Book section Open Access

The People Inside

Sherratt, Tim; Bagnall, Kate

Kee, Kevin; Compeau, Timothy

Our collection begins with an example of computer vision that cuts through time and bureaucratic opacity to help us meet real people from the past. Buried in thousands of files in the National Archives of Australia is evidence of the exclusionary “White Australia” policies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which were intended to limit and discourage immigration by non-Europeans. Tim Sherratt and Kate Bagnall decided to see what would happen if they used a form of face-detection software made ubiquitous by modern surveillance systems and applied it to a security system of a century ago. What we get is a new way to see the government documents, not as a source of statistics but, Sherratt and Bagnall argue, as powerful evidence of the people affected by racism.

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