Platform Seeing: Image Ensembles and Their Invisualities

Theory, Culture and Society 36 (5):3-22 (2019)
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How can one ‘see’ the operationalization of contemporary visual culture, given the imperceptibility and apparent automation of so many processes and dimensions of visuality? Seeing – as a position from a singular mode of observation – has become problematic since many visual elements, techniques, and forms of observing are highly distributed through data practices of collection, analysis and prediction. Such practices are subtended by visual cultural techniques that are grounded in the development of image collections, image formatting and hardware design. In this article, we analyze recent transformations in forms of prediction and data analytics associated with spectacular performances of computation. We analyze how transformations in the collection and accumulation of images as ensembles by platforms have a qualitative and material effect on the emergent sociotechnicality of platform ‘life’ and ‘perception’. Reconstructing the visual transformations that allow artificial intelligence assemblages to operate allows some sense of their heteronomous materiality and contingency.



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