Abstract

Digital media gain their cultural authority in part because of the perception that they function on mathematical principles. The relationship between digital images and their encoded files, and in other cases, between digital images and the algorithms that generate them as display, lends itself to a conviction that the image and the file are mutually interchangeable. This relationship posits a connection of identicality between the file and the image according to which the mathematical basis and the image seem to share similar claims to truth. Since the history of images within Western culture is fraught with charges of deception and illusion, the question arises whether the ontological condition of the digital image, its very existence and identity, challenges this tradition. Or, by contrast, does the material instantiation of images, in their display or output, challenge the truth claims of the mathematically based digital file?

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