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Iconicity : What is a picture?

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  • Roberto Casati, directeur d'études de l'EHESS, directeur de recherche au CNRS ( IJN )

    Cet enseignant est référent pour cette UE

S'il s'agit de l'enseignement principal d'un enseignant, le nom de celui-ci est indiqué en gras.

Jeudi de 13 h à 17 h (bd Raspail 75006 Paris), les 1er et 15 février, 15 et 29 mars, 5 avril, 3, 17 et 31 mai et 14 juin 2018. La séance du 14 juin aura exceptionnellement lieu de 9 h à 17 h. Cf. détail des séances ci-dessous

Ours is claimed to be a civilization of pictures, and most definitely pictures have profoundly colonized society and our daily lives. Each day billions of pictures are generated, stored, exchanged, published, watched, commented upon, debugged. Communication, propaganda, journalism, but also – increasingly – research and education use pictures as vectors: they are considered not only to be irreplaceable, but they aim at becoming the dominant vehicle for information transmission. Most of what surrounds us was first born and visualized in a picture: from the building you live in, to the furniture in your room, cars, airplanes, smartphones, design is a process that begins in some sort of visualization. Machines and algorithms are developed that can read, interpret and classify pictures (eg. automatically recognize people in photographs).

But what are pictures? Much as we seem to have a robust set of intuitions about what counts as a picture, it has proven exceedingly difficult to convincingly characterize the concept. We are here interested not in what makes a picture a picture of this or that, but in what makes a picture a picture, as opposed to, say, a diagram, or a string of text. We call this the iconicity problem. Philosophers from Wittgenstein to Goodman, art historians like Gombrich, psychologists like Gibson, Kennedy and Cavanagh have explored the theoretical boundaries of the notion of a picture, and the philosophy of pictorial representation is a rich theoretical field. The question of the theoretical characterization of iconicity has become particularly urgent as digital pictures challenge the notion of pictures as paradigm cases of analog representation.

In this seminar we shall tackle the question mainly from the point of view of the interface of pictures and thought. When we look at pictures, we can extract information that is then used in reasoning and linguistic communication. Does this impose constraints on the nature of pictures and of thoughts? How can digital content be extracted from analog structures? We shall study in depth the limit case of maps: are they pictures? What can they tell us about our understanding of pictures?

Jeudi 1er février 2018 (salle M. et D. Lombard, 96 bd Raspail 75006 Paris) : R. Casati, « Introduction : problems of iconicity/course mechanics »

Jeudi 15 février 2018 (de 14 h 30 à 17 h, amphithéâtre François-Furet, 105 bd Raspail 75006 Paris) : John Kulvicki (Dartmouth College), « Pictures and language »

Jeudi 15 mars, (de 12 h à 16 h, en salle des réunions, Institut Jean-Nicod, 29 rue d'Ulm 75005 Paris) : R. Casati, « Maps/Kuhn : Iconicity in Gestures »

Jeudi 29 mars 2018 (salle 8, 105 bd Raspail 75006 Paris) : Zeimbekis, « Picture meaning and thoughts »

Jeudi 5 avril 2018 (amphithéâtre François-Furet, 105 bd Raspail 75006 Paris) : Zeimbekis, « Picture perception; Digital imagery »

Jeudi 3 mai  2018 (salle BS1_28, 54 bd Raspail 75006 Paris) : Giardino, « Diagrams/Voltolini : Syncretic theory of pictures »

Jeudi 17 mai 2018 (salle AS1_08, 54 bd Raspail 75006 Paris) : Kulvicki, « Maps »

Jeudi 31 mai 2018 (salle 8, 105 bd Raspail 75006 Paris) : Varzi, « Maps »

Jeudi 14 juin 2018 (salle AS1_24, 54 bd Raspail 75006 Paris) : Varzi, « Maps and pictures »

Suivi et validation pour le master : Hebdomadaire semestriel (24 h = 6 ECTS)

Mentions & spécialités :

Domaine de l'affiche : Philosophie et épistémologie

Intitulés généraux :

  • Roberto Casati- Des outils pour la connaissance : une théorie générale du design et de ses conséquences sociales
  • Renseignements :

    this seminar will be held in English. It may be useful to note that the topic of the seminar is not the history or anthropology of pictures, or the uses of pictures, or their impact, or the symbolism associated with them (these are important topics in themselves, but they are not dealt with in the seminar). This is an advanced seminar: some level of technicality is to be expected in the treatment of the topic.

    Teaching is structured around reading assignments and class discussion. We shall go over the various chapters of Kulvicki, J., Images. London: Routledge, 2014.

    Direction de travaux d'étudiants :

    please write to Roberto Casati, providing a short characterization of your background and interests (in either English or French) and of your motivations for attending the seminar.

    Grading will be based on class participation, and on a final paper, whose topic will be discussed with the instructor. Final papers can be in English or in French.

    For all correspondence, please mention in the subject of your mail: [EHESS Iconicity].

    Réception :

    sur rendez-vous/by appointment.

    Niveau requis :

    L3

    Adresse(s) électronique(s) de contact : casati(at)ehess.fr

    Dernière modification de cette fiche par le service des enseignements (sg12@ehess.fr) : 24 avril 2018.

    Contact : service des enseignements ✉ sg12@ehess.fr ☎ 01 49 54 23 17 ou 01 49 54 23 28
    Réalisation : Direction des Systèmes d'Information
    [Accès réservé]