Anne Washington talks about the risks of efficiency and the need for a common language when speaking about data science and public policy. Anne L. Washington is a computer scientist and a librarian who specializes in public sector technology management and informatics. She is an Assistant Professor at George Mason University. As a digital government scholar, her research focuses on the production, meaning, and retrieval of public sector information. She developed her expertise on government data working at the Congressional Research Service within the Library of Congress. She also served as an invited expert to the W3C E-Government Interest Group and the W3C Government Linked Data Working Group. She completed a PhD from The George Washington University School of Business. She holds a degree in computer science from Brown University and a Master’s in Library Information Science from Rutgers University. Before completing her PhD, she had extensive work experience in the private sector including the Claris Software division of Apple Computers and Barclays Global Investors.
Rebecca Wexler speaks about the dangers of Trade Secrets and Black-boxing Criminal Justice. Rebecca Wexler works with The Legal Aid Society to advocate for more lenient criminal discovery laws; draft legal motions to compel disclosure of data and source code for forensic technologies; and build partnerships with technology companies to facilitate a reasoned approach to defendants’ requests for user information.
Daniel Grushkin speaks about the origin of GenSpace, The DNA Revolution, and merging data with biology. Daniel Grushkin is the Executive Director and cofounder of Genspace, a nonprofit community laboratory dedicated to promoting citizen science and access to biotechnology.
Alice Marwick speaks about Data & Society’s recent report on Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online. Alice Marwick leads the Media Manipulation project at Data & Society, and will join the Communication department at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in the Fall.
Whitney Philips and Ryan M. Milner explore the weird and mean and in-between that characterizes everyday expression online, from absurdist photoshops to antagonistic Twitter hashtags to ambivalent online play with the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Through these discussions, the book shows how digital media can help and harm, bring together and push apart, and make laugh and make angry in equal measure. Most significant to the current political climate, it shows how these media can equally facilitate and restrict voice. Not only do digital spaces and tools empower hate groups like the white nationalist alt-right and other extremist figures, they also empower progressive pushback against these same groups and figures—along with a whole range of folkloric play that eludes easy classification. By foregrounding the fundamental ambivalence of digital media, they demonstrate that there are no easy solutions, and no simplistic, one-size-fits-all answers, to pressing questions about free expression, democratic participation, and issues of basic safety on the contemporary internet.
Eric Horvitz – Artificial intelligence (AI) is at an inflection point and is poised to move into the open world and into our lives in numerous ways that will have numerous influences on people and society. While AI promises to provide great value, along with the aspirations come concerns about inadvertent costs, rough edges, and failures. Concerns include failures of automation in the open world, biased data and algorithms, opacity of reasoning, adversarial attacks on AI systems, and runaway AI. Horvitz will discuss short- and longer-term challenges and discuss studies aimed at addressing concerns, including the One Hundred Year Study on AI at Stanford University and the Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society.
Eric Horvitz is a technical fellow and director at Microsoft Research. His interests span theoretical and practical challenges in AI and he has made contributions in machine learning, perception, decision making, and human-computer interaction. More information and publications are available at http://erichorvitz.com.
Marie Hicks draws on the example of our closest historical cousin–the UK– to look at the ways in which computing initiatives often go wrong in unexpected ways at the national level. In 1944, the UK led the world in electronic computing. By 1974, the British computer industry was all but extinct. What happened in the intervening thirty years holds lessons for all postindustrial superpowers. This talk will outline the systematic processes deployed by the UK government to enhance the nation’s technological superiority–and through that its global political standing–and discuss why these efforts went disastrously wrong. The talk will conclude with a discussion of the ways the US is currently falling prey to similar errors of judgement in its attempts to leverage computing technology as an engine of social and economic change.
Marie Hicks is an assistant professor of history of technology at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois. Her work focuses on how gender and sexuality bring hidden technological dynamics to light, and how women’s experiences change the core narrative of the history of computing. Hicks’s book, Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing is available from MIT Press (2017). For more information, see programmedinequality.com. Hicks received her MA and Ph.D. from Duke University and her BA from Harvard University. Before entering academia, she worked as a UNIX systems administrator.
Sareeta Amrute, professor of anthropology at the University of Washington, describes her research on the professional and private lives of highly skilled Indian IT coders in Berlin to reveal the oft-obscured realities of the embodied, raced, and classed nature of cognitive labor.
Maurizio Ferraris and Martin Scherzinger – Recent scandals around alternative facts, post-truth, and hacking have raised a constellation of questions regarding the intersection of digital tools, the construction or verification of reality, and issues of power and authorship. Such questions have been at the center of theoretical and literary discussions in continental philosophy and critical theory for some years, drawing from or pushing against post-structuralist assertions regarding the death of the author and the relativism of ontology. Today, these questions are articulated in the realm of techno-politics with a new urgency.
The talk was moderated by Jessica Feldman from New York University’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, and hosted by Robyn Caplan from Data & Society Research Institute.
Meryl Alper- Mobile communication technologies are often hailed in the popular press and public policy as a means of “giving voice to the voiceless.” Behind the praise are determinist beliefs about technology as a gateway to opportunity, voice as a metaphor for agency and self-representation, and voicelessness as a stable and natural category. In this talk, based on her new book Giving Voice: Mobile Communication, Disability, and Inequality (MIT Press, 2017), Meryl Alper offers a new angle on these established critiques through a qualitative study of individuals with significant communication disabilities who use mobile devices for synthetic speech output. Alper finds that despite widespread claims to empowerment, these tools are still subject to disempowering structural inequalities. Culture, laws, institutions, and even technology itself can reinforce disparities among those with disabilities across class, race, ethnicity, and gender. Alper argues that voice is an overused and imprecise metaphor in media and communication studies, one that abstracts, obscures, and oversimplifies the human experience of disability. She will discuss implications of her research for our rapidly changing media ecology and political environment, where the question is not only which voices get to speak, but also who is thought to have a voice to speak with in the first place.