Image Studies

Image Studies

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KEYWORDS: Ecology of Images / Eidos / Electromagnetic Spectrum / Enlightenment / Episteme / Epistemology

ECOLOGY OF IMAGES is a phrase used by Susan Sontag at the end of her book On Photography (1977). Sontag sees photographs as inextricably linked with the reality they depict and she makes a plea for ‘an ecology of images’ as an approach to making and reproducing photographs where images are considered a part of this reality. The proliferation of images since On Photography was published, and the radical changes in their production, distribution and access, has made this plea even more critical. A diagrammatic of ‘ecology of images’ can be found here.

EIDOS is a Greek term meaning outward visible form, shape, appearance, essence or type. It has become an anthropological term for the distinctive expression of the cognitive or intellectual character of a culture or social group. It defines the formal content of a culture, encompassing its system of ideas and its criteria for interpreting experience.

ELECTROMAGNETIC SPECTRUM or EM spectrum is the range of all types of EM radiation. Radiation is energy that travels and spreads out as it goes – the visible light that comes from a lamp in your house and the radio waves that come from a radio station are two types of electromagnetic radiation. The other types of EM radiation that make up the electromagnetic spectrum are microwaves, infrared light, ultraviolet light, X-rays and gamma-rays.

ENLIGHTENMENT is the period in the history of western thought and culture that lasted from around the mid seventeenth to the mid eighteenth century. It was a time that saw dramatic revolutions in science, philosophy, society and politics. The term ‘enlightenment’ only emerged in the English language in the latter part of the nineteenth century, with particular reference to French philosophy. With its focus on reason rather than mediaeval superstition, the enlightenment brought about a new emphasis on learning and on the arts. There was an increase in the recording and dissemination of ideas, with the Republic of Letters fostering communication amongst intellectual communities across Europe and America.

EPISTEME is a word etymologically derived from the Ancient Greek word ἐπιστήμη for knowledge or science, which comes from the verb ἐπίσταμαι, “to know”. It represents, especially in the Foucauldian sense, a fundamental system of understanding, or set of ideas, that shape knowledge during a given epoch. With its basis in historical a priori, it is sometimes contrasted with ideas of empiricism.

EPISTEMOLOGY is derived from the word episteme, with the addition of the postfix logos, and means a study of knowledge systems, or a theory of knowledge. Epistemology attempts to define knowledge by asking questions such as: “What is knowledge?”, “How is knowledge acquired?”, “What do people know?”, “What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge?”, “What is its structure, and what are its limits?” Much of the debate in this field has focused on the philosophical analysis of the nature of knowledge and how it relates to connected notions such as truth, belief, and justification.

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