Chris Salter – Sensing Machines, How Sensors Shape Our Everyday Life


The MIT Press, ISBN 978-0262046602, English, 324 pages, 2022, USA

Unlike many books about our technological present, which focus on the emerging impact of very tangible technologies, Sensing Machines reveals the invisible ocean of sensors embedded all around us, including our devices in their full dimension and function. In Salter’s words, they are “transducers that take a signal out of the world and change it into another form of energy so that a computer can read it”. Sensors give machines a better understanding of the physical world, a level of quantification of reality that sets contextual processes in motion, and have consequences such as: “suddenly engineering has to be critical of itself – something that engineers are not taught.” We have multiplied our eyes/cameras and ears/microphones. The vast number of sensors forms the other half of the spectrum of quantified sensibility that is supposedly still at our service. Salter (interviewed in issue #50 and also author of Alien Agency and the indispensable Entangled) also documents the increased bias in which processes are conditioned by a racially, culturally or gender limited understanding, and what he calls “prediction culture” is what undermines the intelligence attributed to machines. In eleven short chapters, this is an insightful text that should be required reading for artists and educators.