Sunday, April 29, 2012

Digitally Enhanced Images

Steve Caruso has an image on his blog that is quite astounding. Whom do you see?

If you see Albert Einstein, you are absolutely correct. Except of course that it is actually an image of Marilyn Monroe! Don't believe me? Step back a ways from your monitor!

The picture is actually a fuzzy picture of Monroe, but certain minor details have been enhanced in such a way as to correspond to Einstein's face. By "enhancing" the image, the artist has actually tricked our minds into seeing the wrong image... the one he created! What does this have to do with OTTC? Believe it or not, a lot, since almost all of the textual critic's resources are photographic!Chances to view the manuscripts themselves are quite rare for most of us common folk!

I recently read a chapter by Bruce Zuckerman demonstrating how similar principles can lead to misreading DSS evidence as well. Every photographic representation of a manuscript is an artist's interpretation of the manuscript. From simple issues such as lighting and angles to more complex processes of enhancing ink traces scholars think they see for the aid of readers, every single decision introduces an element of interpretation which has the potential to affect the way we see the evidence. If artists can make an entire human face appear out of nowhere, digital representations of scrolls fragments can quite easily create readings that simply aren't there! This does not mean that we throw out all images in despair, only that artists should clearly state their interpretive decisions up front and that we must use the images with appropriate caution.

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