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Author: Inga Tappe
[published in: IMAGE 32 (Juli 2020): Bildhandeln]

In recent years, within the field of visual studies / iconology there has been a surge in popularity of theories that have replaced the idea that images function as ›image acts‹ in a very similar way that utterances constitute ›speech acts‹ with the more radical notion that images are themselves autonomous agents performing ›image acts‹.
Images are now understood to share a set of traits and capabilities that only humans and other living beings actually have. They have been described as being very similar to actual persons in several respects; it has been suggested that they ›act‹ on the basis of their own individual aims and purposes. This animistic conception of images is based on the assumption that, like humans, images are embodies beings, and that the way they affect others is never fully predetermined by the intentions of those who created them.
The kind of agency that can rightfully be ascribed to images differs, however, significantly from human agency. Human agency doesn’t just imply that there is any kind of activity at all and that the agent is able to affect others; it also implies that the agent’s actions are deliberate and intentional and thus, that the agent is responsible for their actions. Treating images as independent, human-like agents in their own right might deflect from necessary discussions about questions of actual human responsibility in the production, use and consumption of images.
If images are indeed agents in their own right, they can’t be personal agents, they have to be a different kind of agent. Actor-Network-Theory can serve as a framework within which that kind of agency…

Volltext des Artikels:

04_IMAGE 32_Tappe.pdf