Mobility Media: An Archaeology of Identity Photography through Science, Art and Visual Culture
In an era of total surveillance, being in possession of a biometric ID document can still result in denial of one’s basic civil protections and human rights. The discovery of systematic errors in state-implemented facial recognition programs—such as in recognizing faces of color (Joy Buolamwini)—suggests the failure of current practices of global intelligence and mobility. This paper offers an archaeological investigation of the contemporary photo ID document. Returning to its invention in the 1920s, it examines the issues of conjectural knowledge (Carl Ginzburg), embodiment or tact (Béla Balázs) and the optical unconscious (Walter Benjamin) behind early “physiognomic” media.
Umberto Ellero’s Teleiconotipia: An Intermedial Perspective on the Tele-Transmission of Mugshots in colonial Italy
In 1911, at the time of Italy’s colonial invasion of Libya, police commissioner Umberto Ellero patented his method of phototelegraphy through which, he claimed, a reliable photograph could be transmitted in three hours even from the most remote colonies. The first two tele-transmitted photographs were a portrait of King Victor Emmanuel II and the mugshot of ‘an arab’, the perfect embodiment of Lombroso’s atavistic criminal. By looking at the colonial narratives and racist stereotypes at work in Ellero’s surveillance technology, my aim is to bring back to light the marginalised episode of an intermedial invention which became obsolescent in the late 1920s, and its role in representing and consolidating colonial politics.
Filming at the Border: A Geopolitics of Environmental Media
In recent years, the concept of the border has undergone profound transformations and become central to a broad debate investigating the complexity of its political, social and technological practices. Considering the importance assumed by media technologies in border areas, as well as the growing interest of filmmakers, photographers and visual artists in the liminal spaces of contemporary Europe, it is necessary to open up a dialogue between border studies and media studies. The aim of this communication is to reflect on the capacity of documentary movies produced during the so-called European Migrant Crisis to show and criticize the functioning of technological devices that act along the border, and thus investigate the imprint left by the media in the construction of this geographical and political milieu.