Ways of machine seeing

Published on June 15th, 2017


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Through series of short provocations and an annotation experiment for pedagogies of vision in human and machine learning “Variation on a glance” by Nicolas Malevé, we will address the question of what research methods are needed to study the networked image and its increasingly hybrid, subjectivised, and highly individuated set of audiences.

Ways of Machine Seeing 2017
26 June 2017, 13:00 – 28 June 2017, 14:00
Ruskin Gallery, CRASSH, and Computer Laboratory

 

Ways of Machine Seeing 2017 is a two-day workshop organised by the Cambridge Digital Humanities Network, and CoDE (Cultures of the Digital Economy Research Institute) and Cambridge Big Data.

Since its broadcast 45 years ago, the BBC documentary series Ways of Seeing has had a wide impact on both popular and academic views on the history of art and the production of images. It presented a radical socio-economic understanding of western art history which was closer to the image itself than previous Marxist critics – helping spread the thinking of Walter Benjamin in the English-speaking world. The analysis offered by presenter John Berger and his collaborators in the documentary is founded on technologies (oil paints, photography) and the ways in which they both reflect and create visual-ideological paradigms, or Ways of Seeing; we seek to explore, half a century later, how these concepts can be understood in the light of state-of-the-art technical developments in machine vision and algorithmic learning.

Can Berger’s assertion that “every image embodies a way of seeing”, be brought into fruitful dialogue with the concerns of researchers exploring contemporary technologies of vision, in a world where the theorisation of vision as a series of information-processing tasks profoundly affects the creation, reception and circulation of all kinds of images? Does this require a perspective going beyond robots which “see” in order to work in a factory, through self-driving cars, recognition and response to embodied human experience, to understanding the cultural meaning of images that have been selected algorithmically, and the question of how the reciprocal nature of vision is affected by the intercession of new kinds of filters between viewer and viewed?

 

Andrew Dewdney, Magdalena Tyżlik-Carver, Katrina Sluis, Annet Dekker, Gaia Tedone, Nicolas Malevé

Centre for the Study of the Networked Image, London South Bank University

Unthinking Photography: cultural value and the networked image

 

“If the new language of images were used differently, it would, through its use, confer a new kind of power.” John Berger. (1972) Ways of Seeing, P33

John Berger’s BBC broadcast experiment ‘Ways of Seeing’ argued that vision and seeing are essentially meaning making activities. Revisiting this understanding of the reproductive and cultural modes of seeing now in computational culture is timely, not least because Berger was concerned with a politics of culture that required new ways of thinking and acting.

Indexical and archival representation of a unique point of origin is no longer a sustainable definition for the image and yet its reproduction in culture persists, cloaking the reality of image production as an unspoken set of allegiances between human and machinic agents. This complex of agents can be termed the networked image and considered as a way of seeing. Working out epistemological and ontological accounts of the entanglements between computational and cultural languages is needed in order to identify and translate the politics and power of the networked image.

Through series of short provocations and an annotation experiment for pedagogies of vision in human and machine learning “Variation on a glance” by Nicolas Malevé, we will address the question of what research methods are needed to study the networked image and its increasingly hybrid, subjectivised, and highly individuated set of audiences. Recognising this supposedly non-representational public at work with networked image we will critically engage with pedagogies of machine seeing and increasing monopoly of machinic gaze on the networked bodies.


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