AI and visual ramifications of the crisis

Among the countless troubling aspects of the Covid-19 crisis is the liberating effect it has on AI-based surveillance technologies and policies. Not only does the crisis provide unprecedented opportunities for data extracting tech giants to expand their reach and power. It also enhances the ongoing transformation of global capitalism into a huge, democratically ungovernable laboratory. To a considerable extent, this is also a laboratory of vision, visuality, visualization. For one, there is the variety of infographics, dashboards etc. mentioned in an earlier post.

These maps, diagrams and statistics may enable citizens’ capacities of “reading” the crisis (probably the most influential image by now being the flattened bell curve indicating a possible slowing down of the infection rates), but they also are peculiarly paralyzing. For, ultimately, they remain the very ciphers of authority they have always been.

In another, yet directly related dimension of visual politics dwell the devices to track the infection by controlling/invading individual and group behaviour. “Clearview AI” is the telling, Orwellian name of a particularly shady, privacy-violating facial recognition software firm, deployed in the attempts to control the virus. TH

One more obvious problem is media’s usage of the terrifying 3D art based on microscope images of the coronavirus (such as image by Joao Paulo Burini above, used in the article linked here); the battlestar iconography is a safe bet for those interested in engendering „primal“ fears and deep anxieties and thus adds to a feeling of helplessness and passivity that is to be contested. TH

15.03.2020, 02 / Rosa Mercedes

David Graeber (1961-2020) on What Would It Take (from his The Democracy Project. A History, a Crisis, a Movement, 2013, p. 193): „We have little idea what sort of organizations, or for that matter, technologies, would emerge if free people were unfettered to use their imagination to actually solve collective problems rather than to make them worse. But the primary question is: how do we even get there? What would it take to allow our political and economic systems to become a mode of collective problem solving rather than, as they are now, a mode of collective war?“

07.09.2020, Tom

T.J. Demos on why cultural practitioners should never surrender, via  „For artists, writers, and curators, as art historians and teachers, the meaning-production of an artwork is never finished, never fully appropriated and coopted, in my view, and we should never surrender it; the battle over significance is ongoing. We see that battle rise up in relation to racist and colonial monuments these days in the US, the UK, and South Africa. While the destruction of such monuments results from and is enabling of radical politics, it’s still not enough until the larger institutions that support and maintain their existence as well as the continuation of the politics they represent are also torn down. This is urgent as well in the cultural sphere, including the arts institutions, universities, art markets, discursive sphere of magazines and journals, all in thrall to neoliberalism, where we must recognize that it’s ultimately inadequate to simply inject critical or radical content into these frameworks, which we know excel at incorporating those anti-extractivist expressions into further forms of cultural capital and wealth accumulation. What’s required is more of the building of nonprofit and community-based institutions, organizing radical political horizons and solidarity between social formations.“

21.08.2020, Tom

Bernard Stiegler, quoted from The Neganthropocene (trans. Daniel Ross): „Does anyone really believe that it is possible to ‘solve’ the problems of climate change, habitat destruction and cultural destruction without addressing the consumerist basis of the present macro-economic system, or vice versa, or without addressing the way in which this system depletes the psychic energy required to find the collective will, belief, hope and reason to address this planetary challenge? Can this consumerism really survive the coming wave of automation that threatens to decimate its customer base and undermine the ‘consumer confidence’ that is fundamental to its perpetual growth requirements, themselves antithetical, once again, to the problems of biospherical preservation?“

14.08.2020, Tom
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