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Power Portraits

DAY, Michael (2017) Power Portraits. [Artefact]

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Abstract or description

Power Portraits engages with questions to do with visibility, privacy, agency and power, focusing on the corporate governance of major tech companies.

The rise of cloud-based, ‘black-boxed’ image processing platforms has been accompanied by a greater dependence on centralised social media platforms for the sharing and storage of images. Alongside this, rapid developments in machine vision have led to the complex analysis of images held in the cloud becoming a commonplace occurrence. One contentious aspect of this is face detection and recognition, a practice that has significant privacy implications (Angwin et al, 2016). Google’s Cloud Vision platform performs basic sentiment analysis (which detects emotion) as well as returning information about the location of facial landmarks (such as eye, mouth, or nose position), and can even infer the 3D position of these facial landmarks from a 2D image.

For this piece, a series of publicity photographs of board members of major tech companies were passed through Google’s Cloud Vision platform, and the resulting facial landmark datasets were printed as a set of posters. The face landmarks are represented as small circles and the outline boundary of the detected face is shown as a rectangle. Each face is shown at a similar scale and the faces are represented in an abstracted way, allowing visual comparison between them.

In this work, the actual faces of the people who make decisions about the governance of companies that develop invasive or compulsive technologies had one of these technologies turned on their own likenesses. This challenges the assumption that board members of tech companies are themselves invisible and inscrutable, appearing only through their mediated image and through the products they are responsible for managing.

Mattu, S., Angwin, J. & Parris Jr, T. (2016). Breaking the Black Box: What Facebook Knows About You. [Online]. 28 September 2016. ProPublica. Available from: [Accessed: 29 September 2016].

Item Type: Artefact
Faculty: School of Creative Arts and Engineering > Art and Design
Event Location: TALKEX17, Rotherham ROAR, Rotherham
Depositing User: Michael DAY
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2018 15:41
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 13:53

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