Revisions: Decoding Technological Bias


• Mushon Zer-Aviv, David Dao,
and Morgan G. Ames
• Jillian York
• Maureen Webb
• Kalindi Vora and Neda Atanasoski
• Jonathan Beller and Gary O’Bannon
• Ryan Milner and Whitney Phillips
• Jer Thorp and Romi Ron Morrison


• Understanding AI Data Bias Workshop
• BYOW Workshop: Build Your Own Words to Resist Algorithmic Censorship
• Meme Tactics Workshop


Join City Lights, the Goethe-Institut San Francisco, and Gray Area for Revisions, a week-long festival exploring how technological bias shapes our cultural realities.

Our trust in mediated experiences has never been lower. Governed by algorithms that perpetuate the biases and weaknesses of their developers, our cultural consumption is increasingly shaped by undetectable forces that determine our reality. Images play an important role here: fake photos and videos created with deep neural networks threaten privacy, democracy, and national security. Vision recognition systems skew gender, race, and class differences and become vehicles of discrimination. Underdeveloped AI models misrepresent the health disparities faced by minority populations.

How can we illuminate the algorithmic bias embedded within technology and counter the perpetuation of bias? What innovative approaches can we develop to strengthen inclusion, diversity, and sustainability in technology?

This festival brings a network of luminaries together to share new perspectives and rewrite new visions advocating for justice and reclaiming power.

The festival is part of the project IMAGE + BIAS that critically engages with the cultural realities being increasingly determined by imperceptible technologies.


Encountering Technological Bias

Mushon Zer-Aviv, David Dao, and Morgan G. Ames
June 10 2021, 10 am PT/1 pm ET 

Contemporary visual regimes are trending towards an infinite supply of digitally-twisted, fictitious, and discriminatory visual representations engineered for political, social, and cultural purposes.
The panel discussion brings together experts in different fields to identify various forms of embedded bias within our networked image cultures. How can we counter the perpetuation of bias? How can we infiltrate the opaque mechanisms upon which technological systems are built? What innovative approaches can we develop to strengthen inclusion, diversity, and sustainability in technology?

Mushon Zer-Aviv is a designer, researcher, educator and media activist based in Tel Aviv. He teaches digital media as a senior faculty member at Shenkar School of Engineering and Design. Previously he taught new media research at NYU and Open Source design at Parsons the New School of Design and in Bezalel Academy of Art & Design.

David Dao is a Ph.D. student in Computer Science at ETH Zurich and founder of GainForest, a non-profit developing decentralized technology to reverse deforestation with pilot projects in South America and South-East Asia.

Morgan G. Ames researches the ideological origins of inequality in the technology world, with a focus on utopianism, childhood, and learning. Morgan is an Assistant Adjunct Professor in the School of Information and Associate Director of Research for the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society at the University of California, Berkeley.

Against Technosolutionism! Why We Can't Regulate Our Way Out Of This Mess

Jillian York
June 10 2021, 12pm PT / 3pm ET

The same radical technologies that helped give rise the social and political movements of 2010-12 later enabled a rise in disinformation, propaganda, and the promotion of other harms. Today, our societies are grappling to find solutions, but looking in all the wrong places.

Jillian C. York is International Activism Director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, EFF. She is also a founding member of the feminist collective, Deep Lab.

Coding Democracy - How Hackers Are Disrupting Power, Surveillance, and Authoritarianism

Maureen Webb
June 11 2021, 12pm PT / 3pm ET

Hackers have a bad reputation, as shady deployers of bots and destroyers of infrastructure. Maureen Webb would like to offer another view. Hackers, she argues, can be vital disruptors. Hacking is becoming a practice, an ethos, and a metaphor for a new wave of activism in which ordinary citizens are inventing new forms of distributed, decentralized democracy for a digital era. Confronted with concentrations of power, mass surveillance, and authoritarianism enabled by new technology, the hacking movement is trying to “build out” democracy into cyberspace.

Maureen Webb is a human rights lawyer and activist. She has spoken extensively on post-September 11 security and human rights issues, most recently testifying before the House and Senate Committees reviewing the Canadian Anti-terrorism Act.

