(via Trevor Paglen)

Without question, the 21st Century will be a photographic century. Photography will play a more fundamental role in the functioning of 21st Century societies than 20th Century practitioners working with light-sensitive emulsions and photographic papers could have ever dreamed. So while in one sense photography might be “over,” in another, it’s barely gotten going. And we haven’t seen anything yet.


Seeing machines is an expansive definition of photography. It is intended to encompass the myriad ways that not only humans use technology to “see” the world, but the ways machines see the world for other machines. Seeing machines includes familiar photographic devices and categories like viewfinder cameras and photosensitive films and papers, but quickly moves far beyond that. It embraces everything from iPhones to airport security backscatter-imaging devices, from electro-optical reconnaissance satellites in low-earth orbit, to QR code readers at supermarket checkouts, from border checkpoint facial-recognition surveillance cameras to privatized networks of Automated License Plate Recognition systems, and from military wide-area-airborne-surveillance systems, to the roving cameras on board legions of Google’s Street View” cars.


I think about a “script” as the basic and obvious function of an imaging system, its “style” of seeing, and the immediate relationships (between seer and seen, for example) it produces, and the obvious ways in which a seeing machine sculpts the world. To put it crudely, a script is all of those things that a given seeing machine “wants” to do, how it “wants” to see the world, and how it does what it’s designed to do. A machine’s script strongly proscribes certain activities and relationships, and at the same time precludes others. There is a two-fold question here, “how” a seeing machine sees is utterly bound up with the effects that it produces.


  • seeing_machines.txt
  • Last modified: 2014-04-05 11:33
  • by nik