An exploration of the falsification of reality in media and new frameworks for civic integrity


Weapons of Perception

A conversation with Global Voices and Witness about the use of imaging as a means of influence, control, and creation

Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Politics / Economics

Organizing Institutions



School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to announce "Weapons of Perception," a conversation with Ivan Sigal, a media artist and the executive director of Global Voices, and Sam Gregory, an expert on synthetic media and human rights, and the program director for WITNESS, on Friday, November 1, 2019, from 6-8pm. The event is free and open to the public, and is part of Slought's ongoing Photographies of Conflict series. It has been organized in partnership with the Center for Media at Risk at the University of Pennsylvania, and with the support of the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania.

This event is the closing event for the exhibition The Potemkin Project, which is an exploration of the falsification of reality in media and new frameworks for civic integrity, on display through November 1, 2019. The exhibit includes "Into The Fold Of The True," work which Sigal created while a fellow at the Library of Congress, alongside installations by WITNESS, on synthetic media and deep fakes; Global Voices, on threats to online expression around the world; Bellingcat, on the online forensic investigation into the downing of MH17 over Ukraine in 2014; and projection artist Robin Bell, on the people who work in the power structures that govern us. These works and projects share a common inquiry into the many media forms that assert authority over our perceptions, and of the logic that underpins those claims. They explore how media events drive and shift real-life events, from the history of war propaganda to current obsession with disinformation; from the hype surrounding virtual reality to the effects of so-called deep fakes and synthetic media.

This event will explore the enduring fascination with images in relation to mechanisms of control, surveillance, restrictions on rights, and misinformation by governments and their agents as well as technology companies. We will focus on likely scenarios for the future, and lines of tension and conflict in the use of imaging as a means of influence, control, and creation. We will also discuss projects and ideas for retaining and expanding integrity and trustworthiness in civic life. How can we use imaging technologies ethically and creatively? How can we read images critically in an era of easy manipulation and the discrediting of authenticity? How can we retain our privacy, autonomy and rights to expression?

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For twenty years, Sam Gregory has enabled people to use the power of the moving image and participatory technologies to create human rights change. He is Program Director of WITNESS, which helps people use video and technology to protect and defend human rights. An award-winning technologist, media-maker and advocate, he leads the WITNESS Program team and from 2010-2018 taught the first graduate-level course at Harvard on harnessing the power of new visual and participatory technologies for human rights change.

An expert on new forms of misinformation and disinformation as well as innovations in preserving trust, authenticity and evidence he leads WITNESS' global activities -- in coordination with technical researchers, policy-makers, companies, media organizations, journalists and civic activists -- aimed at building better preparedness for deepfakes. This includes a recent national-level convening in Brazil. He also currently co-chairs the Partnership on AI's Expert Group on Social and Societal Influence of AI and is a participant in their Steering Committee on AI and Media Integrity, governing detection challenges for deepfakes. He is on the Advisory Board of First Draft, and the Technology Advisory Board of the International Criminal Court.

Ivan Sigal is the Executive Director of Global Voices, an international and multilingual community of bloggers, journalists, translators, academics, and human rights activists who are leveraging the power of the internet to build understanding across borders. He is a media artist known for his documentary explorations of societies undergoing conflict or political transition. He is the author of White Road, a two-volume monograph about Siberia and Central Asia (Steidl, 2012), and his work is in numerous collections, including the National Gallery of Art.

He is the board chair for the Open Society Foundation's Documentary Photography Project, and on the boards of The Engine Room and Ranking Digital Rights. He was a Kluge Fellow in Digital Studies at the Library of Congress, a fellow of Harvard University's Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, a 2016 Nonfiction Fellow at the Carey Institute for Global Good, and a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He worked for many years for the media development organization Internews, where he focused on media in conflict, transitional societies, and natural disaster in Asia and the former Soviet Union.