The Digital Moving Image: Revising Indexicality and Transparency John McMullan

The Digital Moving Image: Revising Indexicality and Transparency

John McMullan

Murdoch University

IM 7:Diegetic Life Forms II Conference Proceedings < The Digital Moving Image: Revising Indexicality and Transparency<John McMullan> ©IM/NASS 2011. ISSN 1833-0533

결국 비디오를 무시하고 35mm film이 superior하다고 보는 일련의 모든 담론들은, 궁극적으로 indexicality를 둘러싸고 있다. 이미지의 역할이 real을 담는 것이고, indexicality가 결핍된 것은 real이 아니라고 보는 입장들. 이러한 이분법이, 우열 논리가 digital 에서 가능한가? 그리고 과연 digital이 analog에 비해서 indexicality가 결여되어 있는가 ?

video가 movement면에 있어서는 35mm film보다도 우월하다. technological 한 이분법은 더 이상 유효하지 않으며, conceptually도 이분법 유효하지 않다. DI에 주목하자. 요즘은 대부분 film 으로 촬영을 해도 Digital Intermediate과정을 거쳐서 digital post production을 한다. 과연 film은 analog인가, then?

we need to renew the notion of indexicality. and I think this is where the creative potential becomes stronger.

Ji-Hoon Kim frames it as: “the echoes of numerous critics and theorists who have announced the ‘death of cinema’ since its hundredth anniversary in the context of the rapid proliferation of the digital at all stages of cinematic practice, from production to distribution” (Kim, 2009, 50:1, p. 115). Impetus for this sense of loss appears to stem from the notion that the increasing disappearance of the celluloid substrate of the filmic, with its material characteristic of transcription, threatens to erode the very nature of the moving image in its relation to truth and reality; a nature that is often inevitably anchored in film’s inherent indexicality and high degree of transparency.(1)

내 생각은, 어째서 이것이 film, 나아가 image의 본질처럼 여겨지게 되었느냐 말이다. 

In her recent paper: The Indexical and the Concept of Medium Specificity, Mary Anne Doane notes that “within film theory, confronted with the threat and/or promise of the digital, indexicality as a category has attained a new centrality (Doane, 2007, 18:1, p. 129) and that “[t]oday, it could be argued, it is the indexical associated with the analogical chemical base of the image that emerges as the primary candidate, in contention with the rise of digital media (Doane, 2007, 18:1, p. 130). Indeed, it is apparent that one of the key distinctions or indicators of “otherness” of digital media 이 부분이 정말 흥미롭다. 대체 얼마나 이 otherness 틀을 고수하려 하는가.왜 indexicality의 상실을 failure라고 보는가. has, at least in academic circles, been declared as its failure to possess the esteemed nature of an indexical sign. Even more extreme than this, Doane goes on to say that “[o]ne might go so far as to claim that indexicality has become today the primary indicator of cinematic specificity” (Doane, 2007, 18:1, p. 129). In this suggestion Doane is identifying the general academic understanding of privileging cinema with a connection to the real, or referent, that other mediums apparently do not possess. Lev Manovich, in his pivotal tome The Language of New Media, goes further and denounces the actual existence of an image in digital’s lack of photographic materiality and connection to the referent(Manovich, 2001, pp. 99-100) and Markos Hadjioannou declares that in lacking an index a digital image is not a “real” image (Hadjioannou, 2008, 8:2, pp. 123-124).

셋 모두 indexicality의 결여는 곧 – real하지 않다는 것으로 연결한다. digital은 indexical하지 않고, 따라서 digital은 analog에 비해서 real이 아니다. 라는 논리 .

In this paper I will challenge these notions, as it is my belief that the relationship between digital photography2 and the referent is much stronger than suggested by contemporary digital media theory, and thus warrants additional analysis. Furthermore, a continuing nostalgia for analog, or even mechanically created, forms of moving image media constricts theory in regard to the now dominant cultural paradigm of digital video.(2)

Indexicality, Iconicity, and Symbolism

Charles Sanders, Daniel Chandler, William J. Mitchell

In the application of this definition to both analog and digital images it should first be noted that being an index has nothing to do with the sign having a likeness to the signified.

Hence, analogy is discounted as being integral to indexicality. Being analogous is instead a trait of the icon.

