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Scale | Ep.#4: Neocolonial Extraction and Surveillance [w/ Anthony Downey]

The concept of scale is related to mapping, which is intrinsically related to colonisation and neocolonial military practices. Anthony Downey, Professor of Visual Culture in the Middle East and North Africa (Birmingham City University), draws a historical line from the development of cartographic devices and photogrammetry in the 18th and 19th centuries to the neocolonial extraction of data through AI-powered models of hyper-surveillance. Utilised for training neural networks and refining algorithms, these methods of data extraction effectively redefine the future of kinetic and non-kinetic warfare. Programmed within such systems, the operative and rationalising logic of algorithms are, Downey proposes, complicit in increasingly reductive determinations of what constitutes life and death in conflict zones.

Suggested content:

[Video] Decolonising Machine Vision: Algorithmic Anxieties and Epistemic Violence, a talk by Anthony Downey and conversation with journalist Mojca Kumerdej at the Shifting Scales conference, 2023

[Book] The Algorithmic Apparatus of Neocolonialism: Counter-Operational Practices and the Future Of Aerial Surveillance. In Downey, A. (Ed.), Shona Illingworth: Topologies of Air. Sternberg Press, 2022.

[Article] The Algorithmic Apparatus of NeocolonialismThe Nordic Journal of Aesthetics, 30(61–62), 2021.

[Interview] Drone Technologies and the Future of Surveillance in the Middle East: Heba Y. Amin & Anthony Downey in conversation. The MIT Press Reader, January 2021.

[Interview] Topologies of Air and the Airspace Tribunal: Shona Illingworth and Anthony DowneyPhilosophy of Photography, 12(12–13), 2023.

[Article & Interview] Algorithmic Anxieties: Trevor Paglen in conversation with Anthony DowneyJournal of Digital War, 1(1), 2020. 

[Website] Anthony Downey


Host: Neja Berger
Guest: Anthony Downey

Recording and editing: Neja Berger
Audio Mix: Staš Kramar
Music: Gašper Torkar

Scale podcast series

Curated by Janez Fakin Janša
Produced by Marcela Okretič
for Tactics&Practice#14: Scale

Aksioma Institute of Contemporary Art
Ljubljana, 2023

Part of
konS – Platform for Contemporary Investigative Art

The project konS – Platform for Contemporary Investigative Art was chosen on the public call for the selection of the operations “Network of Investigative Art and Culture Centres”. The investment is co-financed by the Republic of Slovenia and by the European Regional Development Fund of the European Union.

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