Generic Pastness. AI Image Synthesis and the Virtualization of the Archive

Research Seminar

  • Public event without registration
  • Datum: 13.10.2023
  • Uhrzeit: 11:00 - 13:00
  • Vortragender: Roland Meyer
  • Ort: Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rome and online
  • Kontakt:
Generic Pastness. AI Image Synthesis and the Virtualization of the Archive
AI image synthesis models are turning large collections of historical images into resources for producing new visual content. How does this affect our view of the past, and what does it mean for image archives to become sites of pattern extraction?

In current debates, generative AI appears as a technology of the future. At its core, however, is our relationship with the past. By turning vast digital archives of past images into training data, AI image synthesis models such as Dall-E, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion have transformed the history of visual culture into an exploitable resource. Each seemingly new image they produce is an interpolation of pre-existing images, a latent possibility within a virtual archive of potential images. At the same time, these models are fundamentally a-historical as they substitute any historical specificity with the generic »pastness« (Jameson) of recognizable visual patterns. The challenges these developments raise for historical image archives will be the seminar's focus.

Roland Meyer is a media and visual culture scholar specializing in the history and theory of networked image cultures. His most recent book, Gesichtserkennung (Wagenbach 2021), explores the cultural and social implications of automated facial recognition. His current research focuses on AI image synthesis, virtual image archives, navigable images, and the media archaeology of augmented spaces. Currently, he is a researcher in the CRC 1567 Virtual Lifeworlds at Ruhr University Bochum.

Participation online is possible through our VIMEO CHANNEL:

Scientific organization: Johannes Röll

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