Images to be touched: some ethical and aesthetic implications of the «touch»

This paper aims to present some of the results of the research project, currently underway at the University of Sao Paulo, which aims to describe and investigate, from an aesthetic-philosophical point of view, certain transformations resulting from a new mode of constitution and operation of the contemporary image: the complex alliance between algorithms and databases.

Among the many physical and cultural transformations that come from new technologies and the use of their gadgets, there is one that most arouses our attention and perhaps demands a way to analyse beyond the restrictions of technophilia or technophobia: the question of gestures. It is in this sense that we choose a particular gesture, from which our discussion will take place: the «touch».

Unlike any traditional image, the digital image (from mobile phone screens to games, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality features) is a surface that can and should be «touched». From the touch, the dynamics and the difference between the distant and the near seem to operate with unparalleled liveliness compared to our other senses. Although we do not discuss here specifically about the human senses and their limits, it is interesting to note that there seems to be, roughly, a transformation in the very configuration by which the senses would participate in this new mode of enjoying an image.

From this, we intend to be based mainly on works such as Vilém Flusser’s and his philosophy on gestures, as well as the contributions of Giorgio Agamben and Erwin Straus and the recent studies developed by Pierre Lévy, Massimo Di Felice and Lucia Santaella. All this aims to problematize the following questions: how does the possibility of «touch» change our relationship with the image? To what extent does it transform our experience and ultimately contribute to the delimitation of our perception of the «real»? And finally, what are the ethical and even political implications that this new gesture would entail?


Keywords: algorithms, image, gesture, ethics, aesthetics, action.


Nombre Adscripcion Procedencia
Eli Borges Junior University of Sao Paulo / Sao Paulo Research Foundation Brasil