David Joselit: What to Do with Pictures, 2011

Formatting is as much a political as an aesthetic procedure because the same image may easily be adduced as “evidence” in support of various and even contradictory propositions—determining a format thus introduces an ethical choice about how to produce intelligible information from raw data. In digital economies, value accrues not solely from production—the invention of content— but from the extraction of meaningful patterns from profusions of existing content. (…) Such a shift from producing to formatting content leads to what I call the “epistemology of search,” where knowledge is produced by discovering and/or constructing meaningful patterns—formats—from vast reserves of raw data, through, for instance, the algorithms of search engines like Google or Yahoo. Under these conditions, any quantum of data might lend itself to several, possibly contradictory, formats.

Joselit, David. “What to Do with Pictures.” October 138 (Fall 2011): 81–94.