How is the development of the modern techniques of visual representation related to the history of warfare? What has been the role of the production, distribution, and interpretation of mechanical images in the increasingly global practices of military targeting established over the past century? How have the imperatives of armed conflict provided a key impetus to the digitisation of the image and its revolutionary transmutation from a passive display surface into a dynamic control interface? Beginning with the Renaissance’s discovery of the technique of linear perspective through to the invention of photography and concluding with the recent developments in computer vision and virtual reality, this talk will trace the historical process of rationalisation and mechanisation of perception and its visual representations. While artistic endeavour, scientific enquiry, and economic motives have all played a part in this history, the evolution of imaging cannot be fully comprehended without a close attention to the determining influence of war upon it. Such an understanding leads to the inescapable conclusion that our contemporary visual media are profoundly tributary to a military logistics of perception that still continues to draw the world-as-image ever more fully into the ambit of targeting.
Antoine Bousquet is Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Birkbeck College, University of London. His main research interests are concerned with war and political violence, the history and philosophy of science and technology, and social and political theory in the digital age. He is the author of The Scientific Way of Warfare: Order and Chaos on the Battlefields of Modernity (Hurst Publishers & Columbia University Press, 2009), has published articles in a range of peer-reviewed journals, and has given invited talks to international audiences at universities, military academies, think tanks, and cultural centres. He is currently completing a second monograph on the role of technologies of perception in war entitled The Martial Gaze: The Logistics of Military Perception in the Age of Global Targeting.