Spectacular machinery and encrypted spectatorship

Image credit: Joseph Racknitz, 1789


This paper argues certain types of contemporary computation have a spectacular dimension which is consumed today as magic. Using popular images created through Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) as a case study, I analyse the conditions of production and consumption of imagery generated through machine learning as a type of popular culture, I then compare this creative use of computing with magic shows and the cinema of attractions of the early twentieth century. This approach combines notions of digital cultural materialism with theories of early film spectatorship to suggest an emergent cultural trend: monstrative global computation as a form of spectacle.