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Title: Damage into image : exposing the technics of the digital camera
Author: Cornford, Stephen
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis presents an artistic and media theoretical research project focused on the optoelectronic transducer at the heart of the digital camera: the image sensor. The technics of digital vision now plays a decisive role in our lives. While the generation and manipulation of digital images using software and code is an established creative practice and the pervasive glow of the screen is matched by its visibility in both practice and theory, the hardware of digital image capture has largely eluded critical artistic attention. A fact that stands in sharp contrast to the many creative misuses and appropriations of previous visual media. The practice component of this research seeks to redress this oversight, exploring and exposing the materiality and operation of digital image sensors through a series of three experiments, appropriating the processes and facilities of optoelectronics and immunology for creative media interventions. These experiments apply destructive optical and chemical process to the sensor's surface, aiming to reveal through damaging, eroding or inhibiting their representational function. This research provides a new methodology that expands the potential of contemporary video practice by refuting the assumed technical limitations of the camera. This practice is developed alongside theoretical research which analyses the image sensor with respect to current media theory, the philosophy of technology, and to a lesser extent, photographic theory, and science and technology studies. Central to this analysis are Gilbert Simondon's concepts of concretisation and transduction. Concretisation is used elucidate the trajectory of the sensor from research science to commercial consumer component, while transduction is used to describe the mediation of photography from our photonic environment, via camera's protocols into human visual cognition. This multi-layered transduction is peeled apart in an account of the camera's perceptual technics, arguing that its technical specificities both exceed and are addressed to the limitations of human visual perception. This comparison combines a media archaeological close reading of the sensor's technicity with a psychophysical account of embodied sight. I frame this encounter between technological and biological vision as what Karen Barad describes as an intra-action. This perceptual understanding of the digital camera's operation is then used to analyse its contribution to contemporary subjectivity and its position within a political economy in which the distribution and consumption of images is playing an increasingly decisive (and profitable) role. I locate the various technics of the camera in relation to Maurizio Lazzarato's account the production of subjectivity, before analysing how the digital image operates within what Jonathan Beller describes as the attention economy, positing the digital camera as an instrument of capital and proposing a parallel between its fragmentation and quantification of pictorial space and the dividual and commodified nature of contemporary subjectivity. What emerges from the parallel strands of practice and theory in this project is an understanding of the limitations inscribed in the hardware of the camera itself, and a series of provocations as to how they might be overcome. In exposing these limitations the project reveals the informatic basis and constituent invisibilities which underlie contemporary visual culture.
Supervisor: Parikka, Jussi ; Dawson, Ian Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available