Operational Images

From the Visual to the Invisual

2023
Author:

Jussi Parikka

An in-depth look into the transformation of visual culture and digital aesthetics

Serving as an extensive guide to a key concept in contemporary art, design, and media theory, Operational Images explores the implications of machine vision and the limits of human agency. Parikka considers the extent to which operational images have pervaded today’s visual culture, outlining how data technologies continue to develop and disrupt our understanding of images beyond representation.

First introduced by the German filmmaker Harun Farocki, the term operational images defines the expanding field of machine vision. In this study, media theorist Jussi Parikka develops Farocki’s initial concept by considering the extent to which operational images have pervaded today’s visual culture, outlining how data technologies continue to develop and disrupt our understanding of images beyond representation.

Charting the ways that operational images have been employed throughout a variety of fields and historical epochs, Parikka details their many roles as technologies of analysis, capture, measurement, diagramming, laboring, (machine) learning, identification, tracking, and destruction. He demonstrates how, though inextricable from issues of power and control, operational images extend their reach far beyond militaristic and colonial violence and into the realms of artificial intelligence, data, and numerous aspects of art, media, and everyday visual culture.

Serving as an extensive guide to a key concept in contemporary art, design, and media theory, Operational Images explores the implications of machine vision and the limits of human agency. Through a wealth of case studies highlighting the areas where imagery and data intersect, this book gives unprecedented insight into the ever-evolving world of posthuman visuality.

Jussi Parikka is professor of digital aesthetics and culture at Aarhus University as well as professor at University of Southampton and visiting professor at FAMU, Prague. He is author of A Geology of Media, Insect Media (both from Minnesota), Digital Contagions, and What Is Media Archaeology?

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