Somewhere between pressing the button and doing the rest

The mashup happens downstream. The stream of imag(in)ings that jpeg enables, whether they are instantiated on a Flickr page, connected to a Tweet, on a Facebook wall or as part of  slideflow or maps mashup happen at the end of the digital imaging pipeline. More correctly they happen at the end of one form of the pipeline. From there they become raw material for other jpeg-enabled scopic practices of sharing, linking, embedding or other mashing. The imag(in)ings happen at the border between becoming and perishing.

By the time this instantiation happens, jpeg has usually long finished. It has withdrawn from view, become and perished. It can have been set to work on Flickr or Facebook for instance compressing bandwidth-unfriendly TIFF files when they are uploaded, but usually that work happens in camera. Without its work and status as actant, non of this would be possible in the current technosocial and political-economic assemblage. (Of course If the imaging industries and Web ‘community’ switched to a RAW standard, a different assemblage would be established).

The phrase “in camera” is particularly resonant. The latin phrase usually refers to a court case to which press and public are not admitted. It is out of sight, invisible, private. Its workings are hidden and only its results prove that anything happened. The verdict announced on the court steps is the trace of the legal arguments, processes and workings.

Jpeg literally happens in camera, in the software that turns data from the CCD into imager data on the card. But it is also in camera in that same evocative sense. It is hidden, private, out of sight. Only its traces (the jpeg/JFIF files) are visible as they are passed down the pipeline ready for the the viewer or the mashup.

This mashup is itself a scopic apparatus. It enables and structures a way of seeing. It acts as a window, in Anne Friedberg’s sense (2006). Combined with the power to screengrab, it even becomes an imag(in)ing apparatus. At another scale it is part of the scopic apparatus I call my “digital imag(in)ing apparatus”, the software/hardware, material/immaterial, real/virtual (in Deleuze’s sesnse) device that depends on jpeg to work the way it does. The mashup is downstream insofar as the javascript, html and css that make it work (appear) works with the jpeg/JFIF files that jpeg has provided. If jpeg had not supplied those files to Flickr encoded in a way it could read, the mashup would be blank, the window opaque.

The moment of encoding, whether it happened in camera or on Flickr has become and perished, leaving the traces of jpeg/JFIF for the apparatus to render and make visible and ready for other apparatuses to pick up and use.

Jpeg happens somewhere between the shutter and the card, between pressing the button and doing the rest.

  • Friedberg, A., 2006, The Virtual Window: From Alberti To Microsoft, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.