CFP: Recognizing Bodies (SCMS 2018)

This panel considers the media technologies and representational strategies that allow humans and machines to recognize bodies. What are the ways that presence and absence are detected or indicated, and that we know and show that bodies are, or have been, here, or there? As we move from a generic to a specific body, how do we recognize distinctions between those bodies that are “real” or “legitimate” and those that are not?

Bodies have unique markers that can be gauged through the senses and by computation. They also leave traces: footprints, smell, heat, and other residue indicate the passage of a body in space and time. Such marks and traces have become standard cues for representing and identifying bodies, and for recognizing each other and others. But bodies are also constituted through information, such as in the form of passwords, documents, or online activity. This externalization of the self in facts and data is a process that has standardized and automated the ways that bodies are identified, authenticated, and verified, but also categorized and classified.

Technologies designed to recognize bodies have been optimized for military operations: night vision goggles and drone vision are examples of vision machines that allow soldiers to see (enemy) bodies. In today’s multi-dimensional deployment of surveillance and security, it is not just seeing from afar that is required, but the ability to process and establish the identity of that body as it moves across territories and borders, networks and communities. Bodies become encoded as algorithmic marks and traces, tracked in databases. But the computational recognition of specific bodies is not just a matter of control and governance. Technologies like voice recognition allow devices to react and respond to a singular person, so that the datafication of the body affords new forms of verified and personalized human-computer communication. Here interactive and responsive machines that “recognize us” are a working towards the dream of connectivity: recognition is to be watched, but also to be seen.

This panel examines how bodies (human, animal) are recognized by humans and machines. It is interested in technologies, representations, and mediations, including those approaches based on strategies of authentication, identification, and verification.

Submissions could include, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • Media histories of recognition, as told through particular bodily features, facts and data, documents and extensions, techniques and technologies
  • Theoretical approaches to recognition, authentication/authenticity, identification/identity, and the mediation of “real” or “legitimate” bodies
  • Critical perspectives addressing the recognition of bodies across socio-political forms of identification, classification, and categorization
  • Recognizing bodies in stories and on the screen
  • Recognition in human-machine/computer communication and interaction
  • Night vision, drone vision, facial recognition technologies, and other vision machines
  • Data gathering and processing as applied to bodies, including algorithmic and computational methods of assessment
  • Tracking and sensory technologies and the search for recognition in movement and circulation
  • Recognition in the rhetoric and practice of war, surveillance, and security
  • Strategies to prevent recognition (e.g. concealment, deception)

Please send 300-word abstract, brief bio, and 3-5 references to Aleksandra Kaminska ( by August 7, 2017. Decisions by August 14.

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