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Chroma key dreams: Algorithmic visibility, fleshy images and scenes of recognition

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The increasing pervasiveness of datafication across social life is significantly challenging the scope and meanings of visibility. How do new modes of data capture compel us to rethink the notion of visibility, no longer understood as an ocular-based perceptual field, but as a multifaceted site of power? Focusing in particular on technologies of algorithmic recognition, the article argues that in order to understand the broad stakes of visibility under algorithmic life, the intersection between algorithmic recognition and the notion of social recognizability needs to be further theorized. In dialogue with the work of Sondra Perry, and drawing on contributions from feminist and critical race theories, the article revisits theoretical debates on racialized visibility within photography and film to show how racializing processes are inscribed in digital and algorithmic technologies. In reading through these debates, the article suggests that visibility, as a racial formation, is always already subjected to an algorithmic logic. Through the analysis of Sondra Perry’s work, the article sketches out a political ontology of the image premised on the intersection between computation and the markings of the flesh as a possible way to think through the stakes of visibility under algorithmic life.
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Keywords: Sondra Perry; algorithms; blackness; flesh; opacity; race; recognition; visibility

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Copenhagen

Publication date: October 1, 2018

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  • Philosophy of Photography is a new peer-reviewed journal devoted to the scholarly understanding of photography. It is not committed to any one notion of photography nor, indeed, to any particular philosophical approach. The purpose of the journal is to provide a forum for debate on theoretical issues arising from the historical, political, cultural, scientific and critical matrix of ideas, practices and techniques that may be said to constitute photography as a multifaceted form. In a contemporary context remarkable for its diversity and rate of change, the conjunction of the terms 'philosophy' and 'photography' in the journal's title is intended to act as a provocation to serious reflection on the ways in which existing and emergent photographic discourses might engage with and inform each other.
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