Kelly Gates | Policing Images: Video Evidence and Its Expert Witnesses

Recorded visual media are the most prolific form of evidence in the legal system today, given the avalanche of images generated from an expanding array of sources: camera phones, laptop cameras, body-worn cameras, closed-circuit television systems, satellites, camera-mounted drones and manned aircraft. From investigations of petty street crime to major human rights violations, traces captured in video recordings promise to provide evidence for establishing factual accounts and building ironclad legal cases. Of course, visual media rarely stand on their own as self-evident incrimination or exoneration, and the evidentiary value of images continues to depend on much that is external to images themselves. In this talk, Gates considers the field of forensic video analysis as a key site for understanding the problems of visual evidence in the context of an unprecedented proliferation of visual media. She uses cases and interviews with forensic video analysts to explore the complex issues arising in this field, and to discuss the efforts of this emerging community of expertise to define its boundaries and authority.


KGatesKelly Gates
Professor of Communication and Science Studies
University of California, San Diego

Tuesday, January 26, 2016
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
UC Davis School of Law, King Hall Rm 1301

Kelly Gates’ research focuses on the critical analysis of digital media technologies. Her main emphasis has been the politics and social implications of computerization, and particularly the automation of surveillance, in the United States from the mid-twentieth century to the present.

Her 2011 book, Our Biometric Future: Facial Recognition Technology and the Culture of Surveillance, explores the effort underway since the 1960s to teach computers to see the human face. The book examines the social construction of automated facial recognition and automated facial expression analysis, focusing on the conceptual and cultural frameworks that are used to think about these technologies, and on the constellations of interests, institutions and social practices that are shaping their development. Gates argues that, despite persistent claims that computers have no social bias, in fact there is no such thing as a computer vision program that can “see” faces in a culturally neutral way. It is especially important to recognize this, because the face has been a special object of attention in the organization of visual practices and the development of visual media technologies, and technologies designed for representing and analyzing the face have played a central role in defining and redefining what it means to be human.

Gates is currently working on a new project that investigates the emerging professional field of video forensics and its attendant technologies in order to examine the ways in which new visual imaging and archiving technologies are being incorporated into, and transforming, modern investigatory and evidentiary practices. She is especially interested in the emerging forms that police work is taking in the digital economy, including the cultural labor that the police perform in their roles as surveillance workers and media analysts.