Visual and Beyond: Rethinking Aesthetics, Ethics and the Senses in Education

Year: 2016

Author: Baker, Bernadette

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In contemporary educational research, the plethora of what we might call images, and especially digital images, is upon us. From filming children in classrooms to colourful pictures of brains in MRI studies to the shared photography of social media among ‘digital natives’ we have been saturated with the presence of things that arguably our theorization has lagged behind. Yet, the very term presence in regard to the term image is precisely what has been at stake in ‘western’ debates about the nature of truth-production, within which consideration of the role of the image has been located. Today, what Mitchell (2015) calls ‘image science’ opens up many methodological issues in visual culture theory and beyond, including how ‘an’ image is defined as such past and present, whether image is an independent object or eludes object status, whether image is the same as icon, picture, simulacrum, simulation and imagination, whether image is visual or media-based at all, and whether image is perspectival, located as a product of a perceiving mind, or, positioned as prior to the emergence of the perceiving subject. The simultaneous elusivity attributed to ‘the image’ and the idea that something nonetheless seems to ‘exist’ and have impact has fascinated a long line of commentators. Through drawing upon disparate but provocative work in visual culture theory, the social study of science and technology, postcolonial studies and continental philosophy this paper offers a provincialising genealogy of the image in western thought, taking as its anchor and endpoint controversies regarding the colonizing potential of educational neuroscience to determine what counts as teaching, learning and the child in democratic societies and their digital futures.As such, the paper offers 1) a punctuated trace of the ambiguous role of the image from Plato’s Sophist into rationalist conceptions of scientific coding and 2) consideration of the legacies of western engagement with the verbal-visual couplet and 3) a delineation of the affordances and limitations of reapproaching the digital future of the image in contemporary educational research.Reference:Mitchel, W. J. T. (2015). Image science: Iconology, visual culture, and media aesthetics. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.