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Abstract

Recent developments in image-making techniques have resulted in a drastic blurring of the threshold between the world of the image and the real world. Immersive and interactive virtual environments (VEs) have enabled the production of pictures that elicit an unprecedented reality effect, creating in the perceiver a strong feeling of “being there”, namely of being incorporated into a quasi-real world. In doing so, they conceal their material mediateness (by simulating immediateness), their separateness (by aiming at unframedness), and their referentiality (by emphasizing presentness), paradoxically challenging their status as images, i.e. as icons: they are veritable “an-icons”. Subjects relating to an-icons are no longer visual observers of images isolated from the real world by a framing device (be it the pedestal of a statue, the frame of a painting, or the cinema screen); they are experiencers living in a quasi-real space-time that offers multisensory and synaesthetic stimuli and allows interactive sensorimotor affordances, promoting an environmentalization of the image.
Nowadays, these experiencers are digital natives who grow up interacting with touch screens from their earliest years; but in relation to immersive VEs they are still “immigrants” who need to acquire familiarity with an-iconic transformations of sensibility. However, given the pace of technological development and the huge amount of economic and scientific investments in virtual reality (VR) on a global scale, digital aniconic natives are to be expected in a very near future. Head Mounted Displays (HMD) are already in use as new interfaces for personal computers (Oculus Rift and HTC Vive) and video game consoles (Sony PlayStation VR), or mimicked by low-budget smartphone wearables (Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR). Virtual Retinal Displays (VRD, like Magic Leap One) and increasingly cheaper and standalone devices (Oculus Go) have already been released in 2018.
AN-ICON aims to develop “an-iconology” as a new paradigm able to address this challenging iconoscape. Because of the complexity of such an iconoscape, its approach needs to be articulated in a transdisciplinary way and to adopt a transmedial perspective. The project will be structured in three tightly interconnected Research Clusters: A) HISTORY: a media-historical investigation will provide a taxonomy of the manifold an-iconic strategies and dispositifs (e.g. illusionistic painting, pre-cinematic devices, 3D films, videogames, head mounted displays), taking at the same time into consideration significant countertendencies; B) THEORY: drawing on phenomenology, visual culture studies and techno-aesthetics, the research will clarify the specific nature of an-iconic involvements and identify the key concepts for their understanding; C) PRACTICES: a socio-cultural section will explore the impact of an-iconic environments on contemporary professional domains as well as on everyday life. An-iconic applications have become a cutting-edge topic, raising ethical, legal, and socio-political issues that will be specifically addressed by the project. Assuming the fundamental historicity of perception, AN-ICON will tackle this urgent challenge that is going to radically change human relations to images and to experience as a whole. The three clusters will converge towards the following overarching question: to what extent is this new iconoscape promoting a novel interplay between the body and technology, and so modifying human sensibility in its individual and social articulations?

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Andrea Pinotti

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR - FULL PROFESSOR OF AESTHETICS

Andrea Pinotti (PhD in Philosophy 1998) is Full Professor of Aesthetics at the Department of Philosophy “Piero Martinetti” of the State University of Milan, where he teaches Aesthetics and Representation and Image Theories. He is the coordinator of the Doctoral Course in Philosophy and Human Sciences. He has been fellow at the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America at Columbia University, New York (2003-04 and 2021); Directeur d’études associé at the EHESS in Paris (2008 and 2022); Fritz Saxl Senior fellow at the Warburg Institute, University of London (2010); professeur invité at the Université Jean-Moulin, Lyon 3 (2011); Gastwissenschaftler at the ZfL in Berlin (2012); directeur d’études associé at the FMSH in Paris (2015); Eurias-Marie-Curie Senior fellow at the IEA in Paris (2017-18) . He has been Directeur de Programme at the CIPH (Collège International de Philosophie) in Paris on the programme "Monument Nonument. Politique de l’image mémorielle, esthétique de la mémoire matérielle". In 2018 he has been awarded the Wissenschaftspreis der Aby-Warburg-Stiftung. In 2021 he has been elected president of the Scientific Board of the FMSH (Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme) in Paris.

