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Lenses or Mirrors? How Algorithms Affect Ways of Seeing Race and Gender

When May 21, 2018
from 12:00 PM to 04:00 PM
Where SG2, Alison Richard Building
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Co-organised with Power and Vision research group at CRASSH

How does online behaviour feed the construction of our digital selves? In what ways do algorithmic curation processes identify, modulate, and reconstruct identity, through the juxtaposition of digital media? How do they reproduce, reinforce or challenge existing inequalities and biases? Ways of Machine Seeing and Power and Vision at CRASSH, invite you to a half-day workshop where we explore algorithms as mirrors of existing societal biases and inequalities, and as lenses which contribute to the perpetuation of those biases. As Online Social Networks (OSNs) have increasingly become virtual and cyberphysical prosthetics of modern social life, hereunder the practice of image sharing, curation, processing and interpretation, images have come to yield unimaginable power. 

Online existence - being premised on images - renders implications, not only in the manners in which images are objectively understood, but in the ways images are presented with accompanying text; or in response to certain textual input or output (e.g. through Facebook ads, etc.). As images are mediated by digital technology, so they come to encompass more than simply images. Furthermore, as this data is gathered via mediums such as smartphone applications, and processed by Facebook, Amazon or Google’s algorithms, it is used to identify users according to several “measurable-types”, which users unknowingly accept. In other words, notions of gender and race are transformed into algorithmically prescribed identities, which we reproduce through our tacit acceptance. More than merely seeing, tech corporations yield some degree of biopower through this process. 

With the proliferation of Facebook Graph, and the extensive use of OSN APIs, the implications of these mediations are dire and in need of critical inquiry. How does this process result in a self-replicating system, where behaviours and identities are moderated and/or controlled, according to emergent digital norms? 

This workshop invites participants to a multi-disciplinary discussion on how algorithms affect ways of seeing gender and race. The workshop will consist of a plenary session, break-out groups with the opportunity to participate in live design experiments, and a roundtable to synthesise the outcomes of our engagements. 

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