The Images of the Artificial or Why Everything Looks the Same

By Mark Roxburgh.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Merleau-Ponty argues that perception is not merely the passive reception of visual data but an embodied, imaginative, and transformative experience. What is transformed through embodied perception is the perceiver of the world and the world perceived, in short our sense of reality. From this we can imagine the world as being fundamentally abstract, artificial and manipulable. This obviously raises questions about the nature of the realm of the material, of what we might call concrete reality. For design this appears untenable for though the perception of the world as-it-might-be functions on an abstract level, the changes we make are based upon our embodied experience of the world as-we-perceive-it. These changes then become operational at an apparent material, concrete, level. As design activity is concerned with transforming the world, quite literally in material form, this leads to design being imagined as the creation of the artificial world. In this paper I seek firstly to draw upon these parallel concerns with the imaginative and the artificial by examining the central role that the image plays in both. I will specifically interrogate the nature of the images of design and argue that because they are largely technical and increasingly ubiquitous – that is they are available to anyone with a camera phone, a computer and design software – that we are witnessing the erasure of the imaginary by the image. I will conclude by speculating on how we might resist such conditions.

Keywords: Design, Phenomenology of Perception, Photography

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.1-16. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 765.253KB).

Mark Roxburgh

Associate Professor, Communication & IT, School of Design, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW, Australia

I worked as a commercial photographer and image-maker for 5 years before embarking on a career as an egghead in the field of visual communication 17 years ago. Much to my surprise, I discovered I enjoy kicking around ideas as much as I do making photographic images. I've combined these twin pleasures in my perennial pursuit of developing a meaningful theory of image-making in my crusade against the tyranny of semiotic deconstruction that has dominated photographic theory. I reckon by the time I shuffle off this mortal coil, I might have some vague inkling of what such a theory might be.