The ‘Physiognomic Fallacy:’ An Archaeology of the Photographic Identity DocumentPolonyi Eszter
, unpublished conference contribution
Abstract: In an era of allegedly total surveillance (Goh, Galloway), possession of a biometric identity document can still result in being denied one’s identity or being mistaken for someone else. States have been outsourcing the processes of civic management and local governance to artificial intelligence corporations with increasing intensity since the pandemic despite awareness of systematic errors committed by facial recognition software, a “coded” bias (Kantayya, Buolamwini) that risks the further effacing an already marginalized population of non-white and non-gender conforming subjects. The project this paper is based on returns to the time it first became standard practice to validate state-issued ID documents using facial analysis in Europe of the 1920s and 1930s. While at this time images derived from human heads in photographic albums, personality tests and facial atlases purportedly aimed to record personality and character, they nonetheless often instructed their readers to locate these in parts of images that remain disconnected from the head, such as hands and feet, hair, clothing or in the subject’s immediate environment. Drawing on the concept of conjectural knowledge (Ginzburg), embodiment or tact (Balazs) and the optical unconscious (Benjamin), the project seeks to locate the “physiognomic fallacy” (Gray) in early attempts at humanizing machine vision.
Keywords: History of art, critical theory, surveillance studies
Published in RUNG: 13.01.2023; Views: 606; Downloads: 0
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