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Sociology and the virtual: interactive mirrors, representational thinking and intensive power

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date02/2013
JournalThe Sociological Review
Journal number1
Volume61
Number of pages20
Pages1-20
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This article explores the role of images in the workings of contemporary power. It examines one of the central ways in which sociology has approached images as representations and proposes an alternative understanding of images through the concepts of interactivity, intensity and the virtual. Focusing on the examples of three interactive mirrors, one a piece of artwork, another designed to be located in a designer shop and the other a medical mirror for tracking ‘vital signs’, it suggests that the mirrors emphasize the screen and, in so doing, disrupt a notion of images of representations. Images are instead brought to life; intensively experienced rather than extensively read. The article engages, first, with the increasing prevalence of screens and, second, with the moves in sociology towards theorising the value of the concept of the virtual. Arguing that images are felt and lived out, the article seeks to contribute to how sociology has dealt with, and might further develop, the concept of the virtual as a productive way of understanding the relationships between images, screens, power and life.