Imaginaries of Machine Vision. A Short History

Author(s): Schröter, Jens


The historical development of the technologies that ultimately led to the field of ‘machine vision’ began in the 1960s. As is always the case with emerging technologies, imaginaries of potential future usages (and dangers) of the potential new technologies emerged too. This article analyzes the intertwined histories of machine vision technologies and their corresponding imaginaries by focusing on some exemplary configurations. These analyses reveal how machine vision was imagined, to which uses it was thought it should be put and what dangers were considered to be lurking within it. The paper focuses, firstly, on methodological considerations, on how to reconstruct the intertwining genealogies of technologies and their imaginary representations. Secondly, it examines three examples. The first is the famous point-of-view shot of HAL9000 in Stanley Kubricks’ 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The second example is the point of view (POV) of the antagonist in Westworld (1973), played by Yul Brynner. These shots have a ‘pixilated’ look that stages machine vision in a way that connects it to the slowly emerging digital image aesthetics. The final example is the machine POV in The Terminator (1984). The paper ends with a conclusion and a short analysis of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Klara and the Sun (2021).

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Preferred Citation
Schröter, Jens: Imaginaries of Machine Vision. A Short History. In: Navigationen - Zeitschrift für Medien- und Kulturwissenschaften, Jg. 23 (2023), Nr. 1, S. 94-109. DOI:
 author = {Schröter, Jens},
 title = {Imaginaries of Machine Vision. A Short History},
 year = 2023,
 doi = "\url{}",
 volume = 23,
 address = {Siegen},
 journal = {Navigationen - Zeitschrift für Medien- und Kulturwissenschaften},
 number = 1,
 pages = {94--109},
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