Pre-modern elements of a digital image theory


Overwhelmed by the unprecedented technical predispositions of digital imagery, contemporary audiences tend to stress the structural novelty of digital images notoriously. However, a wider historical perspective reveals the revolution of digital imagery – as fashionable and game-changing as it currently may seem – as nothing else than the youngest outcome in the world history of human visual representation. The strands of media history that entangle in the contemporary digital imagery do not only concern the early modern period, which is analyzed from various directions in many of the projects already included in the DFG Priority Programme „Das digitale Bild“. Rather, many phenomena of contemporary digital imagery have much earlier ancestors to be found in the dense world of images of the ancient Graeco-Roman Mediterranean – dazzling visual solutions, but also fundamentally different conceptual alternatives. How did the specific ways of ancient visual practice and related philosophical and terminological thinking shape today’s digital images and imagination? And how will they shape digital media and their use in the future? Practically, these core questions of our project will be realized in a series of three workshops and related, journal-like thematic issues. They will present outcome and discussions of three exemplary sub-projects: 1. „Der Mosaizist“ (The mosaicist) 2. „Interface und Maske“ (Interface and mask), 3. „Das technische Bild“ (Ancient technical images). The project design will provide a communicative platform facilitating discussions concerning the specific relation of modes of visual communication in antiquity and respective modes in its contemporary digital counterpart. Therefore, the concept embraces topics like ontological parallels and differences of picture and image in antiquity and presence; aesthetic paradigms of ancient and contemporary visual media; apparatûs of longue-durée image transmission; linguistic and terminological approaches to visual communication; the complex transmission of visual paradigms from antiquity to the present; ethnological and cultural anthropological methods of comparison; comparative studies of image use and manipulation; ancient philosophical and scientific concepts of visuality, optics and media avant la lettre; visual narratives, transgressions and excesses, just to name a few. In the end, by discussing the alterity of ancient visuality, we aim to contribute to a new theory of digital imagery. We understand the workshops and publications as an invitation especially for the participants of „Das digitale Bild“ to discuss fundamental phenomena of premodern visual history, paving the way to the images on our recent digital screens.


Prof. Dr. Andreas Grüner, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

Dr. Julian Schreyer, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg