Building on the arguments of her previous books, "Body Criticism" (1991) and "Artful Science" (1994), "Good Looking" challenges the reflexive identification of images with vice. Today rampant criticism, both inside and outside the academy, condemns the immoralities of aesthetic illusion, museum display, cable television and hypermedia. Believing with the American pragmatists that it is harder to do than to denounce, Barbara Stafford urges imagists to abandon Foucault's bankrupt paradigm of verbal combat. Instead of more "improving" theoretical discourse, she calls for developing a positive visual praxis on the interpretive ruins of linguistic postmodernism. Not deconstructive autopsy, but demonstrating the historical virtues of visualization for the emergent era of computerism is the task at hand. These 12 essays meditate on the implications of a global shift toward vision and visionary modalities. Apparatus changes, but the basic questions endure. Machine dreams flowing from laser disks, video tapes, CD-ROMs, and magnetic disks are transforming educational, medical and legal institutions as well as on-line society at large.
Organized around three major themes - the explosion of optical information, the urgency of inventing an imagined interdiscipline, and the ethical dilemmas of technological transparency - these pieces connect a disappearing lens culture to the digital diaphanousness of the 21st century.