Race and/as technology. A course blog.

Welcome to the future

In the recent years, the relationship between race and digital technologies has gained new momentum. Emergent forms of engineered inequalities, from the governance of life through biotechnologies and algorithms to the commodification of bodies in platform capitalism or the biopolitical management of b/ordering are now at the core of the study of the dynamics of power. The aim of this course is to understand how racial logics enter the design of technology and how race itself operates as a tool of division that undermines social life-worlds and human rights. The goal is to move beyond techno-determinism and to understand how the practices and social norms are a constitutive part of technological design. We aim to unpack multiple black boxes to get a nuanced understanding of intersectional perspectives for the study of race and/as technology. What role does technology play in the construction of society, democracy, and knowledge? How to capture the role of the (post-)human and technology? Reading classics in social theory, as well as recent contributions to feminist, postcolonial, and critical race studies, the participants will gain a broad understanding of the interstices of the study of race and/as technology. In addition, we will consider contributions from art and culture to expand our themes of interest.

New posts

Is data activism a way of democratic intervention in these times of big data?

Citizens are becoming more conscious of the crucial function of information in modern societies as big data becomes more widely available. This knowledge fosters new social activities based on data and technology, which I refer to as ‘data activism.’ Massive data collecting is viewed as a threat to individual rights as well as a uniqueContinue reading “Is data activism a way of democratic intervention in these times of big data?”

Glitching Diacritics

Written Arabic uses different forms of diacritics (the fancy term for those signs attached to letters, such as accents or umlauts, for example). Among them are the تَشْكِيل (Tashkil) which provide phonetic guide to the correct pronunciation and may ensure the proper identification of a word when necessary. Apart from the Qur’an, or texts adressedContinue reading “Glitching Diacritics”

We organize in under 10 minutes

“Gorillas exists to create a world with immediate access to your needs“, claims Kağan Sümer, CEO of the delivery platform Gorillas. This not so fresh twist on paradise on earth brought to you by capitalism starts off the self-proclaimed “manifesto“ on the Gorillas website. In fact, the start-up was founded in May 2020 and increasedContinue reading “We organize in under 10 minutes”

How white is your voice? (2)

In 2009, a French film industry was found guilty of racism because it prohibited Black actors from dubbing white voices based on their “tone”. It was believed that their voice had a distinctive, which would not correspond to White voices. As ridiculous this is, it shows the continuity and the impact of early film andContinue reading “How white is your voice? (2)”

How Black is your voice? (1)

You may remember “Mammy Two Shoes” the housemaid from Tom and Jerry or Mr. Popo the god’s servant from Dragonball Z. Two shows that were – at least in my childhood- very present. It is not shocking that many cartoons or shows we watch or have watched in our childhood contain such obvious racist stereotypesContinue reading “How Black is your voice? (1)”

Resisting Data Capitalism: Browsing „Data for Black Lives”

Something that I feel kept coming up during our course discussions around race and/as technologies and the literature we worked with was the question of a possible subversion of racializing/racialized technologies, not just theoretically, but practically. Are there wholes to slip through, glitches to amplify, fissures to crack open to evade and break systems ofContinue reading “Resisting Data Capitalism: Browsing „Data for Black Lives””

Of genographics, the epigenetic clock and technologies of deportation

When reading Jenny Reardon‘s and Kim TallBear‘s Your DNA Our History I got particularly stuck with their tracing of the continuancy of whites taking hold of somewhat still racialized bodies and bodily material. The authors account for the historical-present „exploitation of indigenous peoples as research subjects“1 accompanied by a mode of racial ordering in whichContinue reading “Of genographics, the epigenetic clock and technologies of deportation”

Automated Bureaucracy

One of the papers for this Friday, Automating Inequality gets so close to a critique of bureaucracy and then misses the mark to instead plead with an imagined American Nation to act reasonably because it is in the political interest of “both sides” that it boils my blood.Its especially bothersome, as the topic of theContinue reading “Automated Bureaucracy”

Algorithmic discrimination and legal consequences

In the Netflix documentary “Coded Bias” the recruiting tool used by Amazon was mentioned. