Ruha Benjamin: Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code (2019)

5 November 2019, dusan

“From everyday apps to complex algorithms, Ruha Benjamin cuts through tech-industry hype to understand how emerging technologies can reinforce White supremacy and deepen social inequity.

Benjamin argues that automation, far from being a sinister story of racist programmers scheming on the dark web, has the potential to hide, speed up, and deepen discrimination while appearing neutral and even benevolent when compared to the racism of a previous era. Presenting the concept of the “New Jim Code,” she shows how a range of discriminatory designs encode inequity by explicitly amplifying racial hierarchies; by ignoring but thereby replicating social divisions; or by aiming to fix racial bias but ultimately doing quite the opposite. Moreover, she makes a compelling case for race itself as a kind of technology, designed to stratify and sanctify social injustice in the architecture of everyday life.

This illuminating guide provides conceptual tools for decoding tech promises with sociologically informed skepticism. In doing so, it challenges us to question not only the technologies we are sold but also the ones we ourselves manufacture.”

Publisher Polity Press, Cambridge, 2019
ISBN 9781509526406, 1509526404
x+285 pages

Interview with author (Sanjana Varghese, Guardian, 2019)

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Thor Magnusson: Sonic Writing: Technologies of Material, Symbolic, and Signal Inscriptions (2019)

16 September 2019, dusan

Sonic Writing explores how contemporary music technologies trace their ancestry to previous forms of instruments and media. Studying the domains of instrument design, musical notation, and sound recording under the rubrics of material, symbolic, and signal inscriptions of sound, the book describes how these historical techniques of sonic writing are implemented in new digital music technologies. With a scope ranging from ancient Greek music theory, medieval notation, early modern scientific instrumentation to contemporary multimedia and artificial intelligence, it provides a theoretical grounding for further study and development of technologies of musical expression. The book draws a bespoke affinity and similarity between current musical practices and those from before the advent of notation and recording, stressing the importance of instrument design in the study of new music and projecting how new computational technologies, including machine learning, will transform our musical practices.

Sonic Writing offers a richly illustrated study of contemporary musical media, where interactivity, artificial intelligence, and networked devices disclose new possibilities for musical expression. Thor Magnusson provides a conceptual framework for the creation and analysis of this new musical work, arguing that contemporary sonic writing becomes a new form of material and symbolic design–one that is bound to be ephemeral, a system of fluid objects where technologies are continually redesigned in a fast cycle of innovation.”

Publisher Bloomsbury Academic, New York & London, 2019
ISBN 9781501313851, 1501313851
xiv+290 pages

Reviews: Gregory Taylor (Cycling ’74, 2019), Diana Chester (Interference, 2019).

Author’s research blog
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Neda Atanasoski, Kalindi Vora: Surrogate Humanity: Race, Robots, and the Politics of Technological Futures (2019)

14 June 2019, dusan

“In Surrogate Humanity Neda Atanasoski and Kalindi Vora trace the ways in which robots, artificial intelligence, and other technologies serve as surrogates for human workers within a labor system entrenched in racial capitalism and patriarchy. Analyzing myriad technologies, from sex robots and military drones to sharing-economy platforms, Atanasoski and Vora show how liberal structures of antiblackness, settler colonialism, and patriarchy are fundamental to human—machine interactions, as well as the very definition of the human. While these new technologies and engineering projects promise a revolutionary new future, they replicate and reinforce racialized and gendered ideas about devalued work, exploitation, dispossession, and capitalist accumulation. Yet, even as engineers design robots to be more perfect versions of the human—more rational killers, more efficient workers, and tireless companions—the potential exists to develop alternative modes of engineering and technological development in ways that refuse the racial and colonial logics that maintain social hierarchies and inequality.”

Publisher Duke University Press, 2019
Perverse Modernities series
ISBN 9781478003861, 1478003863
x+240 pages

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