As a gay man, I literally don’t count in America. Despite previous reports that we would be counted for the first time in history, this week the Trump administration announced that LGBT Americans will not be included in the 2020 census.
I read about this earlier in the week, and when I watched the TED talk on statistics I was reminded about this. There was talk, recently, about LGBT Americans being counted in the 2020 census. Obviously being able to quantify the number of LGBT people will mean that policy will have to take this information into account – if the census demonstrates conclusively that x% of Americans are LGBT, then that is a weapon for agitating for better rights, better provisions, better services, better everything, really. The plan to count LGBT Americans has been shelved this week, and this represents a major challenge for the LGBT community in the US.
I think it’s a really clear example of the socio-critical elements of data and algorithmic cultures. If you have an unequal structure to begin with, then the algorithms used to make sense of that may well replicate that inequality. And if you assume that the data is not necessary to begin with, then there’s no accountability at all.
Netflix has revealed the most popular TV shows and films in regions across the UK. And it’s thrown up some surprising differences in country’s viewing habits. By analysing statistics between October 2016 and this month, the streaming service was able to reveal what parts of the country are more inclined to watch a specific genre compared to others.
So quotes the article above. I know it’s only a bit of silliness – it’s one step away from a Buzzfeed-esque ‘Can we guess where you live based on your favourite Netflix show?’. The worst bit is that there’s a tiny amount of truth to it: I have watched Gilmore Girls AND I live in the South East. I reject the article’s proposal, however, that this implies that I am “pining for love”.
So yes, it’s overly simplistic and makes assumptions (such as the one that everyone watches Netflix, or that heterogeneity is a result of a postcode lottery); ultimately, it’s a bit of vapid fluff. But it’s also a bit of vapid fluff that exemplifies how far algorithmic cultures are embedded in the media we consume: the data collected about us now just entertainment ouput.
This reminds me of the part about Moravec’s Mind Children in N. Katherine Hayles’ book, How we Became Posthuman (I just read ‘Theorizing Posthumanism by Badmington, which refers to it as well). There’s a scenario in Mind Children, writes Hayles, where Moravec argues that it will soon be possible to download human consciousness into a computer.
How, I asked myself, was it possible for someone of Moravec’s obvious intelligence to believe that mind could be separated from body? Even assuming that such a separation was possible, how could anyone think that consciousness in an entirely different medium would remain unchanged, as if it had no connection with embodiment? Shocked into awareness, I began to notice he was far from alone. (1999, p. 1)
It appears that Moravec wasn’t wrong about the possibility of the technology to ‘download’ human consciousness, but let’s hope the scientists all get round to reading Hayles’ work on this techno-utopia before the work really starts…
Badmington, N. (2003). Theorizing Posthumanism. Cultural Critique, (53), 10–27.
Hayles, N. K. (1999). How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics. Chicago, Ill: University of Chicago Press.
Just Pinned to Education and Digital Cultures: http://ift.tt/2ogZpOw
This is a photo of my very tiny, very messy desk at home, taken last weekend, just hours after my computer keyboard and trackpad decided to pack in permanently.
It wasn’t a major problem – I already had a bluetooth mouse and keyboard, and I was able to get an appointment to get the computer fixed this week. But I included this image because this slight interruption in the way that I work felt unsettling. The computer not working as I expected it to affected the way that I would normally study, and it affected (well, delayed) what I had planned to do over the weekend.
One of the themes of EDC is battling the supposed binary of technological instrumentalism and technological determinism, of proving that it’s all a little more complex and nuanced than that. This was, for me, a reminder (and a pretty annoying one) that my conceptualisations of how technology might be used and practised is not always followed through in my enactment of it.</P
Chat apps that promise to prevent your messages being accessed by strangers are under scrutiny again following last week’s terror attack in London. On Sunday, the home secretary said the intelligence services must be able to access relevant information.
This is only tangentially related to our readings and the themes we’ve been exploring throughout the course, but I do think it’s worth including. Many ‘chat’ apps use end-to-end encryption, so messages sent are private, even to the company itself. The government clearly believes that this shouldn’t be allowed, and is attempting to take steps to prevent it. Hopefully unsuccessfully, I should add.
There’s an assumption here that data about us ought to be at least potentially public – chat apps, says the Home Secretary, must not provide a ‘secret place’. It’s not far from this position to one that says that we don’t own the data we generate, along with the data generated about us: where we are, who we send messages to, and so on. There are questions around the intersection of civil liberties and technology, and whether there’s a digital divide in terms of the ability to protect yourself from surveillance online.