Surrogate Futures: Technology, Race, and the Human

Kalindi Vora and Neda Atanasoski
June 11 2021, 3pm PT / 6pm ET

In this talk, Kalindi Vora and Neda Atanasoski consider how the surrogate effect of technology within technoliberalism, as they describe it in their book, Surrogate Humanity: Race, Robots and the Politics of Technological Futures (2019), comes to bear on recent discussions around technological bias. Assessing how technological design is central to envisioning and shaping different potential futures, they emphasize the importance of thinking beyond bias if we are to understand how racial capitalism undergirds technological design. They also explore radical design politics that disrupt more mainstream uses and visions of technological value.

Neda Atanasoski is Professor of Feminist Studies and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and author of Humanitarian Violence: The U.S. Deployment of Diversity.

Kalindi Vora is Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies at the University of California, Davis, and author of Life Support: Biocapital and the New History of Outsourced Labor.

Economic Media: For the Decolonization of Money

Jonathan Beller and Gary O’Bannon  
June 12, 2021, 10 am PT/1 pm ET 

If money is the primary medium of value transfer in 2021, why and more importantly, how is it extractive? As a set of protocols, does monetary media conform to the violent logics of race, gender, nation and class that have been detected and, of late, so vigorously critiqued in other media? In short, in what ways are existing money forms biased? Moreover, can it be said that the biases in the calculus of the financial system have articulated and indeed fused with biases in our representational and computational media? This talk understands “convergence”, the convergence of representational, computational and financial media in and as “the digital” in precisely these terms. It shows how monetary media, by inscribing code on bodies, is a force of ongoing colonization under racial capitalism, and points towards possibilities for its decolonization and communization through art, ecology, activism, protest, organizing, and crypto-economic design.

Jonathan Beller is Professor of Media Studies at Pratt Institute and member of the Economic Space Agency (ECSA) think tank as well as of the Social Texteditorial collective.

Gary O’Bannon joined the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Bloch School of Management in 2012, as an adjunct instructor, teaching master’s and undergraduate human resource management and leadership curriculums.

You Are Here: A Field Guide

Ryan Milner and Whitney Phillips
June 12 2021, 12pm PT / 3pm ET

Our media environment is in crisis. Polarization is rampant. Polluted information floods social media. Even our best efforts to help clean up can backfire, sending toxins roaring across the landscape. In You Are Here, Whitney Phillips and Ryan Milner offer strategies for navigating increasingly treacherous information flows. Using ecological metaphors, they emphasize how our individual me is entwined within a much larger we, and how everyone fits within an ever-shifting network map.

Whitney Phillips is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies at Syracuse University and the author of This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture (MIT Press).

Ryan M. Milner is Associate Professor of Communication at the College of Charleston and author of The World Made Meme: Public Conversations and Participatory Media (MIT Press).

Living in Data

Jer Thorp and Romi Ron Morrison
June 12 2021, 3pm PT / 6pm ET

To live in data in the twenty-first century is to be incessantly extracted from, classified and categorized, statisti-fied, sold, and surveilled. Data—our data—is mined and processed for profit, power, and political gain. In Living in Data, Thorp asks a crucial question of our time: How do we stop passively inhabiting data, and instead become active citizens of it?

Jer Thorp is an artist, a writer, and a teacher. He was the first data artist in residence at The New York Times, he is a National Geographic Explorer, and he served as the innovator in residence at the Library of Congress in 2017 and 2018. He lives under the Manhattan Bridge with his family and his awesome dog, Trapper John, MD. Living in Data is his first book.

Romi Ron Morrison is a Black queer non-binary artist, researcher, and educator. Their work investigates the personal, political, ideological, and spatial boundaries of race, ethics, and social infrastructure within digital technologies. Using maps, data, sound, performance, and video, their installations center Black Feminist technologies that challenge the demands of an increasingly quantified world—reducing land into property, people into digits, and knowledge into data.


City Lights Booksellers & Publishers

City Lights Books is a landmark independent bookstore and publisher that specializes in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics.

Goethe-Institut San Francisco

The Goethe-Institut is the cultural institute of the Federal Republic of Germany with a global reach. We promote knowledge of the German language abroad and foster international cultural cooperation. We convey a comprehensive image of Germany by providing information about cultural, social and political life in our nation. Our cultural and educational programmes encourage intercultural dialogue and enable cultural involvement. They strengthen the development of structures in civil society and foster worldwide mobility.

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