Animation has become ubiquitous within digital visual culture and fundamental to knowledge production. As such, its status as potentially reliable imagery should be clarified. This article examines how animation’s indexicality (both as trace and deixis) changes in mixed realities where the physical and the virtual converge, and how this contributes to the research of animation as documentary and/or non-fiction imagery. In digital culture, animation is used widely to depict both physical and virtual events, and actions. As a result, animation is no longer an interpretive visual language. Instead, animation in virtual culture acts as real-time visualization of computer-mediated actions, their capture and documentation. Now that animation includes both captured and generated imagery, not only do its definitions change but its link to the realities depicted and the documentary value of animated representations requires rethinking. This article begins with definitions of animation and their relation to the perception of animation’s validity as documentary imagery; thereafter it examines indexicality and the strength of indexical visualizations, introducing a continuum of strong and weak indices to theorize the hybrid and complex forms of indexicality in animation, ranging from graphic user interfaces (GUI) to data visualization. The article concludes by examining four indexical connections in relation to physical and virtual reality, offering a theoretical framework with which to conceptualize animation’s indexing abilities in today’s mixed realities.
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