Pictorial Picture Critique in Social Media. Explicit and Tacit Theorizing of the Digital Image


The project will identify and classify user-generated forms of pictorial picture critique, in order to discern elements of a theory of the digital image – one which develops from the inside perspective of digital images themselves. Indeed, on social media platforms, pictures that are critiquing other pictures show and enact knowledge about the diffuse state of the digital image. Knowledge about pictures is used both to critique pictures and to express such a critique pictorially. The project sets out to reveal the (explicit and tacit) knowledge manifested in user-generated forms of pictorial picture critique. It will do so by asking, on the one hand, which formal aspects of the digital image are addressed; and, on the other hand, how they are used with the intention of criticizing pictures. The resulting pictorial knowledge showcases image criticism as an image practice, which explicitly as well as implicitly theorizes the mediality of the digital image.

From a methodological point of view, the project takes a praxeological stand, understanding pictures as materialized practice. It entails that, by taking on a form, pictures become a ‘formed practice,’ in as much as the practice is inscribed into the picture. The projects aims to draw its theoretical knowledge about the digital image from these instances of materialized practice. On social media, at least five materialized practices of pictorial picture critique can be identified: editing, imitating, captioning, tagging and curating. Each of these critical practices involves different Internet phenomena (e.g. reaction Photoshops, image macros or photo fads) on social media platforms such as 4chan, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Twitter, etc. In the course of the project’s research, forms of pictorial picture critique shall be examined in light of the mediatic knowledge that they construct on the digital image.


Jens Ruchatz, Philipps-Universität Marburg

Kevin Pauliks, Philipps-Universität Marburg