Facing Our Computers: Algorithmic Literacies as Praxis | Transcript
Miriam E. Sweeney, Associate Professor, School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alabama
“Facing Our Computers: Algorithmic Literacies as Praxis” is a call to turn our attention to the current technological environment, characterized by increased reliance on algorithmic technologies, and grapple with it as part and parcel of the broader social, political, and economic landscape. Borrowing from Paulo Freire’s (1972) definition of praxis as “reflection and action directed at the structure to be transformed”, I invite us to consider how ”facing our computers” (i.e. developing critical algorithmic literacies as a reflective tool) might help LIS “expand the conversation” around algorithmic culture in our professional roles in order to better formulate actions and responses that lead us to better collective futures.
I had a wonderful time presenting with my research partner Melissa Villa-Nicholas on one of our projects about Latina AI at the Harvard Kennedy School on March 25th. Our talk focused on "Emma", the Latina virtual assistant used by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as a part of their e-government services. This presentation explores the cultural affordances of Latina identity as a strategic design choice in the Emma interface that extends citizenship and nation-building projects for the state, while masking underlying information and data gathering capabilities.
We were privileged to have Dana Chisnell, co-director of the Center for Civic Design, serve as a moderator for our talk. We felt very welcome, thanks largely to all of the hard work and planning of Vanessa Rhinesmith, the Associate Director of digitalHKS. Thank you to everyone who came and talked with us about the politics and surveillance implications of digital technologies designed to gather information about Latinx communities.
Recording of talk available to watch here.
*Watch for our paper, "Designing the ‘good citizen’ through Latina identity in USCIS’s virtual assistant ‘Emma'", in Feminist Media Studies forthcoming later in 2019.