A gargantuan volume of images is looking at us.

8/3/20233 min read

Image by Proxy

The blurred boundary between actual and perceived reality in the techno-social media-scape profoundly influences our understanding of reality. As technology advances and perception shifts, desires are increasingly externalized. This challenges traditional notions of reality, truth, and justice, emphasizing degrees of inception over fixed entities. Desire emerges from the interplay of absolute and relative elements, forming its own forcefield of attraction and distance, constantly requiring re-establishment and consumption. The illusion generated by desire often overshadows its power, demanding a fresh perspective to comprehend the complexities of image ontology. "The Image by Proxy" concepts the interpretation of the overwhelming production and distribution of images, which possess an enigmatic dynamism. Examining their impact on consciousness, it suggests that the vitality of the techno-social realm lies in the choice of reality we engage with, and our comprehension must be embodied. The Image by Proxy symbolizes the embodiment of shadows cast by techno-social desires, forming a temporal and unfixed image, which is nevertheless produced on an industrial scale. Yet it would be too easy to attribute technological effects in our individual-social condition as mono-directional. Technological structures follow social assemblages up to the point that their influence starts to reverse positions which causes a continuing social unrest.[i] Asserting the point that technicity is not an external drive but inherent to the developing of the mind does not help in soothing the fear of techno-lag.

The world’s population has almost reached full saturation when it comes to the possession and usage of a mobile, connected communication device that can produce and distribute images, such as a smartphone. Although the current (2023) 6.9 Billion smartphones operating in the world cannot be one-on-one translated into a percentage of its 8 Billion inhabitants, it is clear that the limits are nearing fast when calculating only with those able, capable or willing to use such instrument.[ii] The thus created ubiquitous capacity and availability of producing and instant distribution of images has already lead to a surge of new images in the last decade and is expected to accelerate even more in the time to come. The history of photography of roughly 100 years has generated around 12.4 trillion photos, of which around 72 % was produced in the last decade alone, a gargantuan acceleration of production that has little comparison and this number has been predicted to increase by 1,7 to 2 trillion every following year. [iii] On top of that, and currently un-estimable, is the amount of images (by context) that are added by the production by artificial intelligence, which have neither a ground in the actualized (reproduction), nor in the fulfillment of desire (proximation), but find their source – literally - in the imagining of an image, the image by context. This scale of production and distribution of images makes it impossible to speak about an individual image separate of its place in this vast body of imaging, in the same way that speaking of this body of imaging apart from its role in the Anthropocene is inadequate. In this mediascape the distinction between imagination, hallucination and nightmare is quantitative, not qualitative, as a result of the lack of any grounding in or through 4EA.[iv]

Photo-credit: John Margolies, photographer. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA, no known copyright restrictions.

Title: Radio TV Service, 430 South State Street, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1981.

[i] Manuel DeLanda, A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory And Social Complexity (London and New York: Continuum, 2006).

[ii] In 2016 49% of the population had a mobile phone, in 2023 the amount of connected phones would translate to 91% of the population, of which 86% was a smartphone, although the geographic distribution was highly unequal and not limited to 100% (having more than one phone). At that same moment there where over 11 Billion mobile connections, which include IoT, 1,37 per capita. [accessed 21-01-2023]

[iii],,, [acc. 21-07-2023]

[iv] Mediascape is a term introduced by sociologist Arjun Appadurai and refers to the global network of images and information that shape our perceptions of the world and is not limited to any specific form of media. I have extended the definition of this and other ‘scapes’ to match current developments, see “The Desire of the Medium”.