The Proper Likeness and the Models that Matter

12 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2023

See all articles by Bernie Hogan

Bernie Hogan

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Date Written: February 2, 2023


The likeness can now be effectively encoded and used in order to render now synthetic versions. In light of this, we should revisit the notion of what constitutes a real likeness as opposed to a synthetic or fictional one. To do this, I draw upon the philosophical discussion about what is a real name, or more formally, what is a 'proper name'. I contend that we can elevate our discussion of deep fakes and synthetic imagery by considering the extent to which the imagery invokes a historically understood being. I use the notion of encoding and decoding from both information theory and semiotics to describe the encoding and decoding process. I conclude that a proper likeness is an analytically worthy concept for analysis apart from (or extended beyond) its specific instantiation in facial recognition. This is a draft paper for a conference and likely to be integrated into a future monograph on identity.

Suggested Citation

Hogan, Bernie, The Proper Likeness and the Models that Matter (February 2, 2023). Available at SSRN: or

Bernie Hogan (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

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