Seeing Like a Computer


Automatic Alternative Text is a feature offered by Facebook for image captions. The goal of the feature was to provide more context to visually impaired users who rely on screen readers to interact with Facebook. While these computationally generated texts are not visible on the interface, they can be found in the image alt tag of the page’s HTML code.

Automatic image recognition and captioning by computers are still limited. The tasks involve many nuances that are difficult for a computer to emulate.

Seeing Like a Computer documents images with their automated captions from Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook Wall. The algorithmically composed descriptions include phrases like “one person, smiling” or “person, outdoor, nature.” These fragments complement the optimistic public persona of Facebook’s founder while literally and figuratively hiding from view important content and context.