Artificial intelligence (AI) is arguably the new spectre of digital cultures. By filtering information out of existing data, it determines the way we see the world and how the world sees us. Yet the vision algorithms have of our future is built on our past. What we teach these algorithms ultimately reflects back on us and it is therefore no surprise when artificial intelligence starts to classify on the basis of race, class and gender. With this issue of spheres we want to focus on current discussions around AI, automation, robotics and machine learning, from an explicitly political perspective. Instead of invoking and, therefore, perpetuating the spectre of artificial intelligence as a ‘programmed vision’ built on our past, we are interested in tracing human and non-human agency within automated processes, discussing the ethical implications of machine learning, and exploring the ideologies behind the imaginaries of AI.
Our Issue #2: Ecologies of Change has received two new submissions: In an interview with Peter Krapp, Full Professor in the Department of Film & Media Studies at the University of California, Irvine, Eduardo Luersen and Guilherme Malo Maschke enter into conversation around his most recent book Noise Channels: Glitch and Error in Digital Culture (2011). In his accompanying comment “Visual, Ergonomic, and Fragmentary“, João Martins Ladeira traces Peter Krapp’s vision about the digital within his work. Have a look!
We have just published a new contribution to Issue #1: Politics after Networks! Based on his research project Campus Medius, Simon Ganahl explores “Digital Mapping in the Humanities.” After presenting the initial and the forthcoming version of campusmedius.net, he elaborates on the website’s data model, which operationalises Foucault’s dispositif and Latour’s actor-network. The article finally outlines the project’s long-term plans of establishing a digital platform for “mapping modern media”.
Over the last years we have been witnessing a shift in the conception of artificial intelligence, in particular with the explosion in machine learning technologies. These largely hidden systems determine how data is gathered, analyzed, and presented or used for decision-making. The data and how it is handled are not neutral, but full of ambiguity and presumptions, which implies that machine learning algorithms are constantly fed with biases that mirror our everyday culture; what we teach these algorithms ultimately reflects back on us and it is therefore no surprise when artificial neural networks start to classify and discriminate on the basis of race, class and gender. (Blockbuster news regarding that women are being less likely to get well paid job offers shown through recommendation systems, a algorithm which was marking pictures of people of color as gorillas, or the delivery service automatically cutting out neighborhoods in big US cities where mainly African Americans and Hispanics live, show how trends of algorithmic classification can relate to the restructuring of the life chances of individuals and groups in society.) However, classification is an essential component of artificial intelligence, insofar as the whole point of machine learning is to distinguish ‘valuable’ information from a given set of data. By imposing identity on input data, in order to filter, that is to differentiate signals from noise, machine learning algorithms become a highly political issue. The crucial question in relation to machine learning therefore is: how can we systematically classify without being discriminatory? (more…)
The years following the 2008 economic crisis have seen a return to questions of social reproduction (e.g. Bhattacharya 2017, Cooper and Waldby 2014, Dimitrakaki et al. 2016, Fraser 2016, Federici 2012, Laboria Cuboniks 2015, Preciado 2013, Vora 2015, and Weeks 2011). A series of issues and problems that were at stake in the ‘domestic labour debates’ of the 1970s and ’80s (e.g. Malos 1980) have been revisited and variously reaffirmed or rethought. Johanna Brenner and Barbara Laslett’s (1989) influential definition of feminist work on social reproduction describes it as addressing ‘the activities and attitudes, behaviours and emotions, responsibilities and relationships directly involved in the maintenance of life on a daily basis, and intergenerationally’. As such, it has encompassed an engagement with the (gendered) ways needs and expectations are met, how the young, the elderly, the ill and others are cared for, the manner in which socialisation take place, and the ways sexuality is produced, organised and regulated. These phenomena have often also been studied in terms of the role they play in reproducing society as a whole; both how they serve to reproduce society’s means of producing, and how they (re-)produce various social hierarchies, differences, and forms of inclusion/exclusion. (more…)
Please join us for the launch of our fourth issue on “Media and Migration” at the Welcome and Learning Center in Lüneburg on July 4th. spheres: Journal for Digital Cultures is an open peer reviewed web journal associated with the Centre for Digital Cultures (CDC) at Leuphana University of Lüneburg. It is concerned with contemporary, historical and emerging discussions about digital cultures, while at the same time exploring the theoretical, political and social stakes within these debates.
In our fourth issue of spheres, we investigate the significance of digital technologies for migration and the relation between migratory regimes and practices on the one hand, and digital cultures and infrastructures on the other.
For more information, visit the Facebook event that you can find here.
Have a look at our newest contribution to Issue #3: Unstable Infrastructures! In their article “Humanitarian Media Intervention”, Tim Schütz and Sebastian Kubitschko focus on the entanglement of forced migration, humanitarianism and the attempt to spread sociotechnical imaginaries of alternative wireless networks. By the example of “Freifunk for Refugees”, the authors highlight the struggle for migrants’ communication rights – not only in terms of providing Internet access at refugee shelters but also of articulating the infrastructural and political implications of open communication networks.
No digital cultures without infrastructures! This issue will look into the theoretical as well as practical explorations of infrastructures as operational backbone of digital cultures. We deem infrastructures, understood as an ensemble of human, social and technological individuals, important for yielding new forms of knowledge, which are able to challenge and transform the current architecture of infrastructural systems, software protocols, and network media, represented by corporate Internet-platforms like Amazon, Facebook or Google. Even though we have been witnessing an ‘explosion’ of the discourse around digital cultures and its infrastructures in the last years, most of the research and critique in this field is still based on the model of a predefined network, thereby repeating the epistemological presuppositions of nodes and links, rather than thinking about alternative perspectives for our technocultural future. Beyond commercial media platforms, where the individual remains a clearly identifiable point within the network, in order to address him or her with personalized ads, network technologies contain the potential to foster new forms of subjectivity, where the individual becomes a network itself – from the networked individual to the individual as network. (more…)