Anthony McCosker, Rowan Wilken – Automating Vision, The Social Impact of the New Camera Consciousness


Routledge, ISBN-13: 978-0367356774, English, 162 pages, 2020, UK

Automating Vision, The Social Impact of the New Camera Consciousness
emerges from the fact that we now live among “seeing machines” of various kinds equipped with sophisticated computer vision systems. From the ambiguity created by smart camera software to the ubiquitous “eye of the state” in experiments conducted in China with street cameras, the authors elaborate on the core concept of “camera consciousness.” They argue that we are “increasingly losing the ownership of the act of seeing and sense making” and that a lack of transparency in how cameras are used can lead to our inability to regulate their increasing ability to “discern, distinguish, judge, decide, and intervene.” Meanwhile, data collected by camera sensors is stored in databases. These “train” the software and this data in turn increases the power of those who accumulate it many times over. McCosker and Wilken take up two further subjects: the new “visual knowledge” of drones and their agency, and the driverless car, exploring how a machine can be defined by its “affordances of seeing” and act in its own environment. Under this scenario, and alongside an ongoing mystification by corporations, the authors make a comprehensive call for accountability in machine vision, arguing that the opposite of surrendering to complexity is developing greater literacy.