Tag, seeing machines
09.01.–05.03.2017
7. What Do Databases Want?

For the last post in this series I have left myself an absurd challenge: to find a way of thinking through the mass image – that single, vast portrait gathered together from every digitised photo (and every mode of image capture) into one monolithic picture of the world in the accumulated databases of social media, surveillance systems, medical and scientific collections and all the other repositories of unregarded photographs. more

Published: 02.03.2017
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5. The Image Withheld

All that distinguishes a photo as image and a photo as component of the mass image is the simple act of attention. Among all the billion images uploaded, stashed or discarded, only a tiny few secure even a few moments of active contemplation. more

Published: 15.02.2017
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4. The Mass Image

I wrote in my previous post that individual images use the unavoidable division between being and appearance to create negative images of the world, and thereby to create glimpses of happiness as the opposite of the world we inhabit. That seems to be as true of individual prints or photographs as it is of unique paintings and drawings. But can the same be said of images in the mass? more

Published: 09.02.2017
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3. Problems of Happy Images

I ended my last post with the ethical and political demand for happiness for all. Yes, it is a radical demand. Our world is not a very happy place; and each of us has been schooled, by religion, politics, and what we like to call reality, that we have to put up with pain in the hope of something better coming along when we get to heaven or pay off our debts. Both prospects, in reality, are equally distant. Which means that we have schooled ourselves to accept unhappiness as the nature of life. Casting that off is a huge psychological task, let alone the immense political revolution that would have to happen to realise happiness for everyone. more

Published: 30.01.2017
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4. From the Kino-Eye to the Postimage

In this last post, we want to explore the relation between vision, image and machine. With film, or already with photography, a new age has started: that of machine vision, of machines that see (for us). The logical consequence is that at some point, these machines will no longer need us to function (we’ve already come a long way from hand-cranked cameras to webcams) or to look at their images (think of automated CCTV surveillance or assembly robots). They may still see for us, but will do so without our involvement, as with self-driving cars for instance. What is at stake then in the age of machine vision is not only the status and concept of the image (what does “seeing” mean for a robot equipped with various sensors, among them visual ones?), it is also the status and concept of the human as the producer and consumer of images. more

Published: 26.04.2016
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01.05.–15.06.2015
1. Welcome to the Anthropocene!

"In a single lifetime we have grown into a phenomenal global force. We move more sediment and rock annually than all natural processes such as erosion and rivers. We manage three quarters of all land outside the ice sheets. Greenhouse gas levels this high have not been seen for over one million years. Temperatures are increasing. We have made a hole in the ozone layer. We are losing biodiversity. Many of the world’s deltas are sinking due to damming, mining and other causes. Sea level is rising. Ocean acidification is a real threat. We are altering Earth’s natural cycles. We have entered the Anthropocene, a new geological epoch dominated by humanity."

more

Published: 05.05.2015
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01.03.–15.04.2014
4. Geographies of Photography

Over the last few weeks I’ve been laying out some ideas about what photography has become, and have begun to articulate some of the ways I use to think about it. In previous posts, I wrote about replacing a more conventional idea of photography with the idea of seeing machines and put forward the idea of “scripts” to begin understanding how seeing machines function, i.e. how they act upon the world. I wrote about scripts as being the range of activities that a seeing machine “wants” to do, and the range of possibilities that those “wants” facilitate, and the range of possibilities that are foreclosed. To illustrate the idea, I used the example of an Automated Number Plate Reading (ANPR) system, and tried to show how the cameras, shutters, and lenses of such as system are totally irrelevant without the “back end” of signal processing, data bases, analytics, search algorithms, and the like. All of these add up to a seeing machine that “wants” to perform a rather narrow range of tasks, and thereby sculpts the world in some very specific ways. more

Published: 11.04.2014
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3. Scripts

In the last post, I proposed that 21st Century “photography” has come to encompass so many different kinds of technologies, imaging apparatuses, and practices that the kinds of things we easily recognize as photography (cameras, film, prints, etc.) now actually constitute an exception to the rule. I proposed a much broader definition – seeing machines. The point of having such an expanded definition is to help us notice and recognize the myriad ways in which imaging systems (including traditional cameras), and the images they produce, are both ubiquitous, and actively sculpting the world in ways that were unimaginable just a few decades ago. Moreover, I proposed that classical photo theory is of little use, and may indeed actually hinder, a broad understating of contemporary imaging systems. more

Published: 24.03.2014
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2. Seeing Machines

In my last blog post, I sketched out some of the ways that traditional photography theory and practice seems to be at a standstill. Contemporary revolutions in photography, from omnipresent digital picture-taking to the advent of hundred-billion image repositories have prompted some practitioners, theorists, and critics to ask whether “photography” (at least as it was once understood) “is over.” I noted that the question has arrived at an ironic time – how could photography be “over” at the exact moment in history that it has achieved an unprecedented ubiquity? more

Published: 13.03.2014
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1. Is Photography Over?

A few years ago, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art held a conference about photography – for a photo conference, it had the odd title “Is Photography Over?.” Curators Sandra Phillips and Dominic Wilsdon posed the question as a challenge to panelists, audience members and the world at large. The two-day symposium was an attempt to shake up conventional institutionalized discourses about photography and to be an opportunity to think about what, if anything, has “changed” about photography over the last decade or so.

From my point of view, the fact that the world’s leading photo-curators would even pose such a question turned out to be more illuminating than most of the symposium’s content. Wilsdon and Phillips’ provocation reflects a deep-seated uneasiness among photo-theorists and practitioners about the state of their field. more

Published: 03.03.2014
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