Faculty of Humanities

Your digital life – smart, or monitored?

Do you have full control over your digital life? At the “Machine Vision” exhibition, you can experience and assess the ethical implications of AI technologies.

“The YHB Pocket Protest Shield” by artist Leonardo Selvaggio is a DIY tech hack used in protests and demonstrations to hide one’s identity from face recognition algorithms.
Åshild S F Thorsen, Universitetsmuseet i Bergen
Fra utstillingen maskinsyn.
From the exhibition Machine Vision in Everyday Life.
Åshild SF Thorsen
Fra utstillingen maskinsyn. Bruk i moderne krigføring.
Machine vision technology is widely used in modern warfare, but can also be used by NGOs and activists. The group Forensic Architecture has been able to prove Russian military presence in Ukraine through open data and machine vision technology.
Åshild SF Thorsen
Fra utstillingen maskinsyn. Utforskning i science fiction verk.
Our attitudes to machine vision technology and the possibilities that lie in the future are explored in science fiction works. In the exhibition, research fellow Marianne Gunderson analyzes popular cultural works.
Åshild SF Thorsen
En samling gamle mobiltelefoner
Mobile phones have evolved from being used only to call others, to computers that both store and monitor large parts of our lives. The mobile phones in the exhibition are borrowed from the IT department's own collection, which shows the development over the last 30 years.
Åshild SF Thorsen

Main content

New technologies are evolving so rapidly that society is unable to develop ethical guidelines and regulations fast enough. Therefore, we all need some training in making ethical assessments about the use of new technologies.We are constantly leaving digital traces, and many want to use the information they contain. The president who wants to retain their power. The Minister of Health who wants to stop a pandemic. The entrepreneur, the villain and the environmentalist who wants to protect the climate. And you, who want to own and have control over your own data.

When you visit the “Machine Vision” exhibition, you walk through an experiential labyrinth where you have to decide on a series of ethical challenges related to these new technologies.

"The goal is to create experiential interactions with machine vision technologies, so that visitors can assess situations and make ethical choices," says Professor of digital culture Jill Walker Rettberg. The exhibition is based on the Machine Vision research project, which investigates how machine vision technologies affect us culturally.

What is machine vision? 

Machines that see are everywhere in our everyday lives. The term “machine vision” refers to the many ways in which machines – smartphones, computers, apps – use cameras and other sensors to see, understand and visualize the world around them.

Machines scan barcodes, tag our holiday photos, give us diagnoses, and help us find our way when we are in an unfamiliar place.

You can unlock your smartphone with your thumb because it uses a kind of machine vision that can read your fingerprint. When you select a filter on Snapchat, it is machine vision that makes the app understand where your eyes and mouth are. We can play and have fun with machine vision, but machine vision can be also used for more troubling purposes, such as surveillance, social control and warfare.

Examples of ethical problems in the exhibition:

  • Students are evaluated in terms of knowledge and effort by their schools. Now it is also possible to measure attitudes and feelings with face recognition technology. Do we want this?
  • Surveillance cameras can detect and warn about suspicious behavior. But who defines what is “suspicious?”
  • Technology developed with white men as training subjects can lead to discrimination based on gender and race. What can this lead to?

Arworks on display in the exhibition:

You are welcome to visit this instructive, challenging and eye-opening exhibition. As an audience, you are guaranteed to experience some aha! moments, for better or worse.

About the Machine Vision exhibition 

In 2019, the ERC project Machine Vision received funding from the Norwegian Research Council's FORSTERK program to support the societal impact of Horizon 2020-funded research projects in Norway. Thanks to this funding, and in collaboration with the University Museum of Bergen, the project developed an exhibition titled "Machine Vision" which will be open to the public from March 19th to August 28th, 2021.

The "Machine Vision" exhibition is designed as an experiential labyrinth challenging audiences with a series of ethical challenges. The main goal of this exhibition is to increase the public's knowledge of machine vision technologies (including, for example, face recognition, object detection and autonomous cars) and their societal implications. Visitors will be able to familiarize themselves with the basic concepts of machine vision, explore the research project's findings, and interact with thought-provoking artworks.

We are excited to share our work with the public, and hope that this exhibition will be a successful experiment in science communication combining academic research, contemporary art and critical thinking about new technologies. We hope that you will join us at the University Museum of Bergen - but in the meantime, you can start your visit by reading the exhibition's introduction, and take a look at the featured artworks:

Machines that see are all around us, and machine vision is central to technologies we use every day. From microcameras to satellites, vision machines help us scan barcodes, unlock our smartphones, tag our holiday pictures, get accurate diagnoses, and find our way in an unknown place. At the same time, the automation of vision challenges established structures and customs, enabling unprecedented possibilities for surveillance, policing, and control. The Machine Vision exhibition showcases the ERC-funded research project Machine Vision in Everyday Life, charting the impact of machine vision on three scales: the individual, the social, and the world. How do machines see us as individuals? Which changes do vision machines bring to society? And what kind of worlds are made possible by machine vision technologies?