You are all now hopefully enjoying the first day of Spring Break, and I do hope each of you will take some time to take care of yourselves, manage any rising anxieties, and just enjoy a bit of time off. As is plainly obvious to all of us, there is a considerable amount of anxiety in the air these days as COVID-19 seems to spread to diverse corners of our globe. It is hard to parse panic from precaution, but what is clear is that this moment demands a certain reconsideration of our responsibilities to ourselves and the communities we participate in.
I want to reassure you all that if we need to convert to a more “online” version of our coursework and time together, we are aligned to do this with ease. For example, we can hold our classtime with ZOOM meetings to discuss our readings and our projects, we can continue to use our twitter hashtag #netnarr as a backchannel for sharing ideas, we can conduct our Studio Visits online, and you can still write, reflect, and share your work with your syndicated blogs on this site. So despite the growing concerns for the virus’ spread, we can do what we do and carry on without a hitch. So no worries, we will continue to learn together, no matter the challenges that might lie ahead. Alan and I will certainly be in touch if the situation changes and requires alternative modes of learning.
AI, race, and algorithms
Thank you to Kevin for a lively discussion of both Safiya Noble’s work on algorithms of oppression and Joy Buolamwini’sTED talk. We thought about how search engines such as google are designed first and foremost for optimization, and how the major social media companies are by no means “freedom of speech” platforms out the gate. And we spoke about the inevitable “pollution” of our online information environments as the result of these realities of design bound to the values innovation capitalism. We also discussed the glaring flaw in limited data training sets that are used to condition and propel artificial intelligence technologies such as face recognition modelling, etc. What I think is most important to consider is the vulnerabilities of certain people – a.k.a. the “data disposable” – and the urgency of re-thinking our way to more inclusive and non-commercial ways to access knowledge. Otherwise, as Kevin points out, the internet is nothing more than a series of private islands where each one is operating for their own gain, and we are their guinea pigs.
Studio Visit with Kaveena Bullock
It was also a great pleasure to spend a bit of time with another esteemed alumna Kaveena Bullock. Vee shared with us her “Blackfishing” project from last year’s iteration of #NetNarr, as well as some thoughts on how her thesis project developed. Her work on race, identity performance, and appropration vs. appreciation was a perfect complement to the readings in the first half of class. If the theme of the evening was different approaches for sorting through data and information, then the first half of class took a closer look at how the technological tools “bake-in” human flaw, profit imperatives, and ideological leanings. While the second half of class looked more closely at the problematic filters that we inherit within our own social/cultural landscape.
Your “to-do” list:
Since this is break time, I hope you will take it a bit easy. I also want to point you to the things that are coming our way in the Net Mirror. Soon we will be moving beyond theory, and embarking on more imaginative pathways in order to address these concerns regarding the open web, technology, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and preserving our humanness. We will explore speculative fiction(s) and storytelling. Please take a moment over the break to explore some stories in our Net Mirror Library.
When we reconvene on Thursday, March 19, please read:
Shosanna Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight For a Human Future at the Frontier of Power (Introduction, Chp. 1: “Home in Exile” & Chapter 2: August 9, 2011 “Setting the Stage for Surveillance Capitalism”)
Patricia will lead us through a synthesis of this material, and we will follow up with some activities in Part 2 of class!
Rest, relax, and take care.