The lossy and the lossless: The lossy and the lossless. - What do digital moving pictures mean?

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The lossy and the lossless. - What do digital moving pictures mean?

I want to look at mediatization in the cinema and to speculate on the nature of the change that this mediatization entails, using a combination of analysis of the changes in practices as it migrates to the digital and a reflection on what those changes mean for the filmmaker and their audience using the work of Walter Benjamin and others.

Critics have tended to see the digital as a problem of authenticity- what is the authenticity of the image in a digital world? WJ Mitchell sees “The essential characteristic of digital information is that it can be manipulated easily and very rapidly by computer.... a process Mitchell describes as “electrobricollage”. Lev Manovich sees this electrobricollage as an opportunity. “Digital cinema is a particular case of animation which uses live action footage as one of its many elements.” H defines the as: “the avant-garde materialized in a computer.”

I have posited (with Lina Khatib) that what characterizes the digital cinema is the “reconfiguration of the cinematic gaze” via a “feedback and crossover behind and in front of the camera” that transforms the “spatial relationship between the players” We trace this zone to the already mediatized images of the video assist.

In this paper I want to argue that the problem of digital representation is less a problem of authenticity than one of numinosity. How can digital moving images of the 21st century have something of the significance of their photographic forebears? The film-making process had two very different manifestations, a projection that was seen, and a largely unseen object/original – the film negative which had a powerful symbolic resonance -(few were allowed to look upon it, and only one person was allowed to touch it.) One of the tasks of the director was to decide which takes should be printed, and thus which of the recorded images should be brought to light.

I will also argue that one of the tasks of each medium is to find ways to conceive its own act of representation, and the problem of the mediatized world is it hasn’t yet developed metaphors with which to convey the act of digital representation and consider some possible strategies.


ConferenceDFG Priority Program 1505 Mediatized Worlds International Conference “Mediatized Worlds: Culture and Society in a Media Age” – Friday, 15th April 2011 Haus der Wissenschaft, Bremen


  • Mediatization
  • Film
  • TV
  • Benjamin, walter

Cite this