A de­f­i­n­i­tion of il­lus­tra­tion:

Any mi­age that par­tic­i­pates in a com­ples text pre­sented as a com­mu­ni­cat­ing arte­fact (for ex­am­ple, a com­mu­ni­cat­ing arte­fact could be a web­site, a text mes­sage, a book or a t-shirt)

See also Catrin’s lec­ture on Visual Forensics

Most il­lus­tra­tion lit­er­a­ture is aimed at un­der­grads — how you get into the in­dus­try etc. This does­n’t ad­dress many im­ages (photographs, folk art) that also func­tion as il­lus­tra­tion.

This is based on a 2015 pa­per: The Nomadic Illustration

Net neu­tral­ity ad­vo­cates claim that all data on the net­work be treated as equal, whether it be a piece of spam or a Nobel lau­re­ate’s speech [Un­cre­ative Writing]

Kenneth Goldsmith’s cri­tique of con­tem­po­rary po­etry (it can’t deal with on­line dis­tri­b­u­tion, is­sues of own­er­ship etc) also ap­plies to il­lus­tra­tion. Photography the­ory is use­ful to talk about il­lus­tra­tion be­cause pho­tographs of­ten func­tion as il­lus­tra­tion.

Barthes: The Photographic Message: An im­age’s mean­ing is con­structed by the con­text in which you en­counter it

The press pho­to­graph is a mes­sage. Considered over­all this mes­sage is formed by a source of emis­sion, a chan­nel f trans­mis­sion and a point of re­cep­tion […] what­ever the ori­gin an des­ti­na­tion of the mes­sage, the pho­to­graph is not sim­ply a prod­uct or a chan­nel but also an ob­ject en­dowed with struc­tural au­ton­omy

When we talk about il­lus­tra­tion, we take it out of the con­text it was in­tended for. The idea of au­tonomous im­ages: Images that con­tain within them the con­text re­quired to un­der­stand them, take that con­text with them when they move around on­line.

Online im­ages move in two ways

Images on­line are framed

Desktop win­dows, the screen — every­t­ing we look at is framed by the screen. We look at them in a space that feels per­sonal. When we drag an im­age onto the desk­top, it be­comes our prop­erty.

Barthes: Mythologies talks about myths as a way of speech. Our lap­top op­er­at­ing sys­tems, face­book, browsers are modes of speech that are de­signed to be in­vis­i­ble. The on­line space leads to a cer­tain kind of im­age-mak­ing: There are no cir­cu­lar browser win­dows (or il­lus­tra­tor win­dows). The way we in­ter­act with the world in­forms how we be­have as cre­ative prac­ti­tion­ers.

We also don’t think about the ma­te­r­ial that the screen is made from (liquid crys­tals), we look straight through it at the con­tent. Similar: When we talk about pho­tograohs, we talk about what they show, not what they are (This is my mum, rather than This is a scanned pho­to­graph of my mum)

Facebook Design Principles

Talks about trans­parency. Sans-serif fonts, light colours are some­one’s idea of what trans­parency is sup­posed to look like.

Judith Butler in Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1999)

The de­mand for lu­cid­ity for­gets the ruses that mo­tor the os­ten­si­bly clear” view. Avital Ronell re­calls the mo­ment in which Nixon looked into the eyes of the na­tion and said, let me make one thing per­fectly clear” and then pro­ceeded to lie. What trav­els un­der the sign of clarity,” and what would be the price of fail­ing to de­ploy a cer­tain crit­i­cal sus­pi­cion when the ar­rival of lu­cid­ity is an­nounced? Who de­vises the pro­to­cols of clarity” and whose in­ter­ests do they serve? What is fore­closed by the in­sis­tence on parochial stan­dards of trans­parency as req­ui­site for all com­mu­ni­ca­tion? What does transparency” keep ob­scure?

Of course there are tons of things that Facebook’s transparency” ob­scures: Algorithms, mon­e­ti­za­tion.

In de­fense of the Poor Image (2009) talks about how low-fi’ im­ages have a Walter Benjamin aura of au­then­tic­ity. Contrast be­tween real peo­ple’s im­ages and ad­ver­tis­ing on in­sta­gram. We as­so­ci­ate low-qual­ity im­ages with con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple we trust.

Images that Move

Barthes in The Photographic Message(2000):

Whatever the ori­gin and des­ti­na­tion of the mes­sage, the pho­to­graph is not sim­ply a prod­uct or a chan­nel but also an ob­ject en­dowed with struc­tural au­ton­omy

guardian editorial illustration Michael Kirkham for the Guardian. Source

Even in the con­text of a sta­tic ed­i­to­r­ial il­lus­tra­tion, the il­lus­tra­tion moves: THe im­age ap­pears on the guardian web­site, face­book, Twitter, Print, App. The con­text (and there­fore the mean­ing of the im­age) changes each time.

