chapter  9
Virtual semiotics and electronic images
Pages 13

In contemporary culture one context where we become particularly conscious of the significance of external images is with the computer, or more specifically the computer screen. For some critics to talk of images is to talk of computers (e.g. Robins 1996) and the associated development of imaging technologies making possible virtual realities, cyber-spaces and image-saturated sets of activities and social relations, from computer games to navigating the internet. The term post-photographic image technologies is used to describe the computer-based procedures involved in the creation of simulated virtual realities, computer-based graphics, and a whole range of associated digital image-based techniques. We talk of entering the information age where we will interact with our digital television/computer screen, go shopping online, have miniaturised computers attached to our bodies and read our email messages on the ‘stick-on’ screens attached to our fridge doors. Alongside the enthusiastic promotion of these technologies, interested parties spend considerable effort promoting new visions of our future lives, where many aspects of our daily experience will be transformed through the use of these digital technologies. This second chapter in the ‘external images’ theme considers the nature of a number of electronic images and ideas found in computer environments, such as the icon, window, hypermedia and world wide web, raising questions about how we understand and respond to them, as well as looking a little closer at the kinds of ideas which underpin their development and design. Where appropriate, questions are also asked about the relationship between post-photographic images and their associated technologies and images of the self, or the ‘cyber-self’. Let us begin with the screen.