and computers. These are images that, according to Flusser, are produced by the automatic function of an apparatus, which breaks images down into smaller elements (pixels, scan lines, frames or grains). Flusser uses this concept to think about the camera as the machine at the start of a new imagining regime, culminating in video and computer-generated images. My use of Flusser’s term is slightly different. I would like to use the method for analysing images given to us by Flusser, but use the term ‘technical image’ to unpack and explore the differences between synthetic images – understood as images that present viewers with a unified whole – and images that break a pre-given unity into discrete pixelated elements. I try and go further than Flusser’s original formulation of the technical image by tracing its genealogy in much older media used for measurement and the particalisation of events: these are what I refer to in this chapter as analytical media. I argue that these types of analytical media, which pre-date the synthesis of the cinema, are now returning in the world produced by technical images. From here, I look at a number of contemporary artworks that further explore what it is to live in the conditions produced by these machines and how this produces a different temporality to that which characterised western modernity.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Barker, Professor Timothy
Authors: Barker, T.
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
T Technology > TR Photography
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Publisher:Cambridge University Press

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