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Alfio Ferrara

FULL PROFESSOR OF COMPUTER SCIENCE

Alfio Ferrara (PhD in Computer Science 2005) is Full Professor of Computer Science at the Department of Computer Science ‘Giovanni Degli Antoni’ of the University of Milan, where he teaches database, information retrieval and text mining. He is the coordinator of the Data Science Research Center of the University of Milan. He participates in the activities of the research group “Information Systems and Knowledge Management” (ISLab), with co-direction responsibility since 2011, and coordinates the Instance Matching track in the international research group of OAEI (Ontology Alignment Evaluation Initiative) of which he is member of the steering committee. He has been part of the research team in 10 European and national projects. Alfio Ferrara is also the author of more than 100 publications in international journals, volumes and conference proceedings. At the University of Milan, he was also one of the promoters of the Data Science and Economics Master’s Degree Course and of the II level University Master’s Degree in Data Science for Economics, Business and Finance.

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Ilaria Ampollini

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF HISTORY OF SCIENCE

Ilaria Ampollini got her Master degree in Philosophical Sciences (2011) from the University of Bologna and her PhD in Historical Studies (2016) from the University of Trento. Her research interests focus on the history of science and the history of science popularization, with particular reference to the XVIIth and early XIXth century. Her first monograph (Cronaca di una cometa non annunciata. Astronomia e comunicazione della scienza nel Settecento. Rome: Carocci, 2019), focused on a panic episode that occurred in Paris in 1773, generated by a work by the astronomer J. Lalande about the probability of impact between Earth and comets. After working in the field of sociology of science, in 2017 she got a grant (292K) from the Autonomous Province of Trento for a three-year project on the communication of scientific research. In 2020 she obtained a Labex Hastec post-doc scholarship, thanks to which she conducted a research project at the Institut d'Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine / Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, devoted to science-themed board and card games printed between Eighteenth and Nineteenth century. Her works deal with the history of science popularization, the visual and material history of science and, more in general with the multiple aspects linked to the public dimension of science and the circulation of knowledge.

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Anna Caterina Dalmasso

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF MEDIA ARCHAEOLOGY

Anna Caterina Dalmasso (Ph.D. Philosophy, University of Lyon/University of Milan, 2015) is assistant professor (ricercatrice a tempo determinato RTD-A) at the Department of Philosophy of University of Milan. Her research combines visual culture, film and media studies with phenomenology and aesthetics. Her current focuses are the aesthetics of virtual environments and immersive media, post-cinema, and media archaeology. She has been Marie Curie COFUND postdoctoral fellow at the Centre Prospéro of Saint-Louis University – Brussels (2017-2019). She devoted her doctoral thesis to Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of the visual and to its implications for contemporary mediality and technoculture (published in two books: Le corps, c’est l’écran. La philosophie du visuel de Merleau-Ponty, Mimesis, 2018; L’œil et l’histoire. Merleau-Ponty et l’historicité de la perception, Mimesis, 2019). She has coedited several interdisciplinary collective books and journal issues on screens studies and philosophy of cinema. She is also filmmaker and has worked in cinema, television and in audiovisual literacy workshops, collaborating with the director Andrea Caccia.

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Giulia Avanza

PROJECT MANAGER

Fabrizia Bandi

POSTDOC REASERCHER

Fabrizia Bandi, graduated at University of Milano, is a PhD in Philosophical Sciences – Aesthetics and Theory of the Arts (University of Palermo 2016). Her main research topics are phenomenology and aesthetics, with particular regard to the phenomenology of aesthetic experience, aesthetics of architecture and art. She has been postdoctoral fellow at Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio (Università della Svizzera Italiana) thanks to an Excellence fellowship of the FNS (Swiss National Science Foundation) dedicated to the concept of Freespace. She has been adjunct professor of the Aesthetics course at Politecnico of Milan, MSc programme Architectural Design and History (2016-2020). She is a member of the editorial staff of the journal Studi di Estetica as well as of the SIE (Italian Society of Aesthetics). In 2018 she has published the book La percezione armata. Esperienza estetica e immaginazione in Mikel Dufrenne (Mimesis).

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Federica Cavaletti

POSTDOC RESEARCHER

Federica Cavaletti’s main research fields are aesthetics and phenomenology, and she combines theoretical and empirical methods of investigation. She obtained her PhD degree in Humanities (curriculum: Communication, media, and performing arts) at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan. The topic of her dissertation was time perception in audiovisual media, which she explored both theoretically and by means of methods from cognitive psychology and empirical phenomenology (micro-phenomenological interviews). Within the ERC project “AN-ICON”, she is mainly contributing to the “Theory” and “Practices” research axes. More in particular, she is working on the first-person experience of VR environments and on the dynamics of the gazes implied in these environments. She is also addressing these topics in relation to the uses of VR in professional domains such as psychology, psychiatry, and medicine.

