Tagging Aesthetics and Machine Vision

Nicola Bozzi
schizocities
Published in
2 min readNov 2, 2023

--

Twitter post by Kate Crawford, @katecrawford, 20 September 2019, https://twitter.com/katecrawford/status/1175128978274816000 (last accessed 4 October 2023). Screenshot by the author.

I am finally updating the blog with a new academic publication, which builds quite crucially on my doctoral research on tagging and social media aesthetics. The new paper is titled Machine Vision and Tagging Aesthetics: Assembling Socio-Technical Subjects through New Media Art. It has finally come out in a special collection of Open Library of the Humanities Journal, curated by the folks behind this project on Cultural Representations of Machine Vision. The paper interrogates the conflictual dynamics of subject formation across social media platforms and machine vision systems, emphasising the potential of new media art in enacting and challenging those dynamics through a particular brand of relational aesthetics. Those relations are operated through different taggings, which I discuss in detail.

Dries Depoorter, The Flemish Scrollers (2021–2023). Image courtesy of the artist.

The two main artists I discuss are Dries Depoorter, who makes AI-driven artworks that use geotagging and @-ing in super interesting ways, and Max Dovey, whose piece A Hipster Bar I have discussed elsewhere. Both artists engage with different forms of socio-technical critique, and also — most relevantly to my interest in tagging as labelling — establish material relations between digital gestures and cultural figures that defy coherent representation (e.g. the Influencer, the Hipster). If you have followed the development of my work on social media identities on this blog, you will know those are pivotal elements in my research.

Max Dovey, A Hipster Bar (2015). Installation part of ‘humanbeingsdigital’ at The Lowry, Salford, November 2017. Photo copyright: Nathan Cox. Image courtesy of the artist.

The article is quite dense, as it builds on a review of the different kinds of identity conflicts engendered by machine vision to flesh out the concept of “tagging aesthetics” in a more specific way than my previous paper did. With that theoretical premise, I go on to dissect a range of artworks. The first is the seminal ImageNet Roulette, but then I delve deeper into the work of the aforementioned artists to emphasise how tagging is used in different ways, to establish different types of relations. Finally, I interrogate the political purchase of enacting relations through tagging, and some of its inherent problems and limits. Along the way, I also establish several relational links myself, more specifically to the theories of other scholars interested in assembly as an aesthetic format (Kyle Parry) or social media as a site for the expression of collective identities (Jodi Dean).

Again, the whole paper is here :)

--

--

Nicola Bozzi
schizocities

Afternoon person, eternal beginner. Research on platformed identities and social media aesthetics. Writing about arts, media & cities. Serious about comedy.