John S. Seberger

John S. Seberger is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Informatics in the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering at Indiana University, Bloomington. In 2019, he received his PhD in Information and Computer Science from the University of California, Irvine. Additionally, John holds a BA in Psychology from Kenyon College, an MSc in Research Methods in the Psychology of Music from Keele University, and an MLIS from University of Pittsburgh. He is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including a Graduate Research Fellowship from the Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing, research funding from the Internet of Things Group at Intel, and GAANN fellowships from the United States Department of Education. Focusing largely on the philosophical impacts of the Internet of Things (IoT), John specializes in humanistic and interdisciplinary approaches to human-computer interaction (HCI), the relationship between emerging technologies and theories of the archive, and infrastructure studies.

The latest advances in cognitive computation are a move inexorably towards a shamanism of the machine, a magical phenomenology based on fanciful but effective latent structures that we lack either the capacity or the sensorium to interrogate.

Bridging concerns from human-computer interaction (HCI) and media studies, this essay theorizes deepfake images in terms of their phenomenological implications: the extent to which they enfold the human viewer in a world of the otherwise unseen. Drawing on comparative phenomenology of Vilém Flusser and Louis Bec, we focus on variational autoencoders (VAEs). We contend that the processes underlying deepfake image construction, as much as deepfake images themselves, evidence a parallel, prosthetic, and computational phenomenology: a study of “that which appears” to a computer, and which appears secondarily to a user-human as image. We use the example of VAEs to argue for the emergence of a second-order, received phenomenology of the augmented human as we reside in an increasingly computational world. 

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