An in-depth look into the transformation of visual culture and digital aesthetics
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 us unprecedented insight into the ever-evolving world of posthuman visuality.
Cover alt text: Satellite photo on which white title words appear in yellow boxes. Yellow lines connect the boxes.
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?
"What is the work of the image in an age of algorithmic production? The very idea of an 'image' is bound inextricably with how we make and reproduce them, with who and what interprets them, and for what ends. What happens when images pass beyond representation and even human visual senses? What is visual culture when most optical traces are generated by and for machines to interpret and operationalize? Jussi Parikka's masterful and concise book is a decisive moment in the study of 'ways of seeing' that goes beyond the standard anthropocentric tales of art history. Refreshingly, it forces us to see seeing in a whole new light."—Benjamin Bratton, University of California, San Diego
"This book offers a crucial study of the ‘operational image,’ revealing the complex relations that shape and surface in images that may not appear to be very interesting. Jussi Parikka’s evocative writing and juggling of topics—from artificial intelligence to remote sensing to lidar—is bound to spark thought and action in media studies and beyond."—Lisa Parks, University of California, Santa Barbara