DescriptionSpecial Theme Issue Proposal for Media + Environment:
Machinic Visions of the Planetary
Recent events such as the recorded landing of the Mars Rover by NASA and the first photograph of a Black Hole have shown how the development of advanced visual technologies have expanded an understanding of how far and what can be seen. But what is it that we are really looking at through these remote views and how are the technologies that make these visions possible, altering the ways we understand our relationship to the environment and beyond? There is an increasing dependency on forms of machine vision and remote sensing technologies that have been developed to monitor and surveil physical environments at a planetary scale and as such, intervene in the ways we understand and produce knowledge, not only of the earth but also of the wider universe. This issue interrogates the role of these images as well as their corresponding imaging systems, highlighting an inquiry into their aesthetics; their modes of perception and forms of representation, as they intervene in issues negotiating the Anthropocene and imaginaries of post-carbon futures. This theme works with two intersecting understandings of aesthetics, firstly as a way of experiencing (aisthêsis) and secondly as mimetic representations occurring for example through literature, popular culture, and the visual arts. We aim for contributions in this issue that explore the cultural implications of these visualising technologies that address the shifting contexts of their deployment from military surveillance to monitoring climate change and the navigation of automated cars. We are interested in submissions that include analyses that situate contemporary visual technologies and their image outputs within historical contexts as well as in their role in predictive governance and imagining possible futures. This inquiry is based on an understanding that our knowledge of the physical environment– both in the threats that are posed to it and its expansion beyond earthly borders – is increasingly constituted by technology and that the visuality of these technical systems is a central aspect to consider in constituting this knowledge through a historical, critical as well as speculative lens. The forms of representation that occur through these visualising technologies are generative in posing new knowledge as well as new imaginaries concerning our relationship to the physical environment.
The images that are part of the analyses of this special issue include those resulting from remote sensing technologies such as drone systems and satellite image processing, algorithmic programs of spatial design and indexical differentiation, and 3D scanning technologies such as LIDAR. The tracing of historical antecedents resulting for example, from spacecraft photography are also referenced. These visualising technologies constitute an ecology of imaging systems, referred to as a “geocinematic apparatus” and produce mediated landscapes that are generative of new aesthetic forms through a distributed and disembodied form of visual perception. In analysing the aesthetics of these technologies and their applications, the contributions of this special issue include exploring artistic engagements that present visions of alternative contexts and outputs of these advanced visual technologies. This, we find is especially important to consider regarding present challenges and their ethical implications involving the environment such as climate change and its relationship to race and gender, the geopolitics of extraction of natural resources and the possible expansion of extractive practices towards other planets. This theme aims to address the social, cultural, and political issues that arise through an inquiry into the aesthetics of these advanced visual technologies, which include discussion on the relationship between data and images and the challenges of representation regarding scale, entanglement, latency, duration, and spatial relationships. Attention is placed on the technical affordances and potentialities of these visual technologies and how their modes of perception may contribute to emerging notions of the planetary and its relationship to figuring diverse subjectivities as enmeshed and entangled with regard to both technical as well as environmental processes.
This special issue relies on an interdisciplinary approach and invites contributions from but not limited to the fields of Media Aesthetics, Art History and Visual Culture Studies, Environmental Humanities, Media and Communications Studies, Film and Media Studies and Landscape Architecture. We invite analyses of images and the visuality of environmental imaging systems that connect their inquiry to wider discourses that include the aesthetics of the Anthropocene, perspectives from the Critical Posthumanities, Postcolonial perspectives, the cultural implications of machine vision, digital infrastructures, and a politics of care.
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