The Research Centre “The Technical Image” was founded in April 2000 as a joint department of the Hermann von Helmholtz Centre for Cultural Techniques and the Department of Art and Visual History of the Humboldt University of Berlin. Research at “The Technical Image” aims to expand the field of visual history, its subject areas, and its methodology to include perspectives from the history of technology, from social and media history. The research agenda of “The Technical Image” relies on an approach that focuses on visual history and that places technical objects and images in relation to the knowledge of their emergence between apparatus, representation, conceptual histories, and institutional framing. Concrete research questions range from the visual culture of early modern machine technology to the epistemic function of images in scientific experimental systems and the apparatus-based reception of exhibitions to the technical censorship of images and its effectiveness in today’s infrastructures.
In our digital age, new images constitute environments rather than sharply defined works, and their manifestations depend on the algorithmic logic of the black box. Technical images are media network systems whose appearance and disappearance are determined by an interlocking of human and technical actors who structure both the forms of image production and their reception. Due to their versatile functions and the diversity of the conditions of their creation, the analysis of these technical image forms requires an expanded definition of “images”, in which technological developments are taken into account as much as the instrumental and processual character of their production and social use.
The research work of “The Technical Image” forms the basis of the annual “Bildwelten des Wissens. Jahrbuch für Bildkritik”, which, since 2020, appears both as a digital open access publication and as high-quality book print with de Gruyter publishers.