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Historians of visual culture generally agree that, with the nineteenth century, a new way of seeing and a new kind of observer were born. The conventional history of photography says that this technology is a part of a linear development tracing back to the Renaissance and camera obscura. We tend to believe that photography and – later – film belong to the continuous and increasingly dominant visual practice – realism. Together with the “modernist rupture” of painterly revolutions, they constitute the modernization of vision at the end of the 19th century – but is it really so? Jonathan Crary does not agree with this interpretation. His deeply ambiguously received book Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the 19th Century foregrounds the discontinuity between the camera obscura and photography and claims that the rupture between modern and classical vision took place at the beginning of the 19th century.

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The 1990s marked the beginning of a new media revolution. A lot of rapid changes were taking place, such as computerization of culture and the birth of what Manuel Castells called “network society”. The digital computer became the meta-medium. According to Manovich, the last analogous media revolution was the birth of cinema. Sadly, its contemporaries did not recognize the importance of the new medium and there is no comprehensible account of its early emergence. Manovich laments over this lack of an early record of cinema and is determined to create both such an account and the theory of the development of the language of new media.

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