Situation Space. How Spatial Images Define the User’s Disposition

Conference at Humboldt University of Berlin

January 12-13, 2017

Contemporary imaging, sensor and display technologies have turned viewing predominantly into using. Interacting with visual devices and interfaces such as virtual reality headsets, augmented reality apps or navigation systems situate users in space both within and beyond the boundaries of the screen, for instance when playing Pokémon Go on a smartphone or when superimposing medical images on a patient’s body. Additionally, narrative media such as stereoscopic movies, volumetric cameras or curved displays also require a visual practice that spatially aligns image and viewer. In the case of a stereoscopic projection, for example, the spatial impression of the image is most intelligible and convincing if the physical position of the viewer corresponds with the cameraviewpoint.

Critically thinking about producing and perceiving images thus requires the analysis of image dispositions. Understanding the spatiality of images requires to consider a situation space, that – just as the situation room – implies and defines the need for action. With regard to spatial images we thus ask: How do screens situate the viewer in physical space and within the visualized space? Are these spaces connected by means of interface and interaction design, content creation or narrative strategies? Does the ability of the viewer to physically and visually navigate through the image increase or decrease if the images can be characterized as spatial? And following that, how and where is agency ascribed to viewing images? Do forms of spatially related visual practice prompt the viewer to connect action and perception? And does this require to re-conceptualize the dichotomy of viewer and user? In short: how does the image (understood as the alliance of screen and visualization) conceptualize and define the user’s spatial disposition?

The analysis of the visual construction and representation of space as well as its iterative interplay of structures and processes in front and behind the screen has been a part of aesthetics, art history, image- and film-theory, visual studies as well as science and technology studies. But traditional views on the spatiality of the image are challenged by contemporary imaging technology that proposes new forms of visual practice. New approaches updating established ones by concentrating on specific aspects, referring for instance to the mobility (Verhoeff 2012), the archaeology (Huhtamo 2012), the social, narrative and architectural structure (Elsaesser 1998) or the three-dimensionality (Schröter 2014) of screens and visualizations, reflect the turn towards the particular role of the image in situating action and perception.1 

The workshop aims to bring together both theoretical and practical approaches to discuss the operative and narrative implications of visual practices as spatial dispositions. In order to analyze how images define and situate viewers’ action and perception, the workshop focuses on examples such as mobile displays, mixed reality games, screen architectures and stereoscopic media. 



Organized by

Luisa Feiersinger (Das Technische Bild, Humboldt University of Berlin)

Kathrin Friedrich (Image Knowledge Gestaltung, Cluster of Excellence, Humboldt University of Berlin)

Moritz Queisner (Image Knowledge Gestaltung, Cluster of Excellence, Humboldt University of Berlin)


1 Elsaesser, Thomas (1998): Digital Cinema: Delivery, Event, Time, in: Elsaesser, Thomas; Hoffmann, Kay: Cinema Futures: Cain, Abel or Cable? The Screen Arts in the Digital Age, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 201-222.

Huhtamo, Erkki (2012): Screen Tests: Why Do We Need an Archaeology of the Screen?, Cinema Journal, Vol. 51, No. 2 (Winter 2012), 144-148.

Schröter, Jens (2014): 3D. History, Theory and Aesthetics of the Transplane Image. New York, Bloomsbury.

Verhoeff, Nanna (2012): Mobile Screens: The Visual Regime of Navigation. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Published Nov. 7, 2016 9:44 AM - Last modified Apr. 1, 2020 12:42 PM