Ways of Seeing Algorithmically
16 January 2016

Ways of Seeing Algorithmically

In 1972 a small book changed the way the public thought about art and sight. John Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing’ made ideas from post-structuralism, feminism and Marxism understandable to a mass audience. Since then it has sold millions of copies, and is taught in universities and colleges around the world. At the same time a paradigmatic shift in seeing has occurred since this book first appeared. When Berger wrote his book the scientific field of computer vision was in its infancy, more technological flight of fantasy than workable reality. Today computer vision is ubiquitous and spreading rapidly into almost every field of life.

I am currently in the progress of reworking and updateing ‘Ways of Seeing’. Just as Berger’s book sought to educate audiences about the ways we perceive and interpret art, my project ‘Ways of Seeing Algorithmically’ aims to do something similar for the new visual system of algorithms and artificial intelligences, helping audiences understand how these technologies see and understand the world around us. To do this, material drawn from my research into artificial intelligence is overlaid on to the pages of ‘Ways of Seeing’ in a way which creates contrasts and juxtapositions between Berger’s text and images and my own. In doing this I will also collaborate with Richard Hollis, the original designer of ‘Ways of Seeing’, in order to ensure the update remains true to the original.

The completed project will be available as an augmented reality mobile phone app, which will be freely downloadable. When combined with a copy of Ways of Seeing, the app will use computer vision to detect the book’s pages and overlay this new content directly on to them, causing my new book to inhabit the old book virtually, and meaning that anyone with access to a copy of ‘Ways of Seeing’ is able to freely, virtually update it into a copy ‘Ways of Seeing Algorithmically’.