Ways of Machine Seeing

A 1970s television set

Since its broadcast 45 years ago, the BBC documentary series 'Ways of Seeing' has had a wide impact on both popular and academic views on the history of art and the production of images. 

The series presented a radical socio-economic understanding of western art history which was closer to the image itself than previous Marxist criticsm – helping spread the thinking of Walter Benjamin in the English-speaking world.

The analysis offered by presenter John Berger and his collaborators in the documentary is founded on technologies (oil paints, photography) and the ways in which they both reflect and create visual-ideological paradigms, or Ways of Seeing.

Jointly organised by The Cambridge Digital Humanities Network, CoDE and Cambridge Big Data, this two-day workshop sought to explore (half a century later) how these concepts can be understood in the light of state-of-the-art technical developments in machine vision and algorithmic learning.

Presentations included:

  • Unthinking Photography: cultural value and the networked image
    Andrew Dewdney, Magdalena Tyżlik-Carver, Katrina Sluis, Annet Dekker, Gaia Tedone, Nicolas Malevé (Centre for the Study of the Networked Image).
  • The Algorithmic Image as Critical Methodology 
    Ashley Scarlett (Alberta College of Art and Design, Canada):
  • How machines see the world: Understanding how machine vision affects our way of perceiving, thinking and designing the world
    Carloalberto Treccani (City University of Hong Kong).
  • Video experiments on Ways of Machine Seeing – episodes 1-4
    Geoff Cox and Nicolas Malevé (Aarhus University and The Photographers Gallery)
  • A new relational ecology of photographic practices
    Jacqui Knight (Plymouth University)
  • Looking at Computer-Generated Art as an Act of Human Machine Vision 
    Martin Zeilinger (Anglia Ruskin University).
  • Point of View and the informational eye from Renaissance perspective to machine
    Mitra Azar (Independent researcher)
  • Unmanned Aerial Systems - an alternate version of reality? 
    Shreepali Patel (Anglia Ruskin University)
  • Two ways of seeing through code: Manfred Mohr and Vera Molnar
    Francesca Franco (Anglia Ruskin University)