In his 2004 essay entitled “Phantom Images,” where (Farocki) coined the term of the operative image, he relates that his interest in images, “taken in order to monitor a process that, as a rule, cannot be observed by the human eye,” lies in their non-intentionality, the US military’s tactical warhead pictures approaching what he calls the “unconscious visible.
Explore > Recently Updated / Random / Random from Following
'Random from Following' (or better way to word this) would pull random blocks from channels, groups, or people I follow, kind of like in the email newsletter
AI's think without symbols. From them we learn about the limits and potential of our own symbolic faculties, fortunes, and misapprehensions.
I'm having a really hard time ordering the blocks in my channels. I'm trying to set up slide shows using are.na to make my lectures accessible to my students, but the blocks keep appearing out of order. It's as if some blocks don't get the proper "position" attribute set when I move blocks around. I have to reload the channel many, many times and re-order to get the proper positioning.
It's also time consuming to move entire sets of blocks around.
I know this has come up a bunch, but if I could at least access the "position" attribute for the block directly, I could manually enter the position number.
3D-Maps-Minus-3D allows you to browse one of the major online satellite 3D-maps, but with all of the 3D-information removed. What's left is texture maps: two-dimensional images used by computer software to add color information to the 3D model. We know these texture maps from seeing them wrapped around the 3D models of buildings, roads, skyscrapers, trees, hills, and topography. Here they are presented as is— flat 2D images— as they exist before they are parsed by the computer to produce the illusion of 3D space.
The major online satellite 3D-map is the result of a 3D-mapping apparatus. GPS units, 3D scanners and cameras mounted on automobiles, airplanes, and satellites capture photographs and data. These are collected, parsed and packaged by software and computers. These data and images are sent across the network, to millions of browsers that reassemble the data into a navigable 3D-representation of the planet. The apparatus is as automated as possible, but human input still exists, as they operate the vehicles, and write and troubleshoot the software and hardware.
There are many blank spots on this map. Not every surface on the planet has been parsed and mapped. Only certain regions, mostly cities and hotspots of human activity are captured by the apparatus. This map's blank spots highlight the mapping apparatus's priorities.
View from Above
The ubiquity of networked 3D-maps has given us a new perspective: the view from above. It looks down at the ground from the sky. This perspective has traditionally been associated with a god-like view, or more recently with governments’ and militaries' ability to surveil from above, through aerial reconnaissance and drones. These views are the point of view of power, and they are now being democratized for capital gain.
View from Within
The mapping apparatus that gives us access to the view-from-above perspective also contains within it a multi-perspective view from within. This is the view we see in the texture maps. These texture maps are flattened, fragmented and exploded photographs. There are no singular vanishing points, no ground or horizon in these maps, and thus no hierarchies of information. Rooftops, facades, roads, and buildings are all collapsed onto the same plane. They collapse multiple points of view and times into a single picture plane.
These images imply a particular vision of the city. A fragmented disorienting whole, only ever experienced partially and from within. These images are kaleidoscopic shards. Each of the cities captured by the apparatus are distinct, unique collages of color, angles, forms. These images inform us about the places captured in ways completely different from perspectival images.
The mapping apparatus is almost fully automated. We typically see the input and the output, but the data capturing devices and processing algorithms produce "intermediary" images — images used to make other images (the output). These texture maps are one part of the data used to produce 3D spaces in our internet browsers. But the texture maps themselves are not yet ready for consumption, they are in a data limbo, necessary but usually hidden.
These texture maps are a new kind of acheiropoieta-images not made by human hand. Examples of Acheiropoieta include the shroud of Turin or the Veil of Veronica. Acheiropoieta have historically been of divine origin. They are discovered fully formed, not created by humans. Scientific images are supposed to be acheiropoieta as well - their objectivity comes from the fact that they are not made by humans.1 These new Acheiropoieta are not made by human hands either, but by a massive mapping apparatus. This apparatus is supposed to show the planet as it is — its goal is perfect simulation based on data gathering. Its truth claim relies on the objectivity of the system towards all its data sources.
Not for Human Consumption
These images are not made for humans to look at. They are meant to be seen and parsed by computers. They may look like glitched maps, disaster scenes, cubist collages, but these images are produced for other computers to use—to apply color and texture to 3d forms. These images are efficient vectors of information. But unlike a long list of 1s and 0s, or some other cold alien encoding, they still look like the objects they represent. They are uncannily close to photographs or human made collages.
These images are generated for efficiency of transmission and for machines to read. They use texture-packing algorithms, algorithms to cut up photographs, and algorithms to recreate 3D volumes. They were not produced to look like anything so much as to encode information. Their formal characteristics (empty gray areas at the bottom, jagged edges, wedges) are the result of an automated process. We can intuit parts of the process in these images, read how 3D surfaces are fragmented and collaged into 2D maps, understand how the 3D scanners, cameras, engineers, operators and software deal with facades, roofs, trees, bodies of water, or automobiles. For example we get the sense that the apparatus privileges placing photographic information in the top left corner, or that it tends to fragment photos of trees leaving lots of little grey holes in the imagery. What we are reading in this case is the process residue itself.2
What is an Image?