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Elisabetta Modena

POSTDOC RESEARCHER

Elisabetta Modena is a PhD in History of Art and History of Spectacle (University of Parma 2010). Her main research topics are contemporary art, museology and museography, digital humanities and archives, and video games culture. She has been research fellow at CSAC (Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione) of the University of Parma (2017-2018) as well as adjunct professor of Videogame Screen Writing (2010-2019), Contemporary Museology (2015-2019), and Phenomenology of the Image (2017-2019) at the Accademia di Belle Arti Santa Giulia in Brescia. As a curator, she has organised national and international exhibitions in both public and private venues (MAXXI, Rome; CSAC, Parma; MSU, Zagreb; Galleria del Premio Suzzara). She has also planned educational activities and inclusive workshops for exhibitions and museums. Together with Marco Scotti, she is the founder and curator of MoRE, a digital museum dedicated to unrealised contemporary art projects.

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Giancarlo Grossi

POSTDOC RESEARCHER

Giancarlo Grossi is a post-doc researcher in Aesthetics in the Philosophy Department of the University of Milan. His research interests concern the relationship between visual culture, media devices and mind sciences. His later studies focus on the relationship between immersive media and aesthetic experience from an archaeological point of view. He has published several articles in scientific journals and a book: Le regole della convulsione. Archeologia del corpo cinematografico [The Rules of Convultion. Archaeology of the Cinematic Body], Meltemi 2017.

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Ilaria Terrenghi

POSTDOC RESEARCHER

Ilaria Terrenghi is Ph.D. in Science of Communication and Education (University of Milano-Bicocca, M-PSI/01 and M-PED/03, 2018/19) and is currently a research fellow at the Department of Philosophy of University of Milan (M-PED/03). Her research topics are mainly linked to the pedagogical area: in particular she deals with the efficacy of teaching and learning processes, the didactic methodologies and technologies, the systematic observation of human interaction, the design and implementation of ad hoc observation instruments. She collaborated with CREMIT (Center of research on Education on Media, Innovation and Technology) at Chatholic University in several research projects (2015-2022) and she was also adjunct Professor at eCampus University in Didactic and e-learning (2021-2022 – M-PED/03).

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Margherita Fontana

POSTDOC RESEARCHER

Margherita Fontana is a Ph.D. in Visual and Media Studies (2022, IULM University of Milan). Her doctoral dissertation deals with the problematic issue of primitivism in American contemporary art, as seen from a feminist-engaged point of view. Her main fields of interest are the anthropology of images and the political and social connotations of artistic acts. She worked on the relationship between some relevant moments of contemporary American art history and est hetics. In particular, she studied the philosophical implications of Lucy Lippard’s thought and art criticism. In the ERC project AN-ICON, she examines the American milieu of emersion of VR, as linked to the psychedelic and sci-fi culture and the paleocybernetic trail of virtual fascinations on prehistoric caves

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Roberto Paolo Malaspina

PHD STUDENT

Roberto Paolo Malaspina graduated (BA) in 2016 at the University of Florence in History and Conservation of Cultural Heritages with a thesis on the relationship between museology and New Media. In 2019 he concluded his MA degree in Visual Arts at the University of Bologna, with a dissertation on the theoretical identity of postmodern architecture. During his studies, he worked as curator for Narkissos, an independent gallery based in Bologna, where he further researched on the interrelation between body, technology and feminisms. Between 2019 and 2020 he attended CAMPO, course for curators of the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. He is currently a PhD student at the University of Milan – Department of Philosophy and Human Science – where he conducts a research on the relationship between embodied perception and New Media in the fruition of pornographic moving images.

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Rosa Cinelli

PHD STUDENT

Rosa Cinelli graduated from the University of Milano in 2021 with a thesis centered on the uses of digital photography as a means of self-presentation in everyday life. Currently, she is a Ph.D. student adjoint to AN-ICON ERC advanced program, where she conducts her research on the contemporary conjugations of the concept of indexicality within digital and virtual images, as well as on the mutations of the epistemological paradigm of photography as visual proof. She also attended the two-year photography program from CFP Bauer in Milano.

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Alessandro Costella

PHD STUDENT

Alessandro Costella graduated (BA) in Engineering of Information in 2017 at the Department of Engineering of Information at the University of Padua. In 2020 he concluded his MA at the University of Milan in Computer Science, developing a videogame making use of physical automata in its implementation. During 2021 he worked as a research fellow within the AN-ICON ERC project, focusing his research on the development of virtual environments and the study of technological tools employed in their creation and fruition. In 2022 he started a PhD project in Philosophy and Human Sciences at the University of Milan. His research now focuses on studying and developing Augmented Reality and IoT technologies as prostheses for users with manipulative disabilities.

