Black Software

Speaker: Charlton McIlwain
Date recorded: Nov 13, 2019
Charlton McIlwain shares African Americans’ role in the internet’s creation and evolution, illuminating both the limits and possibilities for using digital technology to push for racial justice in the United States and across the globe.

Charlton McIlwain, author of “Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, from the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter,” shares African Americans’ role in the internet’s creation and evolution, illuminating both the limits and possibilities for using digital technology to push for racial justice in the United States and across the globe. McIlwain’s book shows that the story of racial justice movement organizing online is much longer and varied than most people know. In fact, it spans nearly five decades and involves a varied group of engineers, entrepreneurs, hobbyists, journalists, and activists. But this is a history that is virtually unknown, even in our current age of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Black Lives Matter. From the 1960s to present, the book examines how computing technology has been used to neutralize the threat that black people pose to the existing racial order, but also how black people seized these new computing tools to build community, wealth, and wage a war for racial justice.

This event was hosted by Data & Society Faculty Fellow Anita Say Chan.

Charlton McIlwain is Vice Provost of Faculty Engagement & Development at New York University, and Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU’s Steinhardt School. Dr. McIlwain’s scholarly work focuses on the intersections of race, digital media, and racial justice activism. He is also the Founder of the Center for Critical Race & Digital Studies, and in addition to “Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, From the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter” (Oxford University Press), he is the co-author of the award-winning book, “Race Appeal: How Political Candidates Invoke Race In U.S. Political Campaigns.”

Race After Technology

Speaker: Ruha Benjamin
Date recorded: Oct 30, 2019
Ruha Benjamin discusses the relationship between machine bias and systemic racism, analyzing specific cases of “discriminatory design” and offering tools for a socially-conscious approach to tech development.

Ruha Benjamin discusses the relationship between machine bias and systemic racism, analyzing specific cases of “discriminatory design” and offering tools for a socially-conscious approach to tech development. In “Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code,” Ruha Benjamin cuts through tech-industry hype, from everyday apps to complex algorithms, to understand how emerging technologies can reinforce White supremacy and deepen social inequity. Presenting the concept of “the new Jim Code,” she shows how a range of discriminatory designs encode inequity by explicitly amplifying racial hierarchies; by ignoring but thereby replicating social divisions; or by aiming to fix racial bias but ultimately doing quite the opposite.
This event is hosted by Data & Society’s Director of Research Sareeta Amrute.

Exposing Police Misconduct Data in the Era of Digital Privacy Concerns

Speaker: Cynthia Conti-Cook
Date recorded: Jun 19, 2019
Non-governmental groups are creating police misconduct databases to build stronger mechanisms of transparency and accountability and to influence laws, policies, and norms.

This past year, 2018-2019 Data & Society Fellow Cynthia Conti-Cook tackled an aspect of the criminal justice system lacking data: police misconduct. Her talk explores how this data gap came to be through police union claims to the Right to be Forgotten. This raises important lessons about how government actors exploit privacy rhetoric to cover up rights violations.

Cynthia Conti-Cook is a staff attorney at the New York City’s Legal Aid Society, Special Litigation Unit, where she oversees the Cop Accountability Project and Database, leads impact litigation and law reform projects on issues involving policing, data collection, risk assessment instruments, and the criminal justice system generally. She has presented as a panelist and trainer at many national, New York state, and New York City venues on topics of police misconduct, technology in the criminal justice system, and risk assessment instruments.

Why Now is the Time for Racial Literacy in Tech

Speaker: Jessie Daniels
Date recorded: Jun 12, 2019
2018-19 Data & Society Fellow Jessie Daniels offers strategies for racial literacy in tech grounded in intellectual understanding, emotional intelligence, and a commitment to take action.

2018-19 Data & Society Fellow Jessie Daniels offers strategies for racial literacy in tech grounded in intellectual understanding, emotional intelligence, and a commitment to take action. In this podcast, Daniels describes how the biggest barrier to racial literacy in tech is “thinking that race doesn’t matter in tech.” She argues that “without racial literacy in tech, without a specific and conscious effort to address race, we will certainly be recreating a high-tech Jim Crow: a segregated, divided, unequal future, sped-up, spread out, and automated through algorithms, AI, and machine learning.”

Jessie Daniels, PhD is a Professor at Hunter College (Sociology) and at The Graduate Center, CUNY (Africana Studies, Critical Social Psychology, and Sociology). She earned her PhD from the University of Texas-Austin and held a Charles Phelps Taft postdoctoral fellowship at University of Cincinnati. Her main area of interest is in race and digital media technologies; she is an internationally recognized expert on Internet manifestations of racism. Daniels is the author or editor of five books and has bylines at The New York Times, DAME, The Establishment, Entropy, and a regular column at Huffington Post.

Her recent paper, “Advancing Racial Literacy in Tech,” co-authored with 2018-19 Fellow Mutale Nkonde and 2017-18 Fellow Darakhshan Mir, can be found at http://www.racialliteracy.tech.

Cryptoparty as Rent Party

Speaker: Jasmine E. McNealy
Date recorded: Jun 19, 2019
Cryptoparties empower communities in the age of harmful surveillance technologies.

2018-19 Data & Society Fellow Jasmine E. McNealy compares Cryptoparties to the goals and aspirations of the famous rent parties of the Harlem Renaissance. Both represent communities filling in the gaps in infrastructure to support each other. While the rent party helped pay rent through nights of celebration, jazz, and revelry, McNealy’s research shows that the Cryptoparty strives for a similar freedom through educating community members on how to safely navigate harmful surveillance technologies.

Jasmine E. McNealy is an assistant professor of telecommunication at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. She studies information, communication, and technology with a view toward influencing law and policy. Her research focuses on privacy, online media, communities, and culture.

