Catch Image (Schlagbild)

Aby Warburg coined the term Schlagbild, which can be translated as “catch image” or “impact image”. A Schlagbild is a relevant public image that can be seen as representative of a time or a discourse. The art historian Michael Diers compared it to a catch phrase (German: Schlagwort) and described is as an “ubiquitous, impressive representation, entirely geared to effect” [1], which is capable of bringing a time or a trend to the point. Schlagbilder are thus “pictures (…) which stick in the memory for as long as possible […], which are active (imagines agentes) […]; if we add to them extraordinary beauty or unique ugliness”[2]. Thus, according to Diers, Schlagbilder are “visual manifestations” and also have a political meaning: they raise questions “about the rhetorical, symbolic, literary, technical and historical use of images in the public sphere”[3]. The first Schlagbild we dealt with at anci was that of the horizon of module 1, as it appears concisely positioned in the landscape representations on climate change communication.

[1] Diers, Michael (1997): Schlagbilder: Zur politischen Ikonographie der Gegenwart, Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer, p. 7.
[2] This was already stated in Rhetorica ad Herennium, the oldest completely preserved rhetorical prose script written in Latin from the 1st century B.C. (author unknown).
[3] Diers, Michael (1997): Schlagbilder: Zur politischen Ikonographie der Gegenwart, Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer, p. 13.

Critique / Criticism

Anci pursues a critical research approach, seeing critique not as an end in itself. When using the term, we refer in particular to “What is Critique” by Michel Foucault, „Why Has Critique Run out of Steam” by Bruno Latour and “Critical Visualization” by Peter Hall.

In reference to Kant’s concept of the Enlightenment, Foucault describes critique as a “movement in which the subject takes the right to question truth for its effects of [1]. He ascribes three tasks to it: To question the nature of truth, to ask about the limits of the right to govern and to accept something only if one finds the reasons themselves good [2]. His concept of critique as an “attitude” or “project” could be used in anci, firstly on the level of content as a method of analysis of the political climate change dispositive through images, secondly on the level of scientific research (methodological reflection), thirdly on the level of visualization (questioning the practice of visualization as an independent method) and fourthly on the level of institutional critique.

Latour describes climate scepticism as “brownlash”, a kind of artificially maintained controversy [3]. According to Latour, a more realistic stance [4] must be taken with regard to the critical handling of these “facts”, which acknowledges the social construct of the objects and thus, instead of neutral facts, the “matters of fact”, assumes “things of concern”, the “matters of concern” [5]. The critic in Latour, who has a realistic attitude, takes the role of the collector (according to Heidegger), who does not “expose, but […] gathers” [6]. This critical function can be assumed by Latour’s design as a “revolution”, as “drawing things together”. With Latour, the question arises as to WHEN and when a criticism or a “fact” is justified and HOW we deal critically with the object in visualization [7]: So, at what point are scientific “facts” on climate images endangered by an aesthetic/artistic visualization?

An applied form of criticism, especially in relation to information visualizations, can be found in a systematization by Peter Hall. He does his research and teaches at the Queensland College of Art alongside the theorist Tony Fry on design, primarily on the method of “mapping” as a design process. In his publication “else/where:mapping” he formulates “mapping” as a critical mode of investigation and creative activity. Referring to James Corner’s essay “The Agency of Mapping”, he understands visualization in this perspective as a creative process that asks less for the finished artifact and more for the “framing, gathering, connecting and arraying”[8] of the underlying data. The critique now consists in reformulating the process of cognition and experimenting with new and alternative forms – questioning the established by reformulating it. Hall also points out that data is never neutral and is always collected and processed for a specific reason [9], which is interesting in reference to anci‘s quantitative research methods.

[1] Michel Foucault: „Was ist Kritik?“ (1992, original title: „What is Critique?“), Berlin: Merve, p.15.
[2] Cf. ibid. p. 14.
[3] Cf. Bruno Latour: „Das Elend der Kritik“ (2007, original title: “Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern“), Zürich-Berlin: diaphanes, p. 10.
[4] Cf. ibid. p. 21.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid. p. 55.
[7] Cf. ibid. p. 361.
[8] Peter Hall: „Critical Visualization“. In: Design and the Elastic Mind (2008), edited by Paola Antonelli. 121-131. New York: MoMA, p. 128.
[9] Cf. Ibid. p. 130.

Framing Climate Communication

Anci is about the visual communication of climate and climate change. The available studies on the comparison of climate images are based, among others, on the communication-scientific framing approach.[1] The method of „framing” of images or visual media content is referred to as visual framing. Compared to the original text-based framing research from the field of communication science, visual framing is increasingly being developed in visual communication research.[2] With the focus of a frame analysis anci pursues several research approaches with the aim to analyse different locations and scales of climate communication on the internet. We regarded globalized communication technology of the internet such as HTTP and its cultural implications as a simplified model as a template for (intercultural) communication about climate and climate change. In order to counteract the supposedly biased perspective of climate communication researchers, we chose an interdisciplinary approach and worked with both qualitative and quantitative analysis methods.

[1] Vgl. Matthes, Jörg (2014): Framing, Baden-Baden: Nomos. Vgl. auch Grittman, Elke (2015): Visual Frames – Framing Visuals. Zum Zusammenhang von Diskurs, Frame und Bild in den Medien am Beispiel des Klimawandeldiskurses“. In: Geise, Stephanie; Lobinger, Katharina: Visual Framing: Perspektiven und Herausforde- rungen der visuellen Kommunikationsforschung, Köln: Halem, S. 95-116.
[2] Vgl. Geise, Stephani; Lobinger, Katharina: »You cannot unsee a picture!« Der Visual-Framing-Ansatz in Theorie und Empirie” In: Dies. (Hrsg.) (2015): Visual Framing. Perspektiven und Herausforderungen der Visuellen Kommunikationsforschung, S. 19ff.



Similarity is particularly interesting for our research, as it serves as a central method of image analysis in digital image data analysis as well as in art history and image science. We methodically compare images on the topic of climate on the Internet based on criteria of shape (e.g., formal similarities and color similarities), context similarity, and similarities of metadata. The similarities on the level of shape promise to be particularly insightful as they are neither determined in a merely qualitative nor quantitative manner, but moreover play a central role in the analysis in all disciplines involved. Using similarity as a criterion, images can be grouped and clustered by categories, making statements about coherences of objectivity possible. Based on the example of climate pictures on the web, we critically question different concepts of similarity and their respective epistemic value from diverse perspectives: computer science, visualization research and art history respective visual studies.

Following glossary entries were made by students of our seminar Image Comparison:

Computer Vision
Cultural Analytics
Digital Image
Formal Analysis