Operational Images: from the Visual to the Invisual

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First introduced by the German filmmaker Harun Farocki, the term operational images defines the expanding field of machine vision. In this study, media theorist Jussi Parikka develops Farocki’s initial concept by considering the extent to which operational images have pervaded today’s visual culture, outlining how data technologies continue to develop and disrupt our understanding of images beyond representation.

Charting the ways that operational images have been employed throughout a variety of fields and historical epochs, Parikka details their many roles as technologies of analysis, capture, measurement, diagramming, laboring, (machine) learning, identification, tracking, and destruction. He demonstrates how, though inextricable from issues of power and control, operational images extend their reach far beyond militaristic and colonial violence and into the realms of artificial intelligence, data, and numerous aspects of art, media, and everyday visual culture.
Serving as an extensive guide to a key concept in contemporary art, design, and media theory, Operational Images explores the implications of machine vision and the limits of human agency. Through a wealth of case studies highlighting the areas where imagery and data intersect, this book gives unprecedented insight into the ever-evolving world of posthuman visuality.
Original languageEnglish
Place of publicationMinneapolis
PublisherUniversity of Minnesota Press
Number of pages296
ISBN (Print)978-1-5179-1211-6
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-5179-1210-9
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • visual culture
  • Digital Aesthetics
  • Operational Image
  • media theory
  • Digital culture
  • Photography


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