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Speaker Series

Fall 2023

Professor Kate Hennessy (Simon Fraser University): From galaxies to pixels, from flowing rivers to humming server farms, from family image archives to AI-generated compositions: the contemporary media environment is deeply relational, material, and political. In this talk, Professor Hennessy shares some work-in-progress that uses research-creation as a method for interpreting the ways in which emergent anthropological medialities are sensorial and entangled with human agencies, fugitive archives, and climate emergency. This work is situated within anthropology’s turn towards multimodality and her interest in using art-led, collaborative, and sensory practices to counter the invisibility of algorithmic ecologies that anthropological tools, archives, and practices are now deeply entangled with.


Professor Danaë Metaxa (University of Pennsylvania): Algorithm audits are powerful tools for studying black-box systems without direct knowledge of those systems’ inner workings. While they have been effectively deployed to identify harms and biases in algorithmic content, algorithm audits’ narrow focus on technical components stop short of considering users themselves as integral and dynamic parts of the system, to be audited alongside its algorithmic components. After an overview of the state of the art in algorithm auditing, this talk introduces sociotechnical auditing: evaluating algorithmic systems at the sociotechnical level, focusing on the interplay between algorithms and users as each impacts the other over time.

Spring 2023

Professor Megan Finn (University of Washington): a discussion on Ethics Governance in-the-Making. 


Ziyaad Bhorat, PhD: in collaboration with the USC Dornsife Center on Science, Technology, and Public Life (STPL), 2022-23 Berggruen Fellow Ziyaad Bhorat presents A Right to Freedom from Automation" based on his postdoctoral research.


Hannah Zeavin (Indiana University): a discussion of Professor Zeavin's book The Distance Cure: A History of Teletherapy (2021) and her work on the history of human sciences (psychoanalysis, psychology, and psychiatry), the history of technology, feminist STS, and media theory.


Professor Heather Ford (University of Technology Sydney): In this talk, Ford discusses the key findings from her book, Writing the Revolution: Wikipedia and the Survival of Facts in the Digital Age (2022), where she follows how facts about the 2011 Egyptian Revolution were constructed by Wikipedians and attendant algorithms over the course of a decade. Ford shares the five key agents she found to have influenced how history is written on Wikipedia – and how these representations reverberate through the internet, forming the raw material for the facts that the majority of us consume as consensus truth about what happened and why it happened. Wikipedia, it turns out, is not just a quirky project, an anomaly of the internet age: it is the source of knowledge/power in an age dominated by the logics and affordances of data.

Fall 2022

Professor Renyi Hong (National University of Singapore): a discussion of Professor Hong's new book Passionate Work (2022), where Hong theorizes the notion of being “passionate about your work” as an affective project that encourages people to endure economically trying situations like unemployment, job change, repetitive and menial labor, and freelancing.


Professor Cindy Lin (Penn State University): in a discussion titled "A Response to Errors in Machine Learning," Professor Lin examines the value of error as a site for negotiation within machine learning (ML) work. The talk presented an ethnographic analysis of how ML datasets are developed and evaluated to argue two points: first, errors disclose existing structures of collaboration, often undervalued or overseen in supposedly working systems, and second, errors rework old actors and sites in new ways, that re-enter and/or devalue the position of different actors.


Professor Karen Levy (Cornell University): a discussion of Professor Levy's new book Data Driven: Truckers, Technology, and the New Workplace Surveillance (2022), considering the dual, conflicting narratives of job replacement by robots and of bodily integration with robots, to assess the true range of AI's potential effects on low-wage work.


Spring 2022

Charley Johnson (Data & Society): an exploration of research opportunities for improving the capacity of government decision-makers grappling with the social implications of technology.


Dr. Rachel Moran & the University of Washington's Center for an Informed Public: a joint MASTS-CIP meeting gathering to share research projects, make individual connections, brainstorm new work that works across the two groups.


Dr. Katalin Fehér (Hungarian Academy of Sciences): a review of Dr. Fehér's Fulbright Scholarship work on patterns in how interdisciplinary scholars understand "Artificial Intelligence", and the new "AI Media Research Network" she has founded to convene researchers.