William Mitchell in The Reconfigured Eye (1994):

If Barthes is right about im­ages hav­ing determinate mean­ing’ only when pre­sented in the frame­work of a spe­cific text […], then the re­place­ment of tra­di­tion­ally rigid and sta­ble printed texts by fluid, ad hoc, re­com­bin­able lec­tronic as­sem­blies is par­tic­u­larly note­wor­thy.

Photographs have a truth-claim be­cause they’re in­dex­i­cal - di­rectly linked to a place and a time by chem­istry. Mitchell is wor­ried about what hap­pens to that truth-claim when dig­i­tal im­ages re­move the di­rect link.

2: The on­go­ing mo­ment

Geoff Dyer: The Ongoing Moment (2009) thinks about the his­tory in a non-lin­ear way.

As soon as I re­alised I was drawn o hats, the idea of the hat be­came an or­gan­is­ing prin­ci­ple or node

Every pho­tog­ra­pher al­ways comes back to the same blind ac­cordeon player.

Police arrest a protster Police ar­rest a pro­tester on Sunday at Kiener Plaza, St. Louis. The Washington Times

Every shot of a pro­tester be­ing car­ried off by po­lice is the same: Police with their backs turned, pro­tester fac­ing the pho­tog­ra­pher.

The Gay Girl in Damascus was sup­pos­edly a blog about the Arab spring, but it was ac­tu­ally writ­ten by a mid­dle-aged man in Edinburgh. The pro­file im­age was scraped from some ran­dom wom­an’s Facebook pro­file. When she was sup­pos­edly ar­rested, ac­tivists made il­lus­trated ver­sions of the im­age. Later the il­lus­tra­tion was used to free some­one else.

E-Flux ed­i­to­r­ial: Online iden­ti­ties are con­structs made from words and im­ages that re­sem­ble iden­ti­ties. However these things can have real in­flu­ence in the real world.

O'Keefe Composite Source

A Georgia O’Keefe im­age cre­ated by a weird man­dala on­line shop.

This Georgia O’Keefe com­pos­ite im­age had a mo­ment in 2011 as ev­i­dence of how her paint­ings are erot­ica. A bub­ble of blogs cre­ated by amer­i­can un­der­grad stu­dents. Eventually it moves to a book cover (see above) This counts as a poor im­age.

Mall Sharks (A fake im­age of) sharks in a flooded mall. Source

This im­age turns up every time there is a flood­ing some­hwere (or even if there is­n’t a flood­ing). A move­ment of this shark im­age from National Geographic to every­where else.


Nodes are au­thored as nodes, which is to say that they are self-con­tained se­man­tic en­ti­ties, ean­ing­ful both in iso­la­tion and in re­la­tion to the net­work of which they are a part

This phe­nom­e­non does­n’t be­long to the in­ter­net, but the in­ter­net speeds it up and makes it pos­si­ble to trace im­ages ina way that would have been very dif­fi­cult be­fore.

[William eggle­stone] ac­ci­den­tal novel (and some other nov­els) Pri­mal scream coun­try girl

People talk about use of stock im­ages on book cov­ers as neg­a­tive, but these im­ages also func­tion as nodes linkn­ing the sto­ries to­gether

Another mov­ing im­age: [Tris­tram Shandy] black square (various edi­tions) The black square by re­fu­cisng to sho any­thing is still il­lus­trat­ing some­thing

The black square is a pause in the nar­ra­tive - we’re asked to con­tem­plate the death of a char­ac­ter This comes from a 18th cen­tury fu­neral tra­di­tion

char­ac­ters in [people of pa­per] are aware of the nar­ra­tor Male­vich black square (the end of pain­ing)

Scott McCloud: Reinventing comics

Now there’s a phe­nom­e­non of peo­ple hav­ing black square avatars on so­cial me­dia.

Strange Universalism (2017):

The Black Square could be any­where. It is po­ten­tially ubiq­ui­tous. It has per­vaded re­al­ity with­out any­one notic­ing. It has gone vi­ral like a 3-D meme. Today, The Black Square is any TV or phone screen that is switched off. The Black Square has be­come The Black Screen. Whatever is shown on screens to­day is mostly num­bers pos­ing as peo­ple. In con­trast, The Black Screen does not pre­sent me­dia re­alisms, but rather the re­al­ity of me­di­a­tion. It does­n’t show Reality TV, but demon­strates that pro­lif­er­at­ing screens are real. The black sur­face of the screen could be the ex­te­rior of the black-box al­go­rithms op­er­at­ing be­hind it. In this case, The Black Screen be­comes a doc­u­men­tary im­age of real-ex­ist­ing tech­nol­ogy and its non­trans­par­ent mode of op­er­a­tion. The Black Square’s white frame is re­placed by a slim metal frame bear­ing the name of a cor­po­ra­tion. This is the new nor­mal, the stan­dard blank page or can­vas.

Something that’s opaque talks more elo­quently about the world (more than trans­par­ent twit­ter and face­book)