HEADT Centre Book Release – Shaping Images. Scholarly Perspectives on Image Manipulation

Thorsten S. Beck: Shaping Images. Scholarly Perspectives on Image Manipulation, De Gruyter 2016

Today images play a predominant role in public communication – in advertisements, the broadcasting industry as well as the Internet. Images massively influence how events are perceived – they attract attention and shape worldviews. At the same time images are often intentionally altered to serve a given purpose. In scholarship like in other fields of society images are highly valued as a key currency in an economy of attention. Through digital image editing programs it is relatively easy to produce images or to enhance their visual qualities and thereby to create images that are cleaned up or beautified.

In face of such operations, how do scholars actually conceive image manipulations? How do biologists, computer scientists, art historians, or designers judge their liberty when altering images? Where do they draw the line between appropriate image editing and fraudulent image manipulation? Such are the questions that are raised in the book “Shaping Images – Scholarly Perspectives on Image Manipulation”, published by De Gruyter 12 September 2016. The book includes the perspective of scholars with different disciplinary backgrounds – many of which are associated to the Cluster of Excellence Image Knowledge Gestaltung, located at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin – while other participants have a background in the museum world.

Many of the scholars represented in this volume agree that image manipulation must remain transparent at all times in order to avoid inappropriate data falsification. The strategies in dealing with image manipulation and the levels of liberty scholars claim for themselves are compared and the question is raised whether the integrity of images can be preserved in times in which digital image editing programs blur the boundaries between what is possible and what is acceptable.