Shannon Dosemagen (Open Environmental Data Project): a discussion of where data about the environment come from, how data are managed and governed, and what collaborations such data might make possible.


Dr. Ali Pearl ("Making a Neighborhood"): a discussion of how the "Making a Neighborhood" (Los Angeles Time profile) newsletter came to be, its successes and challenges, and how local journalism can arise from residents telling stories about the histories and dynamics of where they live.


Professor Luke Stark (Western University): a discussion of Stark's book project "Ordering Emotion", a "history of the psychological and behavioral sciences’ influence on computing from World War II to the present."

Fall 2021

Professor Catherine Knight Steele (University of Maryland, College Park): a discussion and celebration of Professor Steele’s new book, Digital Black Feminism: Our Histories and Futures (2021). Black women are at the forefront of some of this century’s most important discussions about technology: trolling, online harassment, algorithmic bias, and influencer culture. But Black women’s relationship to technology began long before the advent of Twitter or Instagram. To truly “listen to Black women,” Steele's book looks to the history of Black feminist technoculture in the United States and its ability to decenter white supremacy and patriarchy in a conversation about the future of technology.


Professor Caitlin Petre (Rutgers University): a discussion of Petre’s new book, All the News That’s Fit to Click: How Metrics Are Transforming the Work of Journalists (2021). Petre describes how digital metrics are a powerful but insidious new form of managerial surveillance and discipline in her eye-opening account of data-driven journalism.


Professor Dylan Mulvin (London School of Economics): a discussion based on Mulvin’s book, Proxies: The Cultural Work of Standing In (MIT 2021), which uses the “proxy” to investigate the history and politics of knowledge through the models, prototypes, and templates that surround us.


Professor Stuart Candy (Carnegie Mellon University): in collaboration with the USC Dornsife Center on Science, Technology, and Public Life (STPL) and the Berggruen Institute, a visit from 2021-22 Berggruen Fellow Stuart Candy (@futuryst) to discuss his work on thinking about the future using experimental methods for scholarship, activism, and everyday life.

Spring 2021

Professor Lana Swartz (University of Virginia): A discussion of Professor Swartz’s work on Cryptocurrency Imaginaries. What are cryptocurrencies, how do they work, what’s at stake and why do they matter? Professor Swartz will also discuss her wider work on “new money” and social payment as well as her dissertation and book writing experience.


Professor Trebor Scholz (The New School): In collaboration with the Berggruen Institute, USC Dornsife Levan Institute for the Humanities, Annenberg Innovation Lab, and the USC Dornsife Center on Science, Technology, and Public Life, this event hosted Trebor Scholz in presenting his activist research on the worker cooperative as a promising economic alternative for the digital economy. Showcasing work with platform co-ops in India, Germany, Australia, Brazil, and the United States, Scholz demonstrates that a democratically-owned People’s Internet is not only possible but that it’s a promising economic alternative for the digital economy. 

Fall 2020

Professor Daniel Kreiss (University of North Carolina): “Two Days after Election Day, What’s Going On?” An informal conversation about the state of the 2020 US election as it stands on November 5th as we make sense of how voters, journalists, and platforms have acted, and what the future might hold. 


Dr. Joan Donovan (Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government): Former Facebook executives admit they used the tobacco industry’s playbook for addictive products. Perhaps it can also be used to undo the damage. Joan Donovan will discuss policy and regulatory responses for dealing with social media, disinformation and media manipulation. 


Professor Sarah Brayne (University of Texas, Austin): In the digital age, we scatter millions of digital traces in our wake as we go about our everyday lives. A discussion of Brayne’s book  Predict and Surveil: Data, Discretion, and the Future of Policing (2020), where she draws on her research with the Los Angeles Police Department to understand how the police use the digital trails we leave to deploy resources, identify criminal suspects, and conduct investigations. Although big data policing holds potential to reduce bias and increase efficiency, this research analyses how it also reproduces and deepens existing patterns of social inequality, threatens privacy, and challenges civil liberties.