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Digital Care and Cruelty
Digital Care and Cruelty: social provisioning and deprivation in the era of big data

Featuring: Virginia Eubanks (SUNY, Albany), Sasha Costanza-Chock (MIT), Joanna Redden (Western)

What good can big data, automation and artificial intelligence do for individuals in need of social assistance and what harms can it perpetuate?

The first in our Big Data at the Margins series explores the impacts of artificial intelligence, big data and digital technologies on those in need of social supports and resources in smaller towns and cities across Canada. Increasingly, cash-strapped city governments are outsourcing decisions about who can receive social benefits, such as housing, health, or other social services, to privately-owned software providers. While these outsourced, algorithmically determined decisions may expedite and equalize access, they are not transparent and can contain unacknowledged biases. As a result, people in need can find themselves on the wrong end of an opaque decision they are unable to challenge.

Our internationally recognized panelists will address the impact of algorithmic design and implementation and its uncritical adoption by governments on practices of social provisioning and patterns of social and economic marginalization more broadly. Virginia Eubanks, Associate Professor in the Department of Women's Studies at the University at Albany, writes extensively about the impacts of automated digital systems on homelessness, poverty and incarceration in the United States. Sasha Costanza-Chock, Associate Professor of Civic Media at MIT, examines the ways in which these systems reproduce well-established social and economic biases in their technological design, and Joanna Redden, co-founder of the Data Justice Lab and assistant professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at Western, examines the ways digital technologies can enhance, or disrupt, relationships between citizens and governments.

Jan 28, 2021 07:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Virginia Eubanks
Virginia Eubanks is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University at Albany, SUNY. She is the author of Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor; Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age; and co-editor, with Alethia Jones, of Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith. Her writing about technology and social justice has appeared in Scientific American, The Nation, Harper’s, and Wired. For two decades, Eubanks has worked in community technology and economic justice movements. She was a founding member of the Our Data Bodies Project and a 2016-2017 Fellow at New America. She lives in Troy, NY.
Sasha Costanza-Chock
Dr. Sasha Costanza-Chock (they/them or she/her) is a scholar and designer who works to support community-led processes that build shared power, dismantle the matrix of domination, and advance ecological survival. They are a nonbinary trans* femme. Their most recent book, Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need (MIT Press, 2020) is freely available at design-justice.pubpub.org.
Joanna Redden
Joanna Redden's research focuses on algorithmic governance, particularly how government bodies are making use of changing data systems, and the social justice implications of these changes. This work has involved mapping and assessing government uses of data systems as well as documenting data harms and learning from those trying to redress these harms in policy, community and activist contexts. Joanna’s work has been published in such journals as the Canadian Journal of Communication; Policy Studies; Information, Communication and Society; and Scientific American.