Dreamworlds of Platform Capitalism: Synthetic Media in Networked Image Cultures

Lecture by Roland Meyer

Tue May 14, 2024, 7pm, Room E.O2.29, Neubau, AdBK München

While the initial hype surrounding AI image synthesis models such as Dall-E, Midjourney, or Stable Diffusion is fading, their massive impact on networked image cultures is becoming ever clearer: Social media platforms are flooded with increasingly absurd synthetic clickbait, right-wing online accounts have become super-spreaders of AI-generated propaganda, and a pervasive distrust of digital images has popularized new forms of pseudo-forensic analysis.

Taking its cue from these current phenomena, the lecture attempts to map the emerging synthetic realities of generative AI, analyze their specific aesthetics, and trace their infrastructural conditions. Not only are the visual worlds of synthetic media made to be shared, liked and commented on via social media platforms – they are in fact a product of these very platforms, their data accumulations, filter aesthetics, reaction economies and monetization schemes.

More than anything else, AI images may thus represent platform capitalism itself, albeit in a dream-like state: a closed world composed of endlessly repeating patterns from the past, fueled by constant feedback loops and optimized for quantifiable user engagement.


Roland Meyer is a media and visual culture scholar specializing in the history and theory of networked image cultures. Currently, he is a postdoc researcher in the Collaborative Research Centre Virtual Lifeworlds at Ruhr University Bochum. His most recent publication, Bilder unter Verdacht: Praktiken der Bildforensik (Berlin 2023), is a guest edited volume of the series Bildwelten des Wissens, focusing on practices of image forensics.

Photo: (c) screenshot DALL-E/Sam Altman