Already online for two years, but our article (with Ruben Ros) “Distant reading 940,000 online circulations of 26 iconic photographs” was officially published #OA in New Media & Society.

Link to article


How do digital media impact the meaning of iconic photographs? Recent studies have suggested that online circulation, especially in a memeified form, might lead to the erosion, fracturing, or collapsing of the original contextual meaning of iconic pictures. Introducing a distant reading methodology to the study of iconic photographs, we apply the Google Cloud Vision Application Programming Interface (GCV API) to retrieve 940,000 online circulations of 26 iconic images between 1995 and 2020. We use document embeddings, a Natural Language Processing technique, to map in what contexts iconic photographs are circulated online. The article demonstrates that constantly changing configurations of contextual imagetexts, self-referential image-texts, and non-referential image/texts shape the online live of iconic photographs: ebbs and flows of slowly disappearing, suddenly resurfacing, and newly found meanings. While iconic photographs might not need captions to speak, this article argues that a large-scale analysis of texts can help us better grasp what they say.

Che Guevara