The image - necessary component of the digital body?

By: Noemi Flores Dimas

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When we see something that we like we take a picture of it; when we want to remember a moment we take a picture of it; when we want to know something we look for an image of it. We are interacting all time with the creation of images for which a phenomenon that draws attention today is our relationship with the images that exist on the web. The amount of files jpg, png, tiff, etc. that are in the network are a deafening number. This was one of the reasons why Arias (2016) in one of his presentations used a term that characterizes the, almost maternal, relationship we have with images and called it the photographic unconscious, which, in this essay, I would like to challenge by coining the unconscious of the image. A phenomenon that has detached us from asking ourselves: why do we produce images?

To begin to weave our ideas it is an essential step to understand from which place ourselves to talk about the image. Although, in visual studies, the image is researched or analyzed, in its purest sense it is one of the most difficult concepts to define. However, we will speak about it from photography, given that in relationship with the digital body (subject that we will address subsequently) the photograph has the greater responsibility for the images that conform the digital body. We will also talk about photography from a more specific point of view, we'll talk about it from a type of image which Brea (2010, p.67) defines as a ghost of the web, not for its lack of materiality, but because it is instantaneous and its time and space are disposable. The e-image is a non-recyclable image, it only exists and disappears, hence it is a fantasy.

On the other hand, it is equally important to understand how will we address the digital body. I'd like to quote Enrique D. (2014, p.106) who defines the digital body as all that exists of us within the web. Let's think of varied information: from our musical tastes, the books we read, the type of web pages we frequent and so forth. The easiest way to explain it is through social networks, if we think that the body is not only the physical part of of a person, but also its ideological part, our social networks are not only our photos, but we also what we like and how we see the world. However, rather than pointing to all the images that a person is able to upload or download from the cloud we'll focus on how the biggest part of our digital body is made up.

Now,  to understand our main premise and to break it down little by little, part of the relation object/ images/world can be clearly seen through cinematography. Through the visuality that the cinematographic industry possesses and creates, we have been able to know the world in all the dyes that we want, from the cruel and abrupt way to the unreal and unimaginable. The cinema has conceived its work as the storyteller through images, however, from now on we have been able to conceptualize and create imaginary stories in our daily life, this could explain why we unconsciously create images (having as reference the techniques, tactics, strategies, concepts and ideas that use cinema). As a capitalist and global industry, one of the cinema's objectives has been handed over to its public, but its public as an important factor in this industry has become a tamed public in its way of seeing things. This industry has been the architect of the way in which people look at things trapped by the magic of cinema (with this we realize the lack of awareness processes about the image). The image of everything is so common to us, that we enter a state of continuous acceptance, we do not question the image, we do not think about it, we only live and exist, we support the fact that it is politicized, prostitutes and continues to be generated.

The case of the e-image in this phenomenon is quite interesting. Because the human being is a (mostly) visual being, we have invented communication through images, Augé (2000, p.6) argued that "the word is valid for both the present and the past", let's think about it Now from the image, let's think about its importance in the history of the world. When we create an image we do not create memory or history, only record, a transient, volatile record, a ghost as Brea well mention it. That phantom is only a spectrum of light that crosses our eyes, it does not impregnate them, it only crosses them, however, it is charged with an unimaginable force since we have endowed the image with the truth when we say that "seeing is believing". For its part, the e-image has done its own work on this, despite being a passing image and ghostly, it still has the same force as the other images that come to adorn our house or life. The e-image has generated doctrines because it is a type of file that sets, removes, cancels and imposes fashions. For the digital body this is very important because we could say that our body on the web is made up of doctrines, that is (returning to the subject of the image), there are fashions to take photographs, certain rules and standards that must be followed so that a photography is accepted in the network, and that at the same time is shaping our digital body.

Let us now think about how many photos we are able to create and how many photos make up our digital body. I think one of the main ones would be the selfie, in the example, we took from social networks, selfies fill a large part of these platforms and that is that there are even rules to take selfies depending on the context. It is very different to do it when you are travelling, or when you are trying on clothes, when you eat, when you want to look attractive, etc. However, to think that a selfie is totally responsible for our digital body (speaking from the image) would be a mistake, so we will make the digital body even more complex.

