Capturing moving images. Screenshots as theorising media practice


The project aims to theorize the digital image from an inside perspective of digital images, setting out from picture practices, which are considered to materialize in digital pictures. Following the preceding project Pictorial Picture Critique in Social Media, media knowledge is posited to be present in the pictures themselves, which is to be retrieved in order to gather elements for a practice theory of the digital image. The project does so by addressing an underexplored form of digital metapictures: the screenshot, which captures pictures from a digital screen. More specifically, the project is focused on screenshots produced from 360° pictorial environments of digital games and panoramas, which is conceived as movable pictures.

Frequently, screenshotting has been likened to traditional picture practices like photographing and photocopying, reducing screenshots to a remediation of analogue and digital predecessors. Even if these media references appear obvious and well-founded, the project will analyze screenshots closely in order to pinpoint the difference, which makes screenshotting a specifically digital picture practice. Screenshots of 360° pictorial environments are particularly informative in this respect as they transform the digital image fundamentally with regard to its movability, spatiality, and circulability, turning a movable image into a seemingly still image, which can no longer be navigated, but can easily be circulated and exhibited online in a variety of contexts.

Methodologically, the project relies on the Picture Practice Analysis for scrutinizing screenshots, a method already developed by the preceding project to analyze pictures for their knowing that and knowing how. The picture practice analysis will address three levels of the screenshot: (1) navigating practices operating the space-image; (2) capturing practices, which produce a picture (the ‘shot’); (3) exhibiting practices, which make the screenshots publicly visible. The empirical entry for the analysis will be the sites of exhibiting, where the pictures are presented according to the practices of documenting, advertising and criticizing. The project posits that the media knowledge of navigating and capturing 360° pictorial environments is materialized in the screenshots presented there and can contribute to a practice theory of the digital image.


Jens Ruchatz, Philipps-Universität Marburg

Kevin Pauliks, Philipps-Universität Marburg