Valentina Ravaglia

Whether one thinks of images in terms of their ontology, of their role in cognition and knowledge production or from a strictly historical-materialist point of view, there is no denying that they matter a great deal. They always have had a role in the production of reality: first of all in our brains, then everywhere from their magic-ritual conjuring at the beginning of civilisation, to their role in originating early written language, to the political agency of plans and maps, of religious icons and idols, of portraits and propaganda, and later on of photographic imprints and their mythical claims to veracity deriving from their mechanical production.

The etymology of imago tells us it means “copy, imitation, likeness”: pictures, but also phantoms and apparitions. Images are meant to be something other than physical things, different to the matter of reality to which they supposedly refer. But Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” works just as well in a materialist, anti-platonic sense: there is no reality beyond images for humans and other beings; only sensorial and neurological impressions we can only understand in terms of other images: diagrams, scientific illustrations, descriptions and so on. Some believe all interactions between things to be based on apparitions, apprehensions of the ‘other’ for the purpose of physical reaction.

Ever since the appearance of the concept of digital images, the physical nature of images at large has been downplayed even further and discussed in terms of immateriality above all else. As if images weren’t always already translations, various layers removed from both their point of origin and from what they are meant to represent. On the other hand, and precisely because of computation, their means of production and transmission are now more ubiquitous in human minds and pockets than ever before. In turn, this means that the very nature of images begins to be understood and experienced ever more more deeply and expansively. The use of images in computation parallels their abstract existence as synaptic connections in the brain, as subatomic domino effects in nature: nothing is what it seems because matter can only behave as matter when it appears to something other than itself as an image made of data to be parsed.

Keywords: cognition, neurophysiology, technology, aesthetics
Genealogies: Plato, Charles Sanders Peirce, Alfred North Whitehead, Henri Bergson, Gilles Deleuze, Bruno Latour
synonym: copy, imitation, likeness, simulacrum, picture, icon, symbol, phantom, apparition, phenomena, translation, virtual
antonym: thing-in-itself, noumena, ‘reality’, index
hypernym: mental construct, representation, information, sign
hyponym: photograph, drawing, painting, print, digital file

COST Action IS1307 New Materialism: Networking European Scholarship on 'How Matter Comes to Matter'.

Here you will find background material, current activities, calls for papers, working group information, and project outputs.

With the changing of societies on local, national and international scales owing to economic, ecological, political and technological developments and crises, a reorganized academic landscape can be observed to be emerging. Scholarship strives to become increasingly interdisciplinary in order to grasp and examine the unfolding complexity of ongoing ecological, socio-cultural and politico-economic changes. Additionally, academics forge... Read more or find out Who's Who

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Information relating to activities undertaken, including conferences, training schools, short-term scientific missions, and annual meetings, are archived here.

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Working Groups

Working Groups focus on four key areas of research

Working Group One

Genealogies of New Materialisms; examines and intervenes in canonization processes by compiling a web-based bibliography, coordinating the OST 068/13 8 EN... Read more

Working Group Two

New Materialisms on the Crossroads of the Natural and Human Sciences; seeks to develop new materialisms at the boundaries of the human and natural sciences. The group focuses on how European new materialisms can rework the ‘Two Cultures' gap... Read more

Working Group Three

New Materialisms Embracing the Creative Arts; brings together European researchers, artists, museum professionals, and other activists with a keen interest in the material... Read more

Working Group Four

New Materialisms Tackling Economical and Identity – Political Crises and Organizational Experiments... Read more


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COST Action IS1307

New Materialism —
Networking European Scholarship on 'How matter comes to matter’

An intergovernmental framework for European Cooperation in Science and Technology
European Union
COST is supported by the the EU Framework Programme Horizon 2020

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