Image Act Theory

by Carson Reynolds

Image Act Theory is an ethical theory that evaluates image manipulations in terms of social actions. In doing so, Image Act Theory borrows the approach of Austin’s Speech Act Theory. Austin argued that certain utterances are preformative; that “in saying something, we do something.” Likewise, Image Act Theory argues that when we change the way something appears, we perform a social action. An image manipulation may accuse, misrepresent, persuade and entertain depending upon the audience, illustrator, and whom is depicted. The benefit of this theory is that social actions are already amenable to analysis using a variety of ethical systems. I want to compose a survey of historical and recent examples of image manipulation, and provide commentary about the social action performed.