[Infovis] REV-CONF: Gazing into the 21st Century (Veigl)

Image Science image.science at donau-uni.ac.at
Mon Mar 23 13:51:21 CET 2009

Second International Conference for Image Science Goettweig 08: Gazing
into the 21st Century.
Department for Image Science, Danube University Krems, October 16th -
18th 2008

The increasing number of new technical and social possibilities to
produce and distribute visual material - from YouTube, Flickr to other
virtual spaces - demonstrates more and more the demand for strengthening
visual competencies. On that basis the credo of the conference Gazing
into the 21st Century, which brought together American experts on image
science like Felice Frankel, Barbara Stafford or Michael Naimark with
German representatives like Marie-Luise Angerer, Oliver Grau or Nikolaj
van der Meulen et al., was dedicated to the inventory, classification
and historiography of the latest worlds of images in the domains of
publicity, art, entertainment and science. 

Nowadays individual worlds of images form the background of PCs and cell
phones; TV transforms to the global field of zapping of thousands partly
even interactive channels; several hundred thousand new videos are
published online every day in video communities; in interactive
three-dimensional worlds of images a virtual and seemingly authentic
parallel universe expands. In addition to entertainment also science and
politics use the new dimensions of creating images and impact images.

New questions arise in this new context: which inspirations do current
image worlds experience though art? Which influences does medium have
over the iconic character of the image? Which chances and challenges
arise for intermediators of images and museums because of the „liquidity”
of the image?

Additionally, democratic chances and risks are directly related to
processes of transformation in publicity provoked new image worlds,
chances which ask for sensitive handling and augmented projects of

Practices of collective writing, as they appear on the most famous
hypertext Wikipedia, revolutionized within a decade the over centuries
established status of author variability, style and aesthetical shape.
The same developments were noticed by the journalist and photograph
Stefan Heidenreich from Berlin in the world of the electronic image.
YouTube and Flickr represent new forms of a collaborative visual
process, obtaining more and more dominance. The transformations
resulting in the fields of copyright, artistic institutions, popular
culture and economy seem to be vague. The discussions led to the
consensus that the possibilities for an increasing democratization of
image policy exists more than ever, but that the increasing frankness of
communication also needs more critical faculties and sensibility for the
handling of visual material. Despite the alteration of the world of
images in both professional and most private fields, the social
reactions lag behind these developments. Felice Frankel, representative
of North American image science and founder of the Image and Meaning
Initiative - against the background of image policy claimed for an
intensification of the dialogue between natural sciences with image
sciences, designers and artists with natural scientists, in order to
make the power of images more visible in the representation of science.
A lot of visualizations that respond to the intellectual canon of
today´s societies, do not correspond to the contemporary state of
research and thus communicate a wrong or dated image. 

Oliver Grau, professor for image science at the Danube University Krems,
also took on the question of image policy in the public place and
pointed out main problems of current cultural policy. Media art, “the”
contemporary art form, is still rarely collected by museums, not
accepted in a suitable manner and nearly inaccessible for the non
north-western public. Grau worries about the erasure of three decades of
artistic work from the cultural memory. For the near future he
recommends the establishment of 
an encyclopaedia of visual media. Similar to mapping projects in natural
sciences, like seeing and its relation to the evolution of image media. Jan Henselder
from Berlin, dealt with the loss of contemporary material, too, and
digitized biographical interviews about the national socialist and GDR
past and preserves them for future generations. Règis Debray can add to
the conversation, that beyond the communication via new technologies
adequate social institutions are also necessary in order to guarantee
the transfer of medial contents. 

Another focus of the conference was the question about the finding of
knowledge through technological procedures of visualization concerning
natural sciences. So the medical scientists Dolores und David Steinman
from Toronto University showed, resulting from their practical
experience, that most of the images clinicians are confronted with are
computer generated interpretations of patients´ records. Organic
processes as well as the bloodstreams´ dynamics elude the human view,
what makes computer aided imaging techniques indispensable for timely
diagnosis and therapy. The challenge is the integration of scientific
truth, aesthetic trends and established scientific-medical conventions.
These days doctors primarily make decisions how the digitally measured
values are to be displayed. This causes, like in many fields that are
not trained in the handling of images and respectively whose training
does not broach the issue of the phenomenon image, a naïve handling of
new image forms. The discussion underlined the need for scientific image
qualification in creating scientific knowledge influenced by
technological methods of visualization. Nicolaj van der Meulen, image
scientist and professor for art history at University Basel, claimed for
an applied image research that should not only deal with the
representation but also the generation of knowledge by use of visual
concepts. A web based, digital medium for image-oriented research was
presented in this context by Martin Warnke, head of the data center of
Lueneburg University. „HyperImage“ fulfills the long wished for
requirement not to treat visual forms semiotically. Observations on
images may be marked, arranged, published and utilized scientifically
without adding linguistic remarks. (www.hyperimage.org)

Already at the beginning of the international conference the American
media artist Michael Naimark pointed out the image development of Google
Earth: Despite the promises of virtual reality many applications
emerging during the last years are, due to a lack of combination of
photo-realistic and interactive features, not able to involve recipients
in such a way that you can feel the illusion of the site. Harald
Kraemer, university lecturer and media producer, noticed the need for
improvement of the dramaturgy of web sites. The recipient should be
integrated through a feeling of solidarity and empathy, which can be
achieved through a holistic attempt of the symbiosis of content,
navigation and design. The rector of the Art College for Media in
Cologne, Marie-Luise Angerer, integrated the advanced problem area with
the title “The Affective and Emotional Addressing of Recipients of
Digital Media.” The discussion about affective and emotional addressing
finds a broad base what, interdisciplinary practised, should and could
lead to an “affect policy”. Barbara Stafford from the University of
Chicago pointed out another aspect. The “Social - Memory - Hypothesis”
sees a condition for the maintaining of social cohesion in the
coordination of individual satisfaction of needs and inter-subjective
behaviour. In order to clarify the workings of this „social
synchronization“ she pleaded for an intensified relation to aspects of
associative art in historic and recent worlds of images and drew a line
from ancient hieroglyphs to hybrid collages. 

Results of the conference can be seen that the main challenge for making
use of the democratic chances presented by the image politics of our
time is the further expansion of visual competencies on the part of
recipients as well as producers of new image worlds and digital
archiving projects. The dialog between artists, scholars from the
humanities and natural sciences offers the necessary platform on which
image competency may be further developed through new educational
research and teaching tools in order to serve the needs of the general

A publication about the conference results is in preparation and should
be published in 2009. A continuation of the Goettweig image conference
is planed for 2010.

by Thomas Veigl

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