Messing with Punctum

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  • Title: Messing with Punctum: Cinemagraphs and the Uncanny
  • Author(s): Rainer Usselmann
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Common Ground Open
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of the Image
  • Keywords: Cinemagraphs, Barthes, Rubinstein, The Uncanny
  • Volume: 8
  • Issue: 4
  • Year: 2017
  • ISSN: 2154-8560 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2154-8579 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Usselmann, Rainer. 2017. "Messing with Punctum: Cinemagraphs and the Uncanny." The International Journal of the Image 8 (4): 51-57. doi:10.18848/2154-8560/CGP/v08i04/51-57.
  • Extent: 7 pages


This article investigates “cinemagraphs” and their increasing use in social media and advertising. Following on from a brief survey of current commercial practice, the article draws connections with Roland Barthes’ historic reading of photographic production and interpretation, albeit situated within twenty-first-century technology. The article argues that the principle device of cinemagraphs, the looping of localised motion within an otherwise still image—this juxtaposition of the animate with the inanimate, or the dead with the undead—when executed well, alludes to a now historic framework of photographic interpretation, yet with often uncanny results. When read in the context of an increasingly transhuman culture, of data-base politics, artificial intelligence, and robotics, cinemagraphs perhaps provide a glimpse of “The Uncanny,” in a way that is rather well suited to prevailing Zeitgeist. The article argues that this is not dissimilar to the reception of mechanical automata in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when situated against the then backdrop of the first industrial revolution.