Cover of the book Machine Vision: How Algorithms are Changing the Way We See the World.

Machine Vision: How Algorithms are Changing the Way We See the World

By Jill Walker Rettberg

What will new machine vision technologies like facial recognition, deepfakes and augmented reality mean for us as individuals and as a society? How will these new extensions of human vision change our perception of the world? What will we not see? In this illuminating book, Jill Walker Rettberg draws on art, video games and science fiction as well as real-world examples to explore how machine vision shapes our world. This book provides an accessible overview of the history and contemporary uses of machine vision technologies and uses contemporary critical theory to unpack how technologies like smart surveillance cameras and TikTok filters shape our interactions with technology and each other. By analysing specific fictional and real-world situations involving machine vision technologies, this book shows how technologies can have very different impacts in different cultural settings. The combination of aesthetic analysis with ethnographic and critical media studies approaches makes Machine Vision an engaging and eye-opening read for students and scholars of digital media studies, science and technology studies, visual studies, digital art and science fiction, as well as for readers who want to create or evaluate new machine vision technologies.


Featured in Nature

January 2024: Machine Vision is one of five “best science picks” in Nature! Read Andrew Robinson’s short review of the book.

Monet and Machine Vision on BBC 4’s Start the week

Screenshot of the BBC page for the radio show Start the week Jill visited the BBC’s Radio 4 show Start the Week on November 20, 2023 to talk about Machine Vision with Jackie Wullschläger, who has just published a biography of Monet, and Mat Collishaw, an artist whose exhibition Petrichor uses AI and other machine vision technologies to explore our relationship to the environment. The BBC’s Tom Sutcliffe hosted the conversation, which you can listen to on the BBC website or your favourite podcast app. The first 13 minutes are about Monet, but don’t worry, there are many connections to machine vision.

Mentioned in ArtReview

“These intersecting histories of cameras, smart surveillance and AI are one of the subjects of Jill Walker Rettberg’s book Machine Vision, also published last September, in which Rettberg, through ethnography and media theory, explores how algorithms are changing the way we see the world. She references Alphonse Bertillon, the police officer and criminologist who invented the mugshot, whose ‘anthropometrics’ combined photography with mathematical measurements and classifications of people – a racist, misogynist and ableist physiognomic legacy that still lurks in today’s AI systems. While Rettberg thought the pseudoscience informing machine vision would lead to mass mistrust of images, she writes, the opposite has come to be true.”

Isabelle Bucklow for ArtReview, 24 November 2024.


“The nature of the influence exerted by machine vision on society as a whole will be all the more fruitfully considered and discussed with the help of [Rettberg’s] book, which is written in clear and accessible language.”

Tam Hanna for c’t: Magazin für Computertechnik 25/2023 page 166




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216 x 138 mm / 9 x 5 in

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