Proximity, Sharing and Choice: the Constituents of a Digital Subject

Hillman, John (2017) Proximity, Sharing and Choice: the Constituents of a Digital Subject. In: Association of Photographers in Higher Education, Norwich University of the Arts. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

When understood as a medium of modernism, photography is generally considered as being concerned with making the world visible. In the post-modern age, photography was assumed not to be a transparent window or mirror but rather the mediating interface hiding the mechanisms of the world through simulation and representation. Today, the digital age presents a new condition for photography by shifting emphasis from visual image analysis to a closer consideration of how algorithms, data and processual information create image in a new form. Photography is therefore one of the organisers and interfaces of digital data. Given this context, the ground of representation and the symbolic order now appear determined by code and computer logic.

I argue, in the digital age, a new subject is being formed that embodies: a proximity replaced by the interface of the screen; a sharing that fervently excludes those unable or unwilling to participate; and an excess of choice but an inability to choose. It is no coincidence that these are qualities, not only of the digital subject, but also of photography itself.

In this paper, I argue digitalisation threatens a decentred subject by appearing as a coherent and consistent framework shaping lives from the outside. In other words, the apparent formal order of the digital closes the constitutive gap of subjectivity and produces a subject no longer based on the antagonisms and inconsistencies of representation.

Unlike in the past, where if we were to penetrate the surface of the photograph all we would find would be nothing more than the site of a questionable representational practice, today we encounter incontrovertible commands driven by data and the algorithm. From this position, I set out new terms and purpose for photography, suggesting it can be understood as the interface of a new human subjectivity.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: W600 Cinematics and Photography
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > School of Visual Communication
Depositing User: John Hillman
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2019 09:21
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2019 09:21
URI: http://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/7527

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