William J. Mitchell insists that “[t]he basic technical distinction between analog (continuous) and digital (discrete) representations is crucial here” and that a photograph varies continuously both spatially and tonally, whereas a digital image consists of a non-continuous set of discrete steps (Mitchell, 1992, p. 4).Digital analog 차이 (3)

Further, one could argue that a digital photograph in bitmap format is made up of a finite number of pixels which are of a fixed spatial resolution and are themselves discrete, but at an infinite level of digital sampling these too could theoretically resemble the particles that constitute matter, and hence not appear less resolved than film grain at all.  Atom과 bit를 material이라고 생각하면 이 두 개는 거의 동일하고, 이분법으로 나눌 수 없다. consistently digital을 otherness로 간주하는 것이 더 이상 가능한가? (4)

Interestingly though, within his analysis and distinction of the essence of digital media as immateriality, Mark B. N. Hansen declares the following: “Rather, the image becomes a merely contingent configuration of numerical values that can be subjected to “molecular” modification[author’s emphasis], that lacks any motivated relation to any image-to-follow” (Hansen, 2004, p. 9). Hansen’s inference that molecules and bits can be subjected to modification in similar ways actually implies similarities between the analog (atoms) and the digital (bits) photograph, contrary to indicating any essential difference, or point of “otherness”. His further claim that the digital “lacks any motivated relation to any image-to-follow” also requires investigation; as it once again implies a denial of any digital claim to indexicality. 이 사람은 둘 사이의 차이가 실제로 알고보면 그리 크지 않다는 점을 강조했다. (4)

There are several media theorists who have recently sought to defend the claim that digital photographs in fact can possess the quality of an indexical nature as a sign, or a direct connection to the signified: Philip Rosen in his book Change Mummified: Cinema, Historicity, Theory (Rosen, 2001, pp. 301-350) and Tom Gunning in his article What’s the Point of Faking an Index? or, Faking Photographs (Gunning, 2004, 1:2) to name two and their relevant and important works.

From this perspective it begins to seem difficult to exclude the digitally photographed image from enjoying the prized link to a real point in time and space. Philip Rosen suggests that digital information as data would have no effective value if it did not accurately and indexically refer to pre-existing events or entities (Rosen, 2001, p. 307), when we gather and apply this data frequently as if it does both. (5)

그리고 actually digital data processing is quite indexical .

A digital intermediate (DI) is the process of scanning the original film negative and converting it to a digital data format to allow digital post-production, including effects and colour grading, to be  applied. Commencing around the year 2000, this practice has been widely adopted by producers of feature films, and gets cheaper every year. (7-8)

Instead of advocating that cinema is inherently or specifically indexical and evoke the above challenges, one might suggest that the specificity of film is indexicality.

That is, what is the importance of indexicality itself in relation to the image? (8)

Transparency and the Moving Image Medium

Richard Allen discusses the concept of transparency of a photographic image in his article Representation, Illusion, and the Cinema. He states that “(a) photograph is a recording, a mechanical imprint of the image of an object through the causal process by which light reflected from objects registers on photochemical emulsions” (Allen, 1993, 3:2, p. 23).

Allen goes on to say that the photographic image is a mechanical aid to vision (like a telescope or eyeglasses) and hence can be called “transparent” in this respect. This implies that in an examination of the authenticity or realism of a moving image transparency and indexicality are directly related and that transparency is also interconnected to iconicity. (9)

Jay David Bolter as: “to place the viewer in an apparently unmediated relationship with the objects or events represented” (Bolter, 2006, 39:2, p. 110). In other words; it is when, in the viewer’s experience, the medium is effectively erased and the technologies and techniques that support it effaced. With regard to moving images it can be defined as how “realistic” or “authentic” the image appears. It seems that film is held in high regard in its transparency within academic circles; for example, Bolter states in Remediation Revisited: “The quotation from Hoffman serves the further purpose of underscoring the superiority of film over television as a more lifelike (i.e. transparent) form” (Bolter, Digital Essentialism and the Mediation of the Real, 2007, p. 204). (10)

I believe that in some ways video technology has always been more transparent than film, such as in representing movement more accurately, possessing an increased depth-of-field, and exhibiting instantaneity of distribution. 

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