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Maria Serafini

PHD STUDENT

Maria Serafini graduated in Philosophy at the University of Rome La Sapienza in 2016. She subsequently obtained a Masters' degree in Cognitive Sciences and a Masters' degree in Philosophical Sciences from Roma Tre University. Since 2018, she has taken interest in phenomena related to digital death and immortality, developing two dissertations proceeding from Ernesto de Martino’s anthropological and philosophical reflections on mourning rituals. She is currently a PhD student within AN-ICON ERC advanced program, researching emerging visual and multimedia mourning practices in the subcultural contexts of virtual environments such as social networks, employing de Martino’s framework.

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Barbara Grespi

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF CINEMA AND VISUAL STUDIES

Barbara Grespi teaches Cinema and Visual Studies at the University of Milan, Department of Philosophy “Piero Martinetti”. She has written extensively on the theme of gesture, on the relationship between cinema and photography, and on the theories of montage. Her essays have appeared in the international journals Acoma, Agalma, Bianco&Nero, Ikon, Interface, L’anello che non tiene, Aisthesis, Cinema&Cie (of this last she is also editor). Her main publications include Memoria e Immagini (ed., Mondadori, 2009), Cinema e montaggio (Carocci, 2010), Gus Van Sant (ed., Marsilio 2011), Fuori quadro (co-ed., Aracne, 2013), Overlapping Images (co-ed., Mimesis International, 2016), Harun Farocki (co-ed., Mimesis 2017), Il cinema come gesto (Arcane, 2017), Apparizioni (co-ed., Aracne, 2018), Figure del corpo (Meltemi, 2019), Bodies of Stone in the Media, Visual Culture and the Arts (co-ed, Amsterdam University Press, 2020). She was on the Selection Committee of the Torino Film Festival from 2007 to 2017.

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Pietro Conte

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF AESTHETICS

Pietro Conte is Associate Professor of Aesthetics at the Department of Philosophy of the State University of Milan. After receiving his PhD from the University of Siena, he spent two years on a postdoc scholarship at the University of Basel (2007-2009). From 2011 to 2015, he worked as a Research Fellow at the State University of Milan. He was then awarded a Starting Grant from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology through the scientific programme “Investigador FCT”, thanks to which he was appointed Junior Assistant Professor at the University of Lisbon (2015-2018). In 2018 he got a tenure-track at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, where he became an Associate Professor in 2021. His scholarly work revolves around illusion, hyperrealism, immersion, and the multifarious practices of un-framing, a thematic cluster that he has addressed from a phenomenological perspective in the monographs Unframing Aesthetics (2020) and In carne e cera. Estetica e fenomenologia dell’iperrealismo (Flesh and Wax: Aesthetics and Phenomenology of Hyperrealism, 2015).

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Sofia Pirandello

PHD STUDENT

Sofia Pirandello (1993) is PhD student in Philosophy at the State University of Milan. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Rome – “La Sapienza” (under the supervision of Prof. Pietro Montani) and her Master’s degree at the University of Turin (under the supervision of Prof. Tiziana Andina). In both occasions, she worked on imagination in order to show its relevance in our everyday life, taking into account the cases of literature, visual arts, and mental diseases like schizophrenia. She attended CAMPO, the art curator course held by Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo of Turin. She is currently working on a PhD thesis about how digital technology affects our cognitive evolution, studying the effects of Augmented Reality (AR) on reasoning and creativity, under the supervision of Prof. Andrea Pinotti.

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Giuliana Bruno

HARVARD UNIVERSITY

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Gordon Calleja

UNIVERSITY OF MALTA

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UNIVERSITÉ “JEAN MOULIN” LYON 3

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YALE UNIVERSITY

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UNIVERSITÀ CATTOLICA DEL SACRO CUORE – MILANO

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YALE UNIVERSITY

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COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

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UNIVERSITÀ DEGLI STUDI DI PARMA

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UNIVERSITÉ DE GENÈVE

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FREIE UNIVERSITÄT BERLIN

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UNIVERSITÄT STUTTGART

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UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

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UNIVERSITÀ LA SAPIENZA DI ROMA

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UNIVERSITÉ SORBONNE NOUVELLE – PARIS 3

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UNIVERSITÉ DE FRIBOURG

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UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE

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UNIVERSITEIT LEIDEN

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Dipartimento di Filosofia "Piero Martinetti" 

Università degli Studi di Milano

Via Festa del Perdono 7, 20122 Milano