Dark Patterns in Accessibility Tech

Speaker: Chancey Fleet
Date recorded: Jun 5, 2019
The state of non-visual access to everyday digital interactions is a trouble map that deserves more exploration by technologists working in the public interest.

Chancey Fleet, a Brooklyn-based accessibility advocate, coordinates technology education programs at the New York Public Library’s Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library. Chancey was recognized as a 2017 “Library Journal” Mover and Shaker. She writes and presents to disability rights groups, policy-makers, and professionals about the intersections of disability and technology. During her fellowship at Data & Society, she worked to advance public understanding of and explore best practices for visual interpreter services as well as other technologies for accessibility whose implications resonate with the broader global conversations about digital equity, data ethics, and privacy. She proudly serves as the Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of New York.

Ghost Work

Speaker: Mary L Gray
Date recorded: May 8, 2019
“Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass,” is a necessary and revelatory exposé of the invisible human workforce that powers the web—and that foreshadows the true future of work.

Anthropologist Mary L. Gray shares her latest book, “Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass,” a collaboration with computer scientist Siddharth Suri. “Ghost Work” is a necessary and revelatory exposé of the invisible human workforce that powers the web—and that foreshadows the true future of work.

Hidden beneath the surface of the web, lost in our wrong-headed debates about AI, a new menace is looming. This book unveils how services delivered by companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Uber can only function smoothly thanks to the judgment and experience of a vast, invisible human labor force. These people doing “ghost work” make the internet seem smart. They perform high-tech piecework: flagging X-rated content, proofreading, designing engine parts, and much more. An estimated 8 percent of Americans have worked at least once in this “ghost economy,” and that number is growing. They usually earn less than legal minimums for traditional work, they have no health benefits, and they can be fired at any time for any reason, or none.

There are no labor laws to govern this kind of work, and these latter-day assembly lines draw in—and all too often overwork and underpay—a surprisingly diverse range of workers: harried young mothers, professionals forced into early retirement, recent grads who can’t get a toehold on the traditional employment ladder, and minorities shut out of the jobs they want. Gray and Suri also show how ghost workers, employers, and society at large can ensure that this new kind of work creates opportunity—rather than misery—for those who do it.

Amara.org co-founder Dean Jansen joins Mary in a conversation moderated by Data & Society’s Director of Research Sareeta Amrute.

Surveillance Capitalism and Democracy

Speaker: Shoshana Zuboff
Date recorded: Feb 13, 2019
Shoshana Zuboff discusses her latest book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power.

Shoshana Zuboff–Surveillance capitalism arrived on the scene with democracy already on the ropes, its early life sheltered and nourished by neoliberalism’s claims to freedom that set it at a distance from the lives of people. Surveillance capitalists quickly learned to exploit the gathering momentum aimed at hollowing out democracy’s meaning and muscle. Despite the democratic promise of its rhetoric and capabilities, it contributed to a new Gilded Age of extreme wealth inequality, as well as to once-unimaginable new forms of economic exclusivity and new sources of social inequality that separate “the tuners” from “the tuned.”

Among the many insults to democracy and democratic institutions imposed by this coup des gens, Zuboff counts the unauthorized expropriation of private human experience; the hijack of the division of learning in society; the structural independence from people; the top-down imposition of the hive collective; the rise of instrumentarian power and radical indifference that together sustain its extractive logic; the construction, ownership, and operation of the means of behavior modification that is Big Other; the abrogation of the natural right to the future tense and the natural right to sanctuary; the degradation of the self-determining individual as the crucible of democratic life; and the insistence on psychic numbing as the answer to its illegitimate quid pro quo.

This event is hosted by Data & Society’s AI on the Ground Research Lead Madeleine Clare Elish.

Memes to Movements

Speaker: An Xiao Mina
Date recorded: Jan 9, 2019
Technologist and digital media scholar An Xiao Mina presents a global exploration of internet memes as agents of pop culture, politics, protest, and propaganda on- and offline.

An Xiao Mina presents a global exploration of internet memes as agents of pop culture, politics, protest, and propaganda on- and offline. Based on her new book, Memes to Movements: How the World’s Most Viral Media is Changing Social Protest and Power (Beacon Press, January 2019), Mina uses social media-driven movements to unpack the mechanics of memes and how they operate to reinforce, amplify, and shape today’s politics.

Crucially, Mina reveals how, in parts of the world where public dissent is downright dangerous, memes can belie contentious political opinions that would incur drastic consequences if expressed outright. She finds that the “silly” stuff of meme culture—the photo remixes, the selfies, the YouTube songs, and the pun-tastic hashtags—are fundamentally intertwined with how we find and affirm one another, direct attention to human rights and social justice issues, build narratives, and make culture.

Joining her in conversation is Data & Society Founder and President danah boyd.

Temp: How American Work, American Business, and the American Dream Became Temporary

Speaker: Louis Hyman
Date recorded: Dec 5, 2018
Why has work become insecure? Data & Society welcomes historian Louis Hyman for a talk on the surprising origins of the “gig economy.”

Historian Louis Hyman on the surprising origins of the “gig economy.” Hyman is joined in conversation by Data & Society’s Labor Engagement Lead Aiha Nguyen and Researcher Alex Rosenblat.

Hyman’s latest book “Temp: How American Work, American Business, and the American Dream Became Temporary” tracks the transformation of an ethos that favored long-term investment in work (and workers) to one promoting short-term returns. A series of deliberate decisions preceded the digital revolution, setting off the collapse of the postwar institutions that insulated us from volatility including big unions, big corporations, and powerful regulators.

Through the experiences of those on the inside–consultants and executives, temps and office workers, line workers and migrant laborers–Temp shows how the American Dream was unmade.