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Digital Pareidolia: A Personal Index Of Facebook’s Erroneous Portraits


Digital Pareidolia: A Personal Index Of Facebook’s Erroneous Portraits, 2012-2013. Archival inkjet prints. 3 elements. X:180cm; Y:90 overall

In four months, I uploaded all the photos from my personal archive to my Facebook profile: 30,000 files acquired since 2005. This is the equivalent, on global average, to the number of photos uploaded to Facebook every 10 seconds. I then went through each of Facebook’s suggested face recognitions, looking for possible errors occurring during the use of the technology. Facebook recognized the face of a person where one did not exist 193 times (meaning that on global average, this facial recognition technology makes an error 19 times every second). It seems as though Facebook is not immune to the psychological phenomenon of pareidolia: the obsessive recognition of human faces in everyday objects which seems to be genetically linked to the survival of the species in threatening situations. Instead of a face, something seemingly random and trivial is highlighted by the technology such as a piece of fabric, a hand, a rock or a plant. At the end, I analyzed and organized all the errors into a coherent system. 

During the operation of uploading photos, Facebook uses facial recognition technology to prompt the user for the names of the people in the pictures, creating a database that connects images and personal data. The same technology is used in video surveillance in order to automatically link the image of a face to the identity of an individual (through the use of biometric data). Together, facial recognition technologies, social networks and computer databases create a digital persona for each individual, which often escapes the control and knowledge of the real individual, and whose influence is not solely limited to a virtual existence.


  • The ProjectsBEEP BOOP BOP, (2014) curated by Leah Brown and Peter Symons, FATVillage art district, Fort Lauderdale FL, US
  • EYEBEAMPRISM Break Up, (2013) curated by Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Ramsey Nasser and Open Culture, NYC, US
  • Mediterranea16 – Young Artists Biennial (BJCEM), Errors Allowed, (2013) curated by Charlotte Bank, Alessandro Castiglioni, Nadira Laggoune, Delphine Leccas, Slobodne Veze / Loose Associations, Marco  Trulli and Claudio Zecchi, Mole Vanvitelliana, Ancona, Italy

Presented at:

  • Technological Error, Power and Metamorphosis, ART TALKS at SIGGRAPH 2014, moderated by Basak Senova, Vancouver Convention Center, Canada



“Glitch: la verità nell’errore. Conversazione con Emilio Vavarella”
Interview by Mauro Zanchi and Sara Benaglia, 5 July 2020. (ita)



“Glitch, quando l’errore diventa arte. Intervista a Emilio Vavarella”
Interview by Maria Chiara Wang, 2018. (ita)


“Allons Enfant 5”
Interview by Andrea Bruciati, 2014. (ita)


Challenging Corporealities: Reconfigurations between Materiality and Discursivity
Costa, Flavia. “Nuestros Datos, ¿Nosotros Mismos?” [“Our data, ourselves? Art, technology and subjectivity in the era of genetic surveillance and algorithmic governmentality”]
Book edited by Daniel López del Rincón, University of Barcelona Press, 2018 (spa).



“Errors Allowed – Emilio Vavarella”
Official catalogue, 2013, (ita-eng)



“Razglednice iz Ancone”
2013. (hrv)



“Mediterranea 16 Young Artists Biennial, Ancona”
2013. (eng)


“Glitch: The Truth in the Error. A Conversation with Emilio Vavarella”
by Sara Benaglia and Mauro Zanchi, August 2020. (eng)



Metafotografia, Vol.2. Le mutazioni delle immagini
“Intervista 25: Emilio Vavarella”
Edited by Mauro Zanchi and Sara Benaglia (eds.) Skinnerbox, Jesi (Italy), 2020, pp. 112-117. (ita-eng).

[BOOK | PDF (ITA – no images) | ARCHIVED (ENG – no images)]


EAI Endorsed Transactions on Creative Technologies (European Union Digital Library)
Costa, F: “To be or not to be – a data set. Art, technology and identity in the new informational order”
vol. 7, Issue 22, pp. 1638-48. (eng)



Philosophy of Photography (Intellect)
“Chroma key dreams: Algorithmic visibility, fleshy images and scenes of recognition”
by Daniela Agostinho, vol. 9 (2), 2018, pp.131-155. (eng)



Arte e tecnologia del terzo millennio. Scenari e protagonisti [Art and Technology in the Third Millennium: Landscapes and Protagonists]
Catricalà, Valentino and Cesare Biasini Selvaggi, I Quaderni della Collezione Farnesina, Vol. II, Milan: Mondadori Electa, 2020. (ita-eng)

[PDF ]


NABA – Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti

“Emilio Vavarella: Esseri Umani, Tecnologia e Memoria”

 by Amico, Chiara. Missing the Signal. MA Thesis in Fashion and Textile Design. NABA: Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti, Advisor: Andrea Cammarosano, 2023, pp-122-142. (ita)