Seeing as (Un)making – Photogrammetry as a techno-feminist practice of counter-mapping

Dave Loder

Palavras-chave: photogrammetry; counter-mapping; digital extractivism; techno-feminism; new materialism

Participação: on-line

Photogrammetry is the digital process of constructing 3d models from visual information extracted from 2d images. The most familiar deployment of this technique would probably be via Google Earth and the cartographic construction of realistic 3d environments, made possible with satellite images and aerial photography. The disciplines of archaeology and heritage visualisation have also adopted the use of photogrammetry in the investigation of cultural artefacts and architecture. In these contexts, photogrammetry has been heralded for its capacity to digitally preserve artefacts under threat and give new audiences access to cultural experiences via digital ‘twins’. However, such practices are not without controversies, with arguments that photogrammetry is insufficient in its claims of authenticity, but more significantly are assertions that photogrammetry enacts and sustains regimes of digital colonialism (Khunti 2018) and capitalist extractivism (Loder 2021).

Outside the institutional deployment of photogrammetry, a new generation of artists and activists have appropriated the digital imaging technique as a creative practice, producing 3d artefacts and digital experiences from both video and non-contiguous datasets of images that document a variety of spaces and environments. These activities, such as multidisciplinary artist Ibiye Camp’s ‘Data: The new Black Gold’ (2019) which examines the data economy of West Africa, have the capacity to critically address the means of their own production, to challenge and reconfigure the regimes of digital extractivism that underpins and is performed through photogrammetry.

This paper will present a number of artists projects, to propose and investigate these as activist strategies of “counter-mapping” (Peluso 1995) to resist the structures of power and inequality implemented under digital extractivism. Contextualised as a feminist appropriation of technology, this contemporary development of digital counter-mapping will be further located under the discourse of new materialism, where intersectional “ethico-onto-epistemologies” to resist patriarchal colonialism emerge through the “intra-action” (Barad 2007) of instrument and subject. This practice-based research investigation will interrogate practices of capturing data and the types of datasets being secured, as well as an attention towards the insufficiencies and potential biases which are embedded in the technological procedure, to propose photogrammetric imaging as a strategy for decolonisation, or ‘seeing as un-making’.


Barad, Karen (2007). Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Khunti, Roshni. 2018. “The Problem with Printing Palmyra: Exploring the Ethics of Using 3D Printing Technology to Reconstruct Heritage.” Studies in Digital Heritage 2 (1): 1–12.
Loder, Dave (2021) "The Aesthetics of Digital Intimacy: Resisting Airbnb’s Datafication of the Interior." Interiors: Design/Architecture/Culture, 11 (2).
Peluso, Nancy L (1995). "Whose Woods are These? Counter-Mapping Forest Territories in Kalimantan, Indonesia". Antipode. 4. 27 (4): 383–406


Dr Dave Loder is a spatial research practitioner working across art, design, interiors, architecture, landscape and public art. His research practice is contextualised by feminist ‘worlding’, with a focus on the overlapping technological and infrastructural conditions - from language and cartography to machine sensing and digital platforms - through which we spatially engage with and are structured by the world. Dave is currently a lecturer at The Glasgow School of Art, where he teaches Interior Design, leads the cross-disciplinary Image/Imaging/Interiors research cluster and is PhD Coordinator for the Mackintosh School of Architecture. He is also Course Leader for the Worlding Fictions & Fictional Worlds Elective and convenes the cross-school Worlding Matters reading group. Dave holds a practise-based doctorate in spatial research from the Belfast School of Art, and has presented research projects nationally and internationally, including the Venice Biennale and Documenta.