A Farewell to Bugs

Project Visual Culture
Year 2017
Design Kamali van Bochove
Marijn van der Ploeg
Exposition We, the people 2017

The more we use technology, the more we tend to accept that it is here. That it keeps doing what it does and also keeps getting better at it. What we nowadays call a camera is in fact a collection of different software algorithms. A picture taken with a smartphone camera isn’t just an image anymore, it’s data. This is called computational photography.

Computational photography beholds a world of detection strategies and algorithmic techniques that improve or expand the possibilities of digital photography. The result is a picture that could have never been taken with a traditional camera. Looking into what has been said about these algorithms, the word ‘improve’ is often mentioned. But what does this word actually mean? And who decides what this means?

In this case the algorithm decides, but the algorithm itself can’t think: its maker on the other hand does. Just like every human being, the maker of the algorithm has its own vision on the world. That being said, it’s not unthinkable that a part of this vision gets merged into the process of making the algorithm. This is worrisome given the fact that most people expect an algorithm to be neutral, which is not possible.

The idea that a daily used device makes its own decisions, isn’t transparent and is filled with visions and ideals of someone else, is somewhat scary. But what do we do with this fear? No matter how incomprehensible I find my smartphone, I still use it. And no matter how badly I want to be in control of this device, it keeps getting more advanced. We don’t have any control over what is on our pictures, what happens with them and who gets to see them.

We can try to claim back control by outsmarting the algorithm and catch it on the mistakes it makes. But how long will these mistakes last? The smartphone camera is self learning, eventually it will correct all its errors. In our work we embrace and encourage the mistakes it still makes. They could be gone by tomorrow. A farewell to bugs.

“One who is incapable of making a mistake, is incapable of anything” - Abraham Lincoln