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The Practice of Light


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Glorious! Cubitt takes us back to basics in the most profound sense of the phrase. A tour-de-force of erudition, The Practice of Light offers not only a brilliant cultural history of the elements of mediation, but also an eclectic media-centric history of culture. Essential reading! -- William Uricchio, Professor of Comparative Media Studies, MIT; Principal Investigator, MIT Open Documentary Lab and MIT Game Lab Sean Cubitt's new book is a milestone in film and media theory, and it will make a long-lasting impact across the wide field of visual culture studies. A genealogist of media, an analyst of light, Cubitt combines media historical insights with a strong understanding of political economy, aesthetics, and importantly, ethics. The Practice of Light is a shining piece of scholarship. -- Jussi Parikka, University of Southampton, author of What is Media Archaeology? Sean Cubitt's genealogy of the technologies of light is a marvelous exposition of the intricate crafts of making and reproducing images through the deployment of shadow and light, of line, texture, and mass, of projection, reflection, and time. With its wide-ranging scholarship, this is a richly informative account of the work of light in the forming and control of the visible. -- John Frow, University of Sydney Cubitt's The Practice of Light provides us with a significantly different and highly critical history of digital imaging. Drawing from a plethora of resources in arts and humanities, philosophy and sciences, this well-researched investigation into the practices and devices of visualization of light, shadow, and color is eye-opening in giving evidence of how aesthetic and technical inventions, such as printmaking, photography, and cinema, screens, and data projection, are becoming instruments of order and control that govern today's mediascapes. Written with enthusiasm, passion, and curiosity, Cubitt's new book shares far-reaching insights into the dominance of Western technologies that have shaped the global scale. It adds a new and much needed discourse to the emerging fields of digital humanities. -- Yvonne Spielmann, Dean of Faculty of Fine Arts, Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore; author of Video: The Reflexive Medium and Hybrid Culture: Japanese Media Arts in Dialogue with the West " The Practice of Light is erudite, lively, and, I'll just say it, illuminating. Sean Cubitt is at the top of his game here, offering up a genealogy of technologies of vision that is at once expansive and specific, formalist and political, historical and utopian. Even as he attends to forces of order and control, Cubitt writes a hopeful book, reminding us that mediation might always matter differently. He foregrounds the dialectical power of making in order to move us elsewhere. This is an important and timely book. -- Tara McPherson, Associate Professor of Critical Studies, USC School of Cinematic Arts; editor of Vectors

About the Author

Sean Cubitt is Professor of Film and Television at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of The Cinema Effect and the coeditor of Relive: Media Art Histories, both published by the MIT Press.


The Practice of Light is an amazing tour de force. Exceptionally well researched, brilliantly written and the result of the dream of a very talented individual. Cubitt dreamed he held a book such as this in his hand and dearly wanted to read it. No such book existed in reality, so he set about the monumental task of writing it himself. I say monumental because as you will appreciate as you read the book the level of detailed research and scholarship is vast; from the genesis of 'Let there be light' through to the images we see on giant LED screens in our contemporary cities... Cubitt introduces, explains, and then explores highly complex theories in such a way that is easy to understand and without getting a stress headache. Highly readable... (L)ight will never appear the same again after digesting Cubitt's smorgasbord of tantalising morsels from history, science, art, philosophy, and technology. -Leonardo

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