Myopia and Focus in Event Reconstruction

Curator's Note

If reconstructions of past events are to inform the pursuit of accountability, they must be comprehensive. However, any reconstruction of past events is fraught with questions of resolution and completeness. How extensive and resolved should a picture of the past be to earn a share in the representation of reality? A range of practices confront this question as they leverage the planet’s ever-increasing density of capture devices to reconstruct past events. This sphere of imaging includes sources like the ocean of user-generated content on social media and the geography-capturing lenses of satellites. As the constant imaging of human activities becomes a default condition of history, these recordings increasingly make their way into legal and public forums. In these contexts, evidentiary assets may be probed with questions about the recording’s veracity, field of view, location, timing, and relationship to other media. One of the many ways to speak to these questions is to use a virtual environment to examine media that overlap in time and space. The careful coordination and syncing of media allows visibility through and around the perspectives of witnesses and perpetrators. Just as importantly, this approach enables the mobility to move far enough away from that experiential viewpoint to a distance where the diagram of the event may come into focus. The ambition of this approach is to produce a digital twin where a past event can be scrutinized from multiple perspectives. This approach is effective at synthesizing a set of discrete assets documenting a past event. However, it intentionally says little of the spaces outside the viewshed of the capture device, be it smartphone or satellite. We, as practitioners, must remind ourselves constantly that reconstructions capture a slice of a city, or consist of select evidence pulled out of the discourse of their social media threads. While our conceit is that these methods yield an understanding greater than any review of disaggregate media, this approach results in a two-fold risk. Not only do these practices risk totalizing a multiplicity of perspectives, but they risk pulling such a sharp and extreme focus so as to become myopic.

Add new comment

Log in or register to add a comment.