Automated Decision Making and Society – Julian Thomas

Friday 15 March, 2019, 3.00pm – 4.30pm

MECO Seminar Room, S226, John Woolley Building A20, University of Sydney

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Digital media industries are at the head of a new wave of automation, driven by an expanding array of intelligent technologies, from deep learning to blockchains. Automation promises great benefits, but concerns abound over the prospects of industry disruption, increasing inequality, declining productivity, and diminishing economic security. With the rapid expansion of automated decision making, new risks to human rights and welfare are emerging. This talk reviews current developments in automation, and considers the ways in which researchers in media studies may contribute to the emergence of ethical, responsible and inclusive automation.

Julian Thomas is Professor of Media and Communications at RMIT University. He leads the Technology, Communications and Policy Lab in RMIT’s Digital Ethnography Research Centre. Julian’s recent publications include Internet on the Outstation (INC, 2016), Measuring the Digital Divide (2016, 2017, 2018), The Informal Media Economy (Polity, 2015), and Fashioning Intellectual Property (Cambridge UP, 2012). He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities, and is actively involved in a wide range of consumer, research and policy organisations in the technology and communications sectors.

Fast Data, Slow Bodies: Automation, Humans, Machines

Fast Data, Slow Bodies: Automation, Humans, Machines

Roundtable discussion by: Caroline Bassett (University of Sussex), Helen Thornham (University of Leeds) and Edgar Gómez Cruz (University of New South Wales)

When: Fri. 20 April 2018 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm AEST (Discussion will be followed by informal drinks in the John Woolley Building)

Where: MECO Seminar Room S226, John Woolley Building A20, University of Sydney, NSW 2006

Registration Required on Eventbrite

This roundtable with Caroline Bassett (University of Sussex), Helen Thornham (University of Leeds) and Edgar Gómez Cruz (University of New South Wales) stems from the provocation that automation as an (almost) ontological condition is shaping our ability to intervene in, or ask questions about the (digital) world. Automation is understood through a number of related and trans-disciplinary approaches to the ‘post-digital’ (Cramer); big data (Gitelman, boyd and Crawford), digital ethnography and anthropology (Horst & Miller, Pink et. al., Hine), critical computational studies (Sterne, Clough), science and technology studies (van House, Suchman). It is engaged with the critical and methodological, material and computational issues that emerge from the lived condition of ‘being digital’ particularly in relation to how automation (as forms of expertise and data; as configured systems, infrastructures and interfaces; as disciplined and material bodies) is positioning us in particular ways, and configuring a particular kind of world. More specifically, the discussants are concerned with the methodological and theoretical implications of this conditioning: in what this means for our ability to ask critical questions ofautomation; in what this means for the broader narrative of digital culture and the methods we utilise for interrogating it in the future. Drawing on expertise from digital media ethnographies (Gómez Cruz), critical software studies (Bassett) and feminist digital ethnography (Thornham), the authors draw on case studies in response to UK government initiatives around the digital economy. These preliminary ideas form the base of a book to be published, with the same title, in 2019 (Palgrave).

Caroline Bassett is Professor of Digital Media at the University of Sussex and Director of the Sussex Humanities Lab. Her research explores digital technology and cultural transformation. She is currently completing work on anti-computing, defined as a popular and critical response to automation, and is collaborating on a project exploring feminist technophile politics. She has published extensively on gender and technology, critical theories of the technological, on automation and expertise, and on science fiction and technological imaginaries.

Helen Thornham is an Associate Professor of Digital Cultures at the University of Leeds, UK. Her research focuses on gender and technological mediations, data and digital inequalities. Herforthcoming book, Gender and Digital Culture: Irreconcilabilities and the Datalogical (2018) explores issues of maternal and female subjectivity through datalogical systems.

Edgar Gómez Cruz is a Senior Lecturer in Media (Digital Cultures) at the UNSW in Sydney. His research covers a wide range of topics related to Digital practices using ethnographic and visual methods. Currently he is carrying out an ethnographic fieldwork with street photographers, focusing on visual interfaces, the right to the city and urban interactions.