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

March 15th, 2020, 02 / Rosa Mercedes

Avery F. Gordon, in an interview conducted by Katherine Hite and Daniela Jara in Memory Studies:  “Non-participation is one modality of what I call being in-difference. Being in-difference is a political consciousness and a sensuous knowledge, a standpoint and a mindset for living on better terms than we’re offered, for living as if you had the necessity and the freedom to do so, for living in the acknowledgement that, despite the overwhelming power of all the systems of domination which are trying to kill us, they never quite become us. They are, as Cedric J Robinson used to say, only one condition of our existence or being. Running away, living apart, squatting, communing, feral trading, bartering, self-managed currencies, human, debt, labour, knowledge strikes, boycott, divestment, non-policing, throwing your shoe at an occupying president: the ways of non-participation in the given order of things are many, varied and hard to summarize. And they are taken up for a variety of reasons, including the failure or irrelevance of states and the US–European post–World War II social movement model.”

July 7th, 2020, Tom

Denise Ferreira da Silva via Canadian Art: “Visuality or rather visualizability—being available via social media and accessible through electronic gadgets—seems to have become the main (if not the sole) criterion for reality, which becomes crucial for the ethical-political demands for the protection of black lives, for state accountability and for justice. If that is so, the only way is through these conditions of representation. I mean, the creative move first takes the visualizable as it is, that is, as a twice removed re/composition (at the same time a live streaming, news reporting and documenting) of the scene of violence which only tells us that it happens. It exposes the excess that is the state’s use of total violence, of law enforcement as technique of racial subjugation, while simultaneously removing the black person (the father, the sister, the friend) out of the scene of violence and its visualization. It does so by restoring the dimensions of their existence that the camera cannot capture. That is, the creative move must protect (as an ethical gesture) the black person (keeping her obscurity) in the excess that is the very visualization of the scene of total violence.”

June 28th, 2020, Tom

Ajay Singh Chaudhary on the politics of climate change, via The Baffler: “One of the most common misconceptions concerning climate change is that it produces, or even requires, a united humanity. In that tale, the crisis in the abstract is a ‘common enemy,’ and a perfectly universal subject is finally possible in coming to ‘experience’ ourselves ‘as a geological agent,’ through which a universal ‘we’ is constituted in a ‘shared sense of catastrophe.’ The story I am telling you is different. In this story, there is no universal ‘we.’ Climate change is not the apocalypse, and it does not fall on all equally, or even, in at least a few senses, on everyone at all.”

June 23rd, 2020, Tom
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