Icons without turn: Über Bilder und Worte

In Wilhelm Vossenkuhl (ed.), Quo vadis Design? 4 Thesen. pp. 17-37 (2014)
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Images, or icons, have been made the subject of a ‘turn’. But no new epoch under its sign is looming. The image is just one medium among others. The best we can do is to face what it may and what it may not achieve. Its main competitor is the word – though there is a field of transition between both. Words and numbers surpass the image when one needs to refer to something that cannot be seen – this holds for ‘radioactivity’ just as much as for ‘responsibility’. To unambiguously show a categorial relation like causality or a logical feature like negation in an image borders on the impossible. (The aspiration to symbolize or manifest the invisible, though, has long inspired artistic images.) Pictures are accessible to the illiterate; while a language must be learned, an image seems to admit everyone. Yet that is in part an illusion. Obviously, it is not enough to see an image. To understand it, however, often a number of things must have been learnt in the first place, too.

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Andreas Dorschel
Goethe University Frankfurt


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