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Histories of Artificial Intelligence: A Genealogy of Power


Friday 28 August 2020, 15:00–17:00 BST

Co-facilitators: Maggie McGrath (Oxford University), Dr Rachel Kuo (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Dylan Baker (Independent Researcher; Google) and Deepak Mallya (Independent Researcher, Product Designer).

Maggie McGrath is a Doctoral Student at the Oxford Internet Institute. Maggie's research focuses on AI and the architectural design process. She considers the relationship between everyday algorithmic AI used for image sourcing in ideation and the acceleration of an aesthetic monoculture. Through this inquiry, she questions how the (re)development of space is legitimized, and who it benefits most. Maggie's research emerged from practical experience as a designer. In founding AI Yesterday, a zine that critically engages with AI histories, she hopes to continue dialogues between practitioners, artists and academics through an experimental and accessible format.

Dr Rachel Kuo writes, teaches, and researches race, social movements, and digital technology. She is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She has a PhD in Media, Culture, and Communication from New York University. Her current project interrogates the concept of 'solidarity' across media objects and platforms and demonstrates how technologies enhance and foreclose possibilities for political organization across uneven racial and class difference. Her research brings together archival research, ethnographic fieldwork, data and network analysis, and survey data, emphasizing Asian American political formations in digital ecosystems. She is a founding member and current affiliate of the Center for Critical Race and Digital Studies and also a co-founder of the Asian American Feminist Collective.

Dylan Baker examines identity and classification, specifically as it relates to crowd computation. Dylan currently leads human computation for the Ethical AI team at Google, with a focus on data ethics, human computation ethics, and ethical AI more broadly. Dylan helped run the CTRL-Z Zine fair at FAccT 2020, which examined human classification and Algorithmically Encoded Identities, and has made zines independently. At Google, Dylan has worked as a software engineer on data pipelines and infrastructure for experimental machine learning projects and has executed studies motivating Diversity and Inclusion Metrics in Subset Selection.

Deepak Mallya is an award winning designer and creative technologist committed to humanising technology. He holds degrees from the Royal College of Art, Imperial College London and Srishti School of Art Design and Technology. Deepak co-founded The Tyre Collective and co-leads development of AI Yesterday with Maggie.

Session summary

Situated between activist and art practices and bringing together freeform text, collage, and illustration, the zine – like diaries, journals, and letters – is a genre of the margins. Made to speak back to dominant cultures and understandings, it encourages playfulness, humour, and irony as forms of seriousness. In choosing this form, we aim to give space for critical engagements with AI which embrace what academic writing excludes by convention – and so doing open a productive space for academics, activists, and artists to exchange on free-form, interactive ground. Bringing together participants' contributions, the resulting zine provides an alternative way to document the Seminar's activities.

Following a 10-minute introduction to zines as a countercultural form for knowledge production and exchange, Maggie will facilitate a hands-on, experimental session in which participants translate their research on AI histories into an A4 zine spread. We will follow the working session with a discussion that includes Maggie's research on AI and the design process and AI Yesterday, our AI focused zine that critically engages with AI histories.

The theme for this issue will be Hype/Less. Keeping in line with this month's Seminar focus on disingenuous rhetoric, we will explore the hype that persistently accompanies AI and consider how to make it less pervasive. Through this we hope to deescalate the imaginaries hype affords.

Participation is possible using digital or analogue tools. Please feel free to bring the following materials to the session: A4 or 8 1/2x11 paper, pens and pencils, markers, scissors, collage materials and glue. If you feel more comfortable with digital participation, programmes like Powerpoint or Photoshop would be suitable. We welcome experimentation if you have other tools in mind! This workshop requires no previous knowledge or skills.

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