Darwin’s Animoji: Histories of Animation and Racism in Facial Recognition – Luke Stark, Microsoft Research

Thursday 10 October, 3.00pm – 4.30pm

John Woolley Common Room, N480, John Woolley Building A20, University of Sydney

RSVP via Eventbrite

Facial recognition systems are increasingly common components of smartphones and other consumer digital devices. These technologies enable animated video-sharing applications, such as Apple’s animoji and memoji, Facebook Messenger’s masks and filters and Samsung’s AR Emoji. Such animations serve as technical phenomena translating moments of affective and emotional expression into mediated, trackable, and socially legible forms across a variety of social media platforms.

Through technical and historical analysis of these digital artifacts, the talk will explore the ways facial recognition systems classify and categorize racial identities in human faces in relation to emotional expression. Drawing on the longer history of discredited pseudosciences such as phrenology, the paper considers the dangers of both racializing logics as part of these systems of classification, and of how social media data regarding emotional expression gathered through these systems can be used to reinforce systems of oppression and discrimination.

Luke Stark is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Fairness, Accountability, Transparency and Ethics (FATE) Group at Microsoft Research Montreal. His scholarship examines the history and contemporary societal impacts of AI and other digital media facilitating for social and emotional interaction. His work has been published in venues including Social Studies of Science, Media Culture and Society, History of the Human Sciences, and The International Journal of Communication. He has previously been a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology at Dartmouth College, a Fellow and Affiliate of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and an inaugural Fellow with the University of California Berkeley’s Center for Technology, Society, and Policy. He holds a PhD from the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and an Honours BA and MA in History from the University of Toronto.

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.