In the film Chappie (2014), where a robot manages to absorb the soul of his mother (a human being) and transfer it to another robot so that his mother becomes immortal. The point of this is the soul or essence, a phenomenon that today has not been able to resolve exactly, but take the simplest reference that the soul is what makes you be you, the most characteristic factors of oneself. I approach this because making the digital body more complex, I would like us to think about something beyond the portrait image as a component of the body, but also to think about the bridge image, a concept that I articulate defining as images in which, although it does not appear our face, our soul appears that, in a less philosophical sense, are images that describe us, images by which another person can read us without even knowing our face. And this type of image exists little in the network since the image is so common to us that the task we have to think and reflect on it has been forgotten, it is enough to ask ourselves if we look or observe the images. Hence, the creation of images is massive, so today the term visual pollution has also been coined.

In its polluting character, the e-image has a lot of guilt, in spite of its fantasizing, it is an image that does not stop being and that just in the digital body appears continuously. If when creating images there is no reflexive exercise, less is when looking at them, which would point out that our digital body with respect to the image is a visual database that does not make sense. It is assumed that everything we upload to the web has to do with us, with our tastes, knowledge and interests, but in itself what we are creating is a folder of useless files that lack their descriptive character, on the contrary, they are cumulative and pollutants, so the image may not be the best resource to create a digital body on the network. We would then talk about something beyond the image, perhaps only data such as the comments we leave at the foot of a video, subscriptions we have to certain pages or digital magazines, etc. clues of us where we are not. On the one hand, that action would give way to another understanding of man in the network, our body would be a metaphor for us and then the image would not stop being obsolete, but would recover its descriptive and representative property, it would no longer be a cliché of the world and the network.

Could you then suggest another type of image that would only serve our digital body? I do not know, but I think that if the image is capable of moving many things inside and outside of a being, it is capable of representing and not, speaking and not, being and not being. This topic was addressed to understand that a large part of our digital body is made up of meaningless images and that one of the reasons why this happens is because of the massive creation of images unconsciously. In the first paragraph mentioned the unconscious of the image and the photographic unconscious, phrases that reveal the automatic way in which we create and see images, for that very reason this generates a problem in terms of the digital body, because we do not know how appropriate it is to explain a body with images, or if the image is the only resource that we could use to represent anybody. As we saw earlier, the soul is also an important component of the body. However, today society needs to live on the image, the imagination capacity has been gradually lost since the image has supplanted it, we can see almost everything imaginable and unimaginable in the image, and that is why It no longer surprises us and we do not worry about the exorbitant amount of images that we produce all the time and that, in turn, we are sharing at all times on the web.

To look at the image, to observe it, is a way of asking and asking, analyzing it; a process of consciousness has always been necessary when we are faced with an image, it is our duty to do it, otherwise we will continue to weave those doctrines, following in their footsteps and making the way for other people to continue in it. The image in its formality is a residue of the thought of others, our channel filters the code that its creators want to reach us and then from that, we find ourselves every day, creating images every moment. We should now think about our responsibility before, during and after an image, should we take responsibility for the images we create? For the images that we upload to the web? Should we stop creating images? What encounter would be the ideal before an image? How can we control the images? It is essential that in these times we think of another way of creating a digital body that does not have so much relationship with the image and its consequences, it could be that this body is our first step to cease to exist in the materials of our physical body, however it continues being still a mystery the connections that the human body has established with other bodies, although we are in a very advanced digital age, man has not yet been able to understand the brain, it is likely that through these digital explorations We can find the answers to what we do not know.




Augé, M. (2000). Los <<No Lugares>>. Espacios del anonimato. Una Antropología de la Sobremodernidad. España. GEDISA

Arias O (2016) “E-memoria. Una microhistoria sobre la construcción del sujeto en las redes sociales” conferencia dictada durante el 2do Foro de Estudios Visuales. Facultad de Artes- UAEMéx. 16 al 19 de Agosto 2016.

Ariza Gómez, D. E. (2014). Cuerpo digital como sustrato del ser cuerpo. Categoría fundamental del performance digital “Huellas digitales”. Revista Colombiana de las Artes Escénicas, (8), 96-109.

Brea, J. (2010). LAS TRES ERAS DE LA IMAGEN. Imagen-materia, imagen-film, e-imagen. Madrid. AKAL

Chappie (2015) Neill Blomkamp. [DVD] Estados Unidos: Simon Kinberg Productions