Film, media, and visual culture studies, and the challenge of machine learning

Antonio Somaini, Mediarep.Org
NECSUS 10 (2), Autumn 2021: 49-57 URL: The history of visual cultures is periodically marked by the appearance of new images and new technologies of vision: images that introduce new forms of representation, and technologies that introduce new ways of seeing, extending, and reorganising the field of the visible. In some cases, such changes produce only marginal transformations, while in others
more » ... e transformations are vast, tectonic shifts. This is what happened during the 1990s and early 2000s, when digital visual technologies gradually replaced analog ones, and a faster transmission of data across the internet opened the way for an increased circulation of digital images. And this is what is happening again today, as artificial intelligence -in particular, that area of AI known as machine learning -is profoundly transforming the ways that images are produced, modified, circulated, and seen. Three phenomena in particular deserve our closest attention, and constitute a new challenge for the field of film, media, and visual culture studies: the new technologies of machine vision based on artificial neural networks; the presence on the internet of trillions of images that are machine-readable, in the sense that they can be processed and analysed by technologies of machine vision; and the genuinely new types of images that may be produced through processes of machine learning. Considered from the perspective of a history of images and visual media, the appearance of these three phenomena raises a large series of aesthetic, epistemological, historical, and political questions. Their impact on contemporary film, media, and visual culture is so deep that we must ask ourselves what we mean by the notions of 'vision' and 'image' in the age of machine learning. The very status of moving images, as well as their various forms of production, editing, and reception, are being affected. The traditional
doi:10.25969/mediarep/17289 fatcat:ajegbemyofgmrpzjr5k5awzhni