Media studies has recently witnessed a resurgence of interest in "operational images," a category formalized in the early 2000s by the German filmmaker and theorist Harun Farocki to describe the military and industrial applications of machine vision. Defined by Farocki as images that "do not represent an object but are part of an operation," the concept has been reanimated by media scholars in the context of algorithmic culture and AI as a means for grasping the conversion of images into abstract data for the analysis by computational processes that have no need of the sensible image as such. This paradigm of operativity presumes a regime of images that is bracketed out from cultural representations. It invokes images that are ingrained in protocoled sequences of mechanical inputs and outputs, and that, in our present time, seem to be even further removed from human apprehension.
Calling on operational imaginaries, this workshop seeks to trace the echoes of such operational abstraction in our political imagination. Bringing together an international group of filmmakers, computer scientists, and media scholars, we will explore the underlying typological orders and anatomies of operativity today. By shifting from a more narrow taxonomy of images to the broader frame of the imaginary–construed as both a locus and method–this workshop investigates the cultural and political logics of operativity at work in a diverse range of media objects, practices, and sites: from gender binarism in facial recognition and the policing of borders through automated accent tracking to the dissemination of knowledge and affect and the "weaponization" of memes.