The pixel and the technique of pixelating faces belong to a politics of fear and a digital aesthetics of truth that shapes public perceptions of criminality and the threat of otherness. This article draws on Paul Virilio’s account of the pixel in The Lost Dimension to analyze its specific role and operation in relation to contemporary representations of incarceration. In particular, the article considers the figure of the incarcerated informant. The incarcerated criminal or informant plays a complex role as both subversive other and purveyor of truth and as such constitutes an important example of the ways pixelation functions as a visible signifier of a dangerous truth while blurring, erasing, and ultimately dehumanizing those “speaking” this truth. The discussion forms part of a larger analysis of the production, framing, and circulation of images of otherness, identifying Virilio as key to debates around the violence of the screen.
Sophie Fuggle is lecturer in French at Nottingham Trent University. She is author of Foucault/ Paul: Subjects of Power (2013) and coeditor of Foucault and the History of Our Present (2015) with Yari Lanci and Martina Tazzioli and Return to the Street (2015) with Tom Henri. Her current research focuses on representations of incarceration in France since the work of the Groupe d’Information sur les Prisons.