The Perception Machine
Our Photographic Future between the Eye and AI
288 pp., 6 x 9 in, 31 b&w illus.
- Published: November 7, 2023
- Publisher: The MIT Press
A provocative investigation of the future of photography and human perception in the age of AI.
We are constantly photographing and being photographed while feeding machine learning databases with our data, which in turn is used to generate new images. Analyzing the transformation of photography by computation—and the transformation of human perception by algorithmically driven images, from CGI to AI—The Perception Machine investigates what it means for us to live surrounded by image flows and machine eyes. In an astute and engaging argument, Joanna Zylinska brings together media theory and neuroscience in a Vilém Flusser–Paul Virilio remix. Her “perception machine” names a technical universe of images and their infrastructures. But it also refers to a sociopolitical condition resulting from today's automation of vision, imaging—and imagination.
Written by a theorist-practitioner, the book incorporates Zylinska's own art projects, some of which have been co-created with AI. The photographs, collages, films, and installations available as part of the book (and its companion website) provide a different mode of thinking about our technological futures, at a local as well as a planetary level. Offering provocative concepts such as eco-eco-punk, AUTO-FOTO-KINO, planetary micro-vision, loser images, and sensography, the book outlines an existential philosophy of messy media for a time when our practices of imaging and self-imaging are being radically redesigned. Importantly, it also offers a new vision of our future.
“Zylinska is unquestionably one of today's top thinker-makers. Working in an eco-feminist key, The Perception Machine clocks the present to imagine a future, daring readers to rethink the human and thus the world in relation to image data.”
Lisa Gitelman, Professor, New York University
“As a leading theorist of photography's computational afterlife, Zylinska playfully illuminates how the future of humankind and the images we generate are intimately entwined. A unique and important book that deserves to be read widely.”
Katrina Sluis, Head of Photography & Media Arts, Australian National University; coeditor of The Networked Image in Post-Digital Culture