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.

Custodians of the Internet: Platforms, Content Moderation, and the Hidden Decisions that Shape Social Media – Tarleton Gillespie

Tuesday August 28, 4pm – 6pm

John Woolley Common Room, N480

John Woolley Building, A20

University of Sydney

RSVP via Eventbrite


Most social media users want their chosen platforms free from harassment and porn. But they also want to see the content they choose to see. This means platforms face an irreconcilable contradiction: while platforms promise an open space for participation and community, every one of them imposes rules of some kind.

 

In the early days of social media, content moderation was hidden away, even disavowed. But the illusion of the open platform has, in recent years, begun to crumble. Today, content moderation has never been more important, or more controversial. In Custodians of the Internet, Tarleton Gillespie investigates how social media platforms police what we post online – and the societal impact of these decisions.

 

“I have been writing about the impact of platforms and the digital transformation for fifteen years,” said Gillespie. “This book explains how content moderation works: how the platforms think of their responsibilities, the way they create and articulate the rules, the labor behind the scenes, and recent efforts to automate it all.” Based on interviews with content moderators, creators, and consumers, this book contributes to the current debates about the public responsibilities of platforms, be it about harassment, data privacy, or political propaganda.

 

Gillespie argues that content moderation still receives too little public scrutiny. How and why platforms moderate can shape societal norms and alter the contours of public discourse, cultural production, and the fabric of society.

 

Tarleton Gillespie is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research New England, part of the Social Media Collective research group. He is an affiliated associate professor at Cornell University, in the Department of Communication and the Department of Information Science. He cofounded the blog Culture Digitally.

He is the author of Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture (MIT, 2007), the co-editor of Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality, and Society (MIT, 2014); his newest book is Custodians of the Internet: Platforms, Content Moderation, and the Hidden Decisions that Shape Social Media (Yale, 2018).