Jill Walker Rettberg
Machine Images: from Vertov’s Kino-Eye to Deep Fakes and Selfie Lenses
Technology and images have always been intertwined, from the grinding of ochre dust for cave paintings, to the generative adversarial networks that generate deep fake videos today. This presentation will examine this interplay between human and technology, as a seat of tension and anxiety, but also pleasure and creativity. While Vilhelm Flusser wrote that taking a photograph is no more creative than tossing a die, many others have celebrated the different ways of seeing that machine vision can provide. In the 1920s, Dziga Vertov wrote excitedly of the “mechanical eye” or “kino-eye” of the cinema camera: “I, the machine, show you a world the way only I can see it.» Every day, people play with selfie lenses or tweak their photographs using automated filters. Last year, Pierre Huyghe used images generated by a neural network in his exhibition Uumwelt at the Serpentine Gallery in London. Clearly, people enjoy these other, machinic ways of seeing. Yet the machines also misrecognize us, as Joy Buolomwini movingly shows in her spoken word video AI, Ain’t I a woman? In this presentation, Jill Walker Rettberg explores the tensions and delights of human-machine vision.
Jill Walker Rettberg is Professor of Digital Culture at the University of Bergen, and leads the ERC project Machine Vision in Everyday Life: Playful Interactions with Visual Technologies in Digital Art, Games, Narratives and Social Media (2018-2023). In addition to her current work on algorithmic visual technologies she has researched digital self-representation in visual, quantitative and narrative forms, and online storytelling more broadly, ranging from electronic literature to narratives in social media. Her last book was Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves (open access, Palgrave 2014), and she is also the author of Blogging (Polity Press 2008, 2014). She blogs and tweets her research at http://jilltxt.net and as @jilltxt.
Moving Images: On the Mobility and Motility of Digital Photography
This paper draws on the multiple meanings of the term ‘moving images’ to explore two key intersections of digital photography, screen-based mobile devices, and social media networks. The first concerns the ubiquity of screens, not merely as representational vehicles – as mechanisms for delivering images to viewers – but as multi-sensory communicative interfaces which encourage particular kinds of motility (muscular responses) and bodily dispositions among users, recalibrate temporal and spatial relations, and reconfigure the physical and formal materiality of photographs. The second concerns the constitution of digital networks – particularly social media – as distinctive worlds of action and expression whose screen-based manifestations can be visually recorded in their own right. I will argue that these two features pose significant challenges to prevalent assumptions regarding visual culture in conditions of ubiquitous media. In particular, they reveal that digital interactions themselves are increasingly preserved and circulated as images of events, and that engagement with them is performed through micro-scale embodied responses to screens as their sites of memory.
Paul Frosh is a Professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His research spans visual culture, media aesthetics, media and nationhood, media witnessing and cultural memory. His books include The Poetics of Digital Media (2018), Media Witnessing: Testimony in the Age of Mass Communication (2011, edited with Amit Pinchevski), Meeting the Enemy in the Living Room: Terrorism and Communication in the Contemporary Era (2006, edited with Tamar Liebes), and The Image Factory: Consumer Culture, Photography and the Visual Content Industry (2003).