It is likely that most of these images created by the mapping apparatus will never be seen by a human. Soon, more of these images will be created by all kinds of apparatuses—for mapping, for making video games, for digitizing objects in museums, for producing 3D printable objects—than were ever created by human hands. The vast majority of these images will never be seen by humans. If that is the case, there is a possibility that these are not images anymore. If an image is not read by a human, can it still be called an image?
But if we accept the multiplication and de-linearization of horizons and perspectives, the new tools of vision may also serve to express, and even alter, the contemporary conditions of disruption and disorientation. Recent 3D animation technologies incorporate multiple perspectives, which are deliberately manipulated to create multifocal and nonlinear imagery. Cinematic space is twisted in any way imaginable, organized around heterogeneous, curved, and collaged perspectives. The tyranny of the photographic lens, cursed by the promise of its indexical relation to reality, has given way to hyperreal representations—not of space as it is, but of space as we can make it—for better or worse. There is no need for expensive renderings; a simple green screen collage yields impossible cubist perspectives and implausible concatenations of times and spaces alike.
Margaret Thatcher said that “there is no such thing as society,” and Ronald Reagan said that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” These stupid slogans marked the turn away from the postwar period of reconstruction and underpin much of the bullshit of the past forty years.
We are individuals first, yes, just as bees are, but we exist in a larger social body. Society is not only real; it’s fundamental. We can’t live without it. And now we’re beginning to understand that this “we” includes many other creatures and societies in our biosphere and even in ourselves. Even as an individual, you are a biome, an ecosystem, much like a forest or a swamp or a coral reef. Your skin holds inside it all kinds of unlikely coöperations, and to survive you depend on any number of interspecies operations going on within you all at once. We are societies made of societies; there are nothing but societies. This is shocking news—it demands a whole new world view. And now, when those of us who are sheltering in place venture out and see everyone in masks, sharing looks with strangers is a different thing. It’s eye to eye, this knowledge that, although we are practicing social distancing as we need to, we want to be social—we not only want to be social, we’ve got to be social, if we are to survive. It’s a new feeling, this alienation and solidarity at once. It’s the reality of the social; it’s seeing the tangible existence of a society of strangers, all of whom depend on one another to survive. It’s as if the reality of citizenship has smacked us in the face.
(Farocki) also argues that such images, even if not made by man, are made for man, since “[…]there are no pictures that do not aim at the human eye. A computer can process pictures, but it needs no pictures to verify or falsify what it reads in the images it processes. [...]
Ten years later, the development of computer vision techniques seems to indicate
a turn towards what we could call ‘post-human operativity’: while the imminent task at hand is to perfectly simulate how humans see and make sense of the world, the ultimate goal are fully autonomous systems of image creation, analysis and action, capable of substituting human observers and operators altogether. But then we will need a radically new definition of the image (or have no more need for it).
The critical strategy I find congenial in viewing such a heterogenous collection as Vo presents here is to arrange and rearrange his ordering, at least in my mind, following what at first must be intuitive and emotional associations, which in turn lead to other arrangements. In this sense, the spectator is not only critic but artist as well, albeit on a reduced scale, cooking up strange dishes and even whole menus on the side
I used the word “evocative” in the first paragraph rather than “meaningful”. My domain of enquiry here is not the way in which particular meanings are transmitted through images and how they are changed in the process, but more generally the nature of image-mediated transactions. What would be the minimum condition under which a set of marks may function as an image ? [...]
It is equally true, I believe, that image-reading has no meaningful existence outside the transactional context: not because the whole event is always present — it almost never is — but because every act of image-reading is initiated by the unspoken assertion “What I see is the result of a willful human act”. That is a part of what we mean by the word “image”. However much we may amuse ourselves seeing dinosaurs in clouds or dragons in the fireplace, we have no difficulty in differentiating between marks and shapes made by man, and marks and shapes made by nature, and we do not hesitate to assign meaning in the one case where we deny it in the other: unless we belong to a culture with a more animistic attitude to nature than this one has.
Our sense of spatial and temporal orientation has changed dramatically in recent years, prompted by new technologies of surveillance, tracking,and targeting. One of the symptoms of this transformation is the growing importance of aerial views : overviews, Google Map views, satellite views.
We are growing increasingly accustomed to what used to be called a God’s-eye view. On the other hand, we also notice the decreasing importance of a paradigm of visuality that long dominated our vision: linear perspective. Its stable and single point of view is being supplemented (and often replaced) by multiple perspectives, overlapping windows, distorted flight lines, and divergent vanishing points.
A digital artifact is neither an object nor its representation but the distance between the two. In this way a digital artifact exists somewhere between the two dictionary definitions of its material predecessor :
1. any object made by human beings, especially with a view to subsequent use.
2. a spurious observation or result arising from preparatory or investigative procedures.