on March 25, 2021
Published on March 26, 2021 Updated on February 14, 2022

e-Guest Lecture: Massimo Leone


Semioethics of the Visual Fake

Massimo Leone, Professor of Philosophy of Communication, Cultural Semiotics, and Visual Semiotics at the University of Turin - Italy, is fellow-in-residence at CY AS, invited by laboratory AGORA

The ethics of images differs from that of words because images always carry an intrinsic motivation that words do not. There is of course something conventional in images, as there might be motivation in words, yet the materiality of visual signs anchors them to reality and perception in a different, more cogent way. That is why images do not lie in the same way in which words do. Even when they are farfetched, they transmit an idea of real possibility that words can hardly evoke. Two different ideological stances can be taken as regards the relation between images and the reality effect they prompt. Humanities, including semiotics, tend to emphasize the weight of the cultural context; increasing evidence, however, shows that images work as they do also because they match the innate neurophysiology of cognition. Humans are biologically inclined to react to images, and representations trigger different perceptions depending on their technology, which is evolving by accumulation through human history. Semiotics is therefore called to debunk the realistic propaganda of new devices for representation and display, pointing at their conventionality, but must also take into account how new advances in the production of simulacra tend to introduce emerging phenomena in the relation between images and the human perception. The visual fake of today is indeed somewhat more powerful that those of past epochs, because it is constructed through machines whose outcome can be debunked only by other machines. Furthermore, the evolution of digital cultures is now creating a blurring of fictional and non-fictional genres. The visual fake starts to circulate like a virus, multiplying the occasions for ambiguous suspensions of disbelief. What is needed is, instead, a new ecology of the fictional, able to give rise, in turn, to a reasonable semioethics of the visual fake.

Date: March 25, 2021 from 12:30 to 14:00

The video is online on CY AS YouTube Channel