The Systemic Image

The Systemic Image

A New Theory of Interactive Real-Time Simulations

By Inge Hinterwaldner

A new conceptualization of the relationship between the systemic and the iconic in real-time simulations that distinguishes among four levels of forming.





A new conceptualization of the relationship between the systemic and the iconic in real-time simulations that distinguishes among four levels of forming.

Computer simulations conceive objects and situations dynamically, in their changes and progressions. In The Systemic Image, Inge Hinterwaldner considers not only the technical components of dynamic computer simulations but also the sensory aspects of the realization. Examining the optic, the acoustic, the tactile, and the sensorimotor impressions that interactive real-time simulations provide, she finds that iconicity plays a dominant yet unexpected role. Based on this, and close readings of a series of example works, Hinterwaldner offers a new conceptualization of the relationship between systemic configuration and the iconic aspects in these calculated complexes.

Hinterwaldner discusses specifications of sensorialization, necessary to make the simulation dynamic perceivable. Interweaving iconicity with simulation, she explores the expressive possibilities that can be achieved under the condition of continuously calculated explicit changes. She distinguishes among four levels of forming: the systems perspective, as a process and schema that establishes the most general framework of simulations; the mathematical model, which marks off the boundaries of the simulation's actualization; the iconization and its orientation toward the user; and interaction design, necessary for the full unfolding of the simulation. The user makes manifest what is initially latent. Viewing the simulation as an interface, Hinterwaldner argues that not only does the sensorially designed aspect of the simulation seduce the user but the user also makes an impact on the simulation—on the dynamic and perhaps on the iconization, although not on the perspectivation. The influence is reciprocal.


$75.00 X ISBN: 9780262035040 392 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 143 b&w illus.


  • The Systemic Image brings a welcome level of analytic precision to a subject that has often been treated either merely technically or in the unhelpfully abstract language of phenomenology. Hinterwaldner's aim is the production of 'the rudiments of an aesthetic' of the visual nature of the image in real-time simulations of all kinds. The book begins with an unusually sharp series of conceptualizations of terms such as form, model, reality, schema, and image, developed from Niklas Luhmann, Brian Massumi, Henri Bergson, Jean-Louis Boissier, Gottfried Boehm, and others. Hinterwaldner then works through a series of case studies in medicine, art, and gaming, showing how iconicities both participate in and elicit interactions, and how senses of time and image need to be fundamentally rethought in order to understand real-time simulations. By comparison with The Systemic Image, the existing literature is diffuse and impressionistic. This is an exemplary book, and it will set the standard for some time to come.

    James Elkins

    E. C. Chadbourne Professor in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

  • Inge Hinterwaldner's book The Systemic Image radically challenges previous work on simulation and the digital image. She enables us to abandon now antiquated discussions of reality, virtuality, and authenticity for a novel concept of systemicity. In doing so, the book opens a new space for art historical and media studies to engage with a novel set of technical objects and processes, such as game theories, mathematical models, and cybernetic networks, that are of increasing centrality and importance to our contemporary digitally networked world. It is an invaluable text for scholars and practitioners working in art, art history, visual culture, and digital media.

    Orit Halpern

    Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University; author of Beautiful Data: A History of Vision and Reason since 1945