Are Some Things Unrepresentable?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Jacques Rancière, in his essay ‘Are Some Things Unrepresentable?’, puts forth a challenge that is ever more pertinent to our times. What constitutes the unrepresentable today? Rancière frames his answer in a very specific way: the question of unrepresentability leads directly to the way in which political violence may or may not be put into an image. Offering an alternative to Rancière's approach, the present article turns instead to the information society, asking if and how something might be unrepresentable in a world saturated by data and information. Thus one approaches the issue of transparency and secrecy here from the perspective of the relative perspicuity (or opacity) of data visualization. Two theses structure the argument, first that ‘data have no necessary visual form’ and, second, that ‘only one visualization has ever been made of an information network’. The tension between these two theses leads to a disconcerting conclusion, that the triumph of information aesthetics precipitates a decline in informatic perspicuity. One is obligated therefore to call for a strong reinvigoration of poetics and hermeneutics within the digital universe, so that representation as such can take place, perhaps for the first time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-102
Number of pages18
JournalTheory, Culture & Society
Volume28
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - 2011

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visualization
political violence
secrecy
information society
hermeneutics
transparency
aesthetics
time

Keywords

  • aesthetics
  • allegory
  • digital
  • information
  • violence
  • visual culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)

Cite this

Are Some Things Unrepresentable? / Galloway, Alexander.

In: Theory, Culture & Society, Vol. 28, No. 8, 2011, p. 85-102.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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