ISSN: 20403682
First published in 2010
2 issues per volume
Volume 4 Issue 1
Cover Date: September 2013
Pixelizing atrocity
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Authors:  Rebecca A. Adelman 
DOI: 10.1386/pop.4.1.25_1

Keywords
pixelization,spectatorship,atrocity,war,ethics,epistemology

Abstract
A digital solution to the problems caused by US military personnel misusing their digital cameras, pixelization (the intentional post-production enlargement of pixels to obscure potentially disturbing content) has become a defining feature of newsmedia visualizations of American military atrocity during the War on Terror. Here, I consider the ethics and politics of pixelizing photographs depicting torture at Abu Ghraib, the exploits of the American ‘Kill Team’ in Afghanistan, and the carnality of US Marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban soldiers. Ostensibly, as a technique applied to those parts of the photograph that reveal the corporeal truth of war most graphically, such redaction is meant to protect the victims. But it also renders their appearance variable, subject to editorial whim, and pixelization alters not only the appearance of the photograph, but how it signifies. I query whether pixelization offers any meaningful redress for the victims and the extent to which it blunts photography’s capacity to document harm.
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