Week 13: Reader Post

In the reading “The Spam of the Earth: Withdrawal from Representation”, Hito Steyerl centered her discussion around the idea of “image spam”. Steyerl’s main concern lied in the groups of people that got represented by those spam and how the spam revealed about humanity. Specifically, individuals in the spam predominantly embodied characteristics such as “horny, super skinny, armed with recession-proof college degrees, and always on time for their service jobs, courtesy of their replica watches” (Steyerl, 1). According to Steyerl, image spam presented “‘ideal’ humans, but not by showing actual humans”, therefore it functioned as an inappropriate model for the public to emulate (Steyerl, 2). At the same time, she introduced a second explanation regarding image spam’s representation, which was in contrast with the first one: the discrepancy between the idealized images in image spam and the real appearances of individuals indicated their refusal to have their true identities shown in a public media as “within a fully immersive media landscape, pictorial representation—which was seen as a prerogative and a political privilege for a long time—feels more like a threat” (Steyerl, 3). Such a reasoning was highly attractive to Steyerl as it diverged from the positive impressions people conventionally associated with representation. With that in mind, she went on to examine the political and cultural representation in current society and asserted that “while visual representation shifted into overdrive and was popularized through digital technologies, political representation of the people slipped into a deep crisis and was overshadowed by economic interest” (Steyerl, 6). She concluded the article by addressing the “crisis of representation” as she viewed this era as “an age of unrepresentable people and an overpopulation of images” as the image spam, regardless of which reasoning readers chose to align with, couldn’t serve as effective representations of the public (Steyerl, 7).


  1. At the very end of the article, Steyerl briefly talked about people shown in the image spam. In the previous paragraph, Steyerl called the image spam “a negative image” because she believed “it is an accurate portrayal of what humanity is actually not” (Steyerl, 3). However, if the image spam was synthesized by capturing actual individuals, would it still be a depiction of humanity?