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Michael Robinson

Fascinating post. I want to hear more about the differences you see in economy as identified by Poole and the one that you see operating today. It sounds to me as if you are saying that 'visual economy' might not be capacious enough a term to encompass the role of the image in today's world. Am I reading this right?

For me it makes me think of the archetypal images of space exploration in the late 20th century - Saturn Vs lifting off, flags on the moon, Earthrise over the Moon. I've often thought that these images are a manifestation of deeper ideas (e.g. planting a US flag in the moon taps deep associations with the importance of acquisition of territory, rocky earthlike spaces - its hard to see how planting a flag in deep space would create the same emotional effect).

Yet reading your post, I wonder if current interest in human exploration of Mars, etc., is driven by a 'visual economy' of people on planets - images that have been drawn and re-drawn in sci fi magazines for 70 years and which, after 1969, included photographs as well.

Anyway, sorry for the long comment. Fascinating stuff!

Phil Hatfield

Thanks for the comment, Michael, it is very interesting. Also, I was hoping when I started the blog that eventually it would generate these sorts of discussions.

To answer your first question, in a way I don't see Poole's conceptualisation as being capacious enough (singularly because of the original setting) but more importantly it is capaciuos enough as the term lends itself to evolve in a fashion similar to the medium Poole used it to discuss. My main thinking is that Poole outlines a useful term and it is important to engage with how much the visual economy of the twenty-first century has intensified.

So, how different is today's image world? Well, I think it has a much more significant vernacular element both in the realms of production of and commentary on the meaning of circulating images. This links to the fact that there are more producers, consumers, commentators and interconnections on all levels of the life cycle of the image than there were in the period covered by 'Vision Race and Modernity'. Most significantly, the image world and the visual economy now are the operating mechanism of the economy in a more totemic and centralised way than they were in the period of Poole's work (more on that in ptII of this blog).

I think this is significant as it intensifies the consequences born of the articulations of the visual economy (Poole's discussion of this still stands completely, I think) in terms of the affect on how people see and think about the world around them.

Essentially I am driven by the framework visual economy provides and allowing it to evolve in order to become capacious enough to accomodate today's more steroidal images and their social sphere.

A quick note on your final point about planetary exploration, I would love to discuss this with you in more depth. I think the point you make about science (in the form of astronomical photography) and sci-fi (to name a few areas) having a significant impacts on a visual economy of stellar exploration is well worth investigating further.

Needless to say, no worries about the long comment. Hope this has helped and you'll enjoy part II later in the week!

Michael Robinson

On music, images, and visual economy: I was listening to 'Pictures of You' by the Cure this morning and it struck me that the song -- in addition to being a love song- is also asking a question: what is the point at which we start to adore the icon more than the object it represents?

"I've been looking so long at these pictures of
you that i almost believe that they're real
I've been living so long with my pictures of you that I almost believe that the pictures are all I can feel"


Philip Hatfield

You know, I'd never really thought about this song in that context and you're quite right. I must confess, when writing about this recently I've had the Manic Street Preachers in my head a lot. Did they ever make it in the U. S. or is that a dud reference?

There are a number of their songs, including 'Kevin Carter', 'Everything Must Go' and 'No Surface, All Feeling' which speak a lot to this theme.


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