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Lee Mackinnon

Senior Lecturer Photography
London College of Communication
Researcher Research
Lee  Mackinnon


Lee Mackinnon is a Senior Lecturer in Photography at UAL, whose research is largely situated in fields of comparative media studies, feminism and postdigital visual culture. Research outputs explore the shifting technical paradigms that affect how we see and communicate as well as the implicit power structures that shape and privilege certain forms of visual and cultural practice. We are living through a period in which 'photography' as a practice, has expanded far beyond its original definition. For example, today, camera phones are used for a variety of relatively novel practices which include reading QR codes; entraining AI visual recognition systems; improving GAN networks that generate photographs of non-existent humans... Photographic images in digital networks exist as objects of code designed to be understood and 'read' by machines. What is the future end game of photography in an era where photographic images are no longer passive objects, but participants active in engineering social systems?

Lee's research increasingly explores how data sets are used to naturalise and underpin certain forms of representation, as well as reproducing human bias and inequality. For example, a 2014 paper explores how images of nebula in deep space are inferred through datasets: the image that we see is an illustration of data that aims to engender belief in the techno-scientific supremacy of organisations and their host countries on earth. More recently, work explores the use of personal data to accelerate the financial productivity of everyday practices. In particular, accelerated forms of gamification are seen to playfully promote adhesion to rule-based social systems in financially lucrative ways. What are the implications of our increased reliance upon digital infrastructures in which personal data is the prime commodity?

In terms of our current ecological condition, how does the practice and distribution of photographic images and devices through networks contribute to the climate crisis and increasing global inequality? What are our responsibilities as citizens engaged with the image as a ubiquitous form of communication? Indeed, how are our rights and duties being reconfigured by the current globally complex supply chains and labour markets which we rely upon for these products?

Lee currently leads modules on critical and historical studies on BA Photography, and the MA Photography programme. Recent taught courses include modules on: AI and Critical Posthumanism; Gender Fluidity; Critical Race and Power; Ecology and Anthropocene.