Ron Burnett. How Images Think. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004.

The interaction of images with human imagination, human communication, and human culture influences behavior so profoundly that the metaphor of ‘thinking images’ might not be too far off.  Burnett employs Latour and a host of others to argue that images have agency within the hybrid space of digital environments (a third space which is neither total reality nor total fantasy). Burnett argues that brain scans, the Internet, Virtual Reality, robotics, and computer games all use digital images which interact with individuals and cultures in ways that can potentially change the actors. As Burnett claims: “It is not so much the case that images per se are thinking as it is the case that intelligence is no longer solely the domain of sentient beings.” Burnett raises the question that  viewers play a part in the creation of the images through the choices they are offered — yet who has the agency here? It’s not entirely the user, but it’s not entirely the technology either.

There are tensions among gamers and creators, and an increasing desire among users to control more fully every aspect of the games they play. An entire subculture has arisen devoted to transforming the look and feel of computer games through “hacking” and “patching” in order to overcome the organization of the game as well as the coding (Burnett 186). Burnett questions the aesthetic choices made about the interfaces that both separate and invite users into digital worlds. “When players talk about the look of a program, in this case a game, what are they talking about? It would be useful to develop some taxonomies of the “look” of digital games as well as digital environments (Burnett 189).  By the way, who has done good research on video games and aesthetics?