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Fluid visions: Sight, technology and representation

Miller, Nicole Catherine (1998) Fluid visions: Sight, technology and representation. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Once considered the noblest of the senses, sight functioned as the paradigmatic metaphor for knowledge in Western metaphysics. This model of sight and knowledge presumed a stable, permanent and passive relationship between a viewer and their object. In the twentieth-century, this particular conception of knowledge and sight has been criticised for promoting a detached relationship to the world. It is commonly argued that the introduction of linear perspective in the Renaissance, and the consequent introduction of visual technologies like the camera, has further inculcated an uncompassionate, disengaged way of seeing.

In this thesis I argue that in a technological environment, where the world is increasingly represented and understood as fluid, vision too must be conceived as fluid. Rather than focusing on the dissociative aspects of sight, I suggest it is more useful to examine the under-theorised connective aspects of vision. I argue visual technologies can not prohibit the practice of receptive ways of seeing.

I specifically address the linear perspective argument by detailing some significant omissions and flaws in the existing field of enquiry. My discussion utilises paintings developed concurrently with the camera obscura, photography and film and includes a brief phenomenological description of television.

Finally, with a detailed analysis of the spectacle of the metal morph in the film Terminator 2, I show how the computer-morph temporarily reconciles an understanding of the world as fluid with the fantastic desire for technology to transform with no loss. I diagnose a cultural failure to acknowledge that technology inevitably involves a trade-off, for technology never merely enhances our capacities. I suggest it is the blind(ing) desire to transcend the contextual specificities of sight that prohibits more receptive visions.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Sofoulis, Zoë, O'Toole, Michael and Waldby, Catherine
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