The symposium “Pointed or Pointless? Recalibrating the Index” aims to reconsider the notion of the index, its history and present-day applicability. Some recent debates – which abandon strict definitions of analogue/digital and scrutinize fixed notions of truth and medium – are taken as an opportunity to readdress the notion in the 21st century.
Deriving from the semiotic theory of American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, the index has enjoyed a wide-reaching career. It has dominated photography’s definition as a medium for decades, justifying its specific “truth-claim”. With the rise of digital technologies the notion – in terms of a trace left behind by the photographed object on a material surface – has been challenged. Today, it serves as the distinguishing feature, which divides two states of the world (the real and the mediated) while at the same time connecting them. However this connection is not as linear as the media-ontological approach suggests, and has been recently discussed in terms of the “messy state of media”, “post- digital”, or “habitual media”.
This complex situation asks for a re-evaluation of the notion of index – taking into account its complex historical existence; challenging it as an ontological tool by tackling the asserted gap between the “analogue” and the “digital”; and shifting the focus to an epistemological understanding.