Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Visual Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Technology
Secondary Theme: The Visual
Apophenia—the recognition of patterns within randomness—is, as Hito Steyerl (2016) has argued, a condition of the rapid multiplication of chaotic plumes of data swirling around us, data riven with errors, misunderstandings and half-guesses somewhere between the seen and unseen. On the other hand, as Lepselter (2016) argues, it is just this sort of “misrecognition” that proliferates in an age when truths are submerged. Here, apophenia is a survival skill in a paranoid age. But with the emergence of new digital audio visual technologies and their networked connection through social media, the opportunities for opening up a dialogue between the pattern and randomness, visible and the non-visible, as well as between vision, sound and the other senses have grown. We can today bring cameras to places that were out of access before (think of drones, wearables, life-logging cams) as well as tools and techniques allowing us to visualise data that is not visible in nature (such as bodily and affective reactions gathered from heart rate and sweat sensors, brainwave meters, GPS trackers). That is, our technologies push us to consider meaning beyond the patterns generated by our theories and methods. Through these technologies, our images connect to both the sensible and the insensible through their entanglements with diverse platforms, not only in the present but in unseen futures where those images might proliferate along undisclosed vectors. Finally, the new deployment of these technologies of seeing underscores the salience of a withdrawn unseen amidst the complex objects that make up the ethnographic landscape. For example, panoramic cameras beget both new techniques of revelation and concealment (Pels 2003), while life blogging introduces the unseen interstices of hyper-mediated lives. Here, our technologies themselves participate in the apophenic, opening shadowy connections to the world, to each other and gesturing to future ethnographic projects that lie on the edges of visibility. This panel aims to enter this terrain (visible, invisible and imaginary) in dialogue across disciplines, unified only by the insistence of inquiry at the junctures of seen and unseen.