CRITICAL x DESIGN: Lucy Suchman

Times shown are Eastern Daylight Time (UTC/GMT-4)

Ehrlicher Room, 3100 North Quad

FOR REMOTE PARTICIPANTS: Video from this talk will be streamed live. For video, during the event visit this URL: http://umsi.info/suchman

Apparatuses of recognition: Google, Project Maven, and targeted killing

ABSTRACT

In June of 2018, following a campaign initiated by activist employees within the company, Google announced its intention not to renew a US Defense Department contract for Project Maven, an initiative to automate the identification of military targets based on drone video footage. Defendants of the program argued that that it would increase the efficiency and effectiveness of US drone operations, not least by enabling more accurate recognition of those who are the program’s legitimate targets and, by implication, sparing the lives of noncombatants. But this promise begs a more fundamental question: What relations of reciprocal familiarity does recognition presuppose? And in the absence of those relations, what schemas of categorization inform our readings of the Other?

The focus of a growing body of scholarship, this question haunts not only US military operations but an expanding array of technologies of social sorting. Understood as apparatuses of recognition (Barad 2007: 171), Project Maven and the US program of targeted killing are implicated in perpetuating the very architectures of enmity that they take as their necessitating conditions. I close with some thoughts on how we might interrupt the workings of these apparatuses, in the service of wider movements for social justice.

SPEAKER BIO

Lucy Suchman is Professor of Anthropology of Science and Technology at Lancaster University in the UK. Her research interests within the field of feminist science and technology studies are focused on technological imaginaries and material practices of technology design, particularly developments at the interface of bodies and machines. Dr. Suchman’s current research extends her longstanding critical engagement with the field of human-computer interaction to contemporary warfighting, including the figurations that inform immersive simulations, and problems of “situational awareness” in remotely-controlled weapon systems. Dr. Suchman is concerned with the question of whose bodies are incorporated into these systems, how and with what consequences for social justice and the possibility for a less violent world.

The CRITICAL x DESIGN series is generously supported by the School of Information; the Center for Political Studies at the Institute for Social Research; and the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan.

This lecture is also part of the ETHICS AND POLITICS OF AI series.

CRITICAL x DESIGN: Joy Lisi Rankin

Ehrlicher Room, 3100 North Quad

Old, Raw, or New: A (New?) Deal for the Digital Age

ABSTRACT

American historians debate whether Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Depression-era legislation was, in fact, a New Deal, or perhaps an “Old Deal” or a “Raw Deal.” Considering multiple perspectives and voices, combined with the long sweep of history, stokes this lively, ongoing debate. In this CRITICALxDESIGN talk, I’ll turn my attention to American computing in the 1960s and 1970s to consider whether the academic networks of that era may be inspiration for a Digital New Deal. The users of 1960s and 1970s academic computing networks built, accessed, and participated in cooperative digital commons, developing now-quotidian practices of personal computing and social media. In the process, they became what I call “computing citizens.”  I’ll use several case studies to illustrate the dynamic – and unexpected – relationships among gender, community, computing, and citizenship, including the Old Deals and the Raw Deals of computing citizenship. How might these computing citizens inform crucial contemporary debates about technology and justice?

SPEAKER BIO

Dr. Joy Lisi Rankin is a feministi, anti-racist historian, and a Contributing Editor for Lady Science. She is also a consultant for the documentaries The Birth of BASIC and The Queen of Code and for the television show Girls Code. Rankin was an Exchange Scholar at MIT while earning her doctorate in History from Yale University, as well as a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Prior to entering the academy, she had a successful career launching educational programs for students of all ages, which took her around the country. Her website is joyrankin.com.

The CRITICAL x DESIGN series is generously supported by the School of Information; the Center for Political Studies at the Institute for Social Research; and the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan.

CRITICAL x DESIGN: Ben Grosser

Ehrlicher Room, 3100 North Quad

Less Metrics, More Rando: (Net) Art as Software Research

ABSTRACT

How are numbers on Facebook changing what we “like” and who we “friend”? Why does a bit of nonsense sent via email scare both your mom and the NSA? What makes someone mad when they learn Google can’t see where they stand? From net art to robotics to supercuts to e-lit, Ben Grosser will discuss several artworks that illustrate his methods for investigating the culture of software.

SPEAKER BIO

Artist Ben Grosser creates interactive experiences, machines, and systems that examine the cultural, social, and political implications of software. Recent exhibition venues include Eyebeam in New York, Arebyte in London, Museum Kesselhaus in Berlin, Museu das Comunicações in Lisbon, and Galerie Charlot in Paris. His works have been featured in The New Yorker, Wired, The Atlantic, The Guardian, The Washington Post, El País, Libération, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and Der Spiegel. The Chicago Tribune called him the “unrivaled king of ominous gibberish.” Slate referred to his work as “creative civil disobedience in the digital age.” Grosser’s recognitions include First Prize in VIDA 16, and the Expanded Media Award for Network Culture from Stuttgarter Filmwinter. His writing about the cultural effects of technology has been published in journals such as Computational Culture, Media-N, and Big Data and Society. Grosser is an assistant professor of new media at the School of Art + Design, co-founder of the Critical Technology Studies Lab at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, and an affiliate faculty member with the Unit for Criticism and the School of Information Sciences, all at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

https://bengrosser.com

The CRITICAL x DESIGN series is generously supported by the School of Information; the Center for Political Studies at the Institute for Social Research; and the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan.

CRITICAL x DESIGN: Katherine Behar

Ehrlicher Room, 3100 North Quad

Digitally Divided: The Art of Algorithmic (In)Decision

ABSTRACT

In “Digitally Divided,” Behar presents her artwork with a focus on how algorithms dismantle and rearrange us. Across culture, algorithms have been unleashed to allocate complex systems into manageable portions. They mete out standardization and suppress idiosyncrasy across diverse and defiant populations of human and nonhuman objects, in ways that are socially, technically, and conceptually reductive. This lecture brings together examples of Behar’s videos, interactive installations, sculptures, and performances, alongside episodes from media history and popular culture to explore this core notion of being “digitally divided.”

SPEAKER BIO

Katherine Behar is an artist and critical theorist of new media whose work explores gender and labor in digital culture. In contexts spanning automated labor, mandated obsolescence, big data, and machine learning, Behar applies object-oriented feminism into practice in her art and writing. Her work connects feminist and antiracist post-colonial histories with a wave of new theories that grapple with the nonhuman object world. Katherine Behar’s works have appeared throughout North America and Europe. Pera Museum in Istanbul presented a comprehensive survey exhibition and catalog, Katherine Behar: Data’s Entry | Veri Girişi, in 2016. Additional solo exhibitions include Katherine Behar: Anonymous Autonomous (2018), Katherine Behar: E-Waste (2014, catalog/traveling), and numerous others collaborating as “Disorientalism.” Behar is the editor of Object-Oriented Feminism, coeditor of And Another Thing: Nonanthropocentrism and Art, and author of Bigger than You: Big Data and Obesity. She is Associate Professor of New Media Arts at Baruch College, CUNY.


Photo Credits:
Katherine Behar. E-Waste (UCM-OR1X), 2014. USB devices, Magic-Sculpt, Foam Coat, Paverpol, Styrofoam, stone filler, sand, pigment, cords, sound. Variable dimensions. Photo: Pera Museum. Image courtesy of the artist.

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