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Appears in Collections:History and Politics Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: (Re)framing built heritage through the machinic gaze
Author(s): Arora, Vanicka
Magee, Liam
Munn, Luke
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Keywords: Heritage photography
heritage gaze
machinic gaze
synthetic images
text-to-image models
generative AI
Issue Date: 28-Mar-2024
Date Deposited: 3-Apr-2024
Citation: Arora V, Magee L & Munn L (2024) (Re)framing built heritage through the machinic gaze. <i>Journal of Social Archaeology</i>.
Abstract: Built heritage has been both subject and product of a gaze that has been sustained through moments of colonial fixation on ruins and monuments, technocratic examination and representation, and fetishisation by a global tourist industry. We argue that the recent proliferation of machine learning and vision technologies create new scopic regimes for heritage: storing and retrieving existing images from vast digital archives, and further imparting their own distortions upon this gaze. We introduce the term ‘machinic gaze’ to conceptualise the reconfiguration of heritage representation via artificial intelligence (AI) models. To explore how this gaze reframes heritage, we deploy an image-text-image pipeline that reads, interprets, and resynthesizes images of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Employing two concepts from media studies—heteroscopia and anamorphosis—we describe the reoriented perspective that machine vision systems introduce. We propose that the machinic gaze highlights the artifice of the human gaze and its underlying assumptions and practices that combine to form established notions of heritage.
DOI Link: 10.1177/14696053241237949
Rights: © The Author(s) 2024. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
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