Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Face Memes

A recorded episode of 60 minutes last night brought to my attention the growing phenomenon of face recognition searches on the geoweb.  The story was not reported explicitly as face recognition mapping, but logically that is where my mind leapt.  I reproduce in point form some of my thoughts after hearing about the evolution of face recognition software for use in conjunction with CCTV, ubiquitous camera and search algorithms, and society in general:

-the same parts of the human brain are used in the recognition of faces as in the recognition of places (i.e. the hippocampus).  See Borges and Memory at MIT Press (and an earlier blog post).

-there are privacy issues around uses of face recognition technology for marketing, policing and crime -- similar to issues Google faces with its Street View (which I explored in June in my presentation and upcoming paper "Battle to Blur: Counter-Mapping and Politics of Ground Truth" to the Sixth Spatial Sociocultural Knowledge Workshop at Cranfield University in Shrivenham).

-a kind of Google 'face search' will be possible in the near future, alongside image, book, and searches for other kinds of 'representation.'  Indeed, at base, the ethics of face recognition searching is, in addition to being an issue of privacy, also an issue of representation.  What would a post-representational face-scape look like?  (We are getting ahead of ourselves, but that's ok in a blog post).

-Businesses can use face recognition algorithms that offer deals based upon user preferences when entering a store posting its capabilities on a sign.  The user must agree to be 'recognised' first, similar to how twitter users must turn on 'locate tweets' functionality to benefit from having the locations of their tweets (and their selves) known.

-Are having our faces known analogous to having our places known?  Like a place, it is the meaning we attach to a face that makes it 'real.'  The question is, will the new 'real' (of face-recognition software/algorithms) traumatise, tame, or defame us?  What are the social implications of mapping faces ubiquitously, in the cloud, on Google, in real time?  All open questions.

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