Ways of Seeing Algorithmically
7 November 2020

Ways of Seeing Algorithmically
(2019 – ?)

In 1972 a small book changed the way the public thought about visual culture. Ways of Seeing made ideas from fields like structuralism, feminism and Marxism widely accessible, and in the process changed popular discourse about art.

However, since it’s publication a paradigmatic shift in seeing has occurred, and this is that humans no longer hold a monopoly on interpreting, understanding and acting on what they see. When Berger wrote his book the field of computer vision was in its infancy, but today this technology is increasingly advanced and is rapidly advancing into ever more areas of our lives. Ways of Seeing Algorithmically uses Berger’s book as he intended, as a starting point for a process of questioning what those changes mean.

At the core of the project is an augmented reality application. When combined with a copy of the original Ways of Seeing book, this app uses computer vision to bring into being a new virtual text, which exists digitally between the pages of Berger’s original book. The aim of this new text is to draw into focus a new narrative about the relationship between technology, culture, vision and power, which builds on some of Berger’s original thinking, while also at times diverging from it.

From this central element, other sub-projects radiate off like spokes from the hub of a wheel. These include video pieces, long form writing, generative visual systems, expert interviews and other approaches, each designed to examine different facets of this enormous and complex subject. Begun in 2009 under the auspices of the BMW residency at Gobelins, Ecole de l’image, Paris, Ways of Seeing Algorithmically now runs in parallel with my ESRC funded PhD research into the implications of computer vision and artificial systems for visual journalism and democracy.