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302 DESIGN NOTES The design of this publication offers visual entry points to the meaning of the word surveillance. Borrowed from the French, it means literally ‘to watch from above’, by the combination of the prefix sur- (‘over’ or ‘above’) and veiller (‘to watch’, derived from the Latin verb vigilare, with the same meaning). This definition led to the development of a series of graphic signifiers presented across the book’s layout and image-making: cartographic, monitoring, documental and tracking visual languages intertwine in overimposed layers. Targets, trackers, flows The layout of the publication and the images are often populated with a collection of graphic devices extracted from various monitoring technologies. These, apart from their original functional purposes—to visually manifest supposedly objective measures—entail a particular aesthetic. The visual characteristics and placement over the subjects of observation have become part of the collective imaginary. Crosses, lines, targets, trackers all form part of a visual vocabulary enforcing a fiction of accuracy.1

Countries and Peoples The images at the start of each chapter in the Dispatches section offer a simultaneous read of two realities: the place and the inhabitant. The images are composed of two primary sources: site footage and facial portraits. The collection of openers explores visual manifestations for the notions of ‘datalogical traces’ and ‘biosurveillance’ presented in this volume.2

First, the background imagery contains snapshots taken from publicly accessible CCTV cameras. The images, apparently innocent, raise questions around the IoT (Internet of Things) of security devices. While suggesting a feeling of control by means of providing objective documentation, they are also able to expose bypassers and the life surrounding real estate.

Second, the most recognisable component of the images is a series of portraits, almost mugshots, ‘imagined’ with the AI-based tool This Person Does Not Exist by Philip Wang.3 This tool, operated by a GAN (Generative Adversarial Network), StyleGAN2, produces ‘generative data-driven unconditional’ imagery.4 The choice of AI-generated portraits questions our trust in the image as a witness of truth. In a more practical sense, it also helps avoid the use of ‘real humans’ in the construction of visual rhetorics.

Profile for Meatspace Press

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The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped how social, economic, and political power is created, exerted, and extended through technology. Through c...

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