Sliding into a face: aesthetics and politics of image recognition


What happened to the face? The list is long of what computers do with faces. Applying filters, they improve facial aesthetics. Computers also detect faces in pictures – they identify people, they reconstruct faces based on data, they correlate faces and other data, they predict the evolution of a face.

The face is not a given, it is always under construction. It only exists as a face as long as we have the right apparatus to perceive it and the
right configuration. The face can escape and elude perception (as in the case of prosopagnosia). A long process of reconstruction and archeology may be necessary to make it re-emerge from traces (as in forensics practices). At the same time, the face is under a permanent scrutiny that produces discrimination and stigmatisation.

How to detect a face, to construct one and to evade from one are not necessarily oppositional questions. The face becomes a space where different strategies and forces are active. Panel participants will articulate different responses where the networked image is solicited in various ways. And redefined in the process.


Always forget a face? So does Brad Pitt – don’t just blame your memory


Most of us occasionally fail to recognise people we know. This often happens when we meet someone we know in an unusual context, such as bumping into a work colleague in a supermarket. Nevertheless, the ability to recognise another person from their face is something most of us take for granted. But what would life be like if everyone’s face looked the same to you?

There is growing recognition of a condition called developmental prosopagnosia (face-blindness). People with this condition have normal vision, but grow up with severe difficulties recognising faces.

Unlike cases of acquired prosopagnosia – where people have difficulty recognising faces later in life as a result of a stroke or an injury – people with developmental prosopagnosia experience lifelong face recognition problems despite having no brain injury.

Developmental prosopagnosia is an example of a neurodevelopmental condition, similar to dyslexia. Just as people with dyslexia grow up with problems reading words, people with developmental prosopagnosia grow up with problems reading faces.


Robot Vision Geekender
Drop-in workshop

In a series of demonstrations with scientific technologies including eye trackers, an EEG cap and a yawning android, we showed how neuroscientists measure and study human body and face perception. This event was organised in collaboration with the Cognitive Neuroscience Research Unit (CNRU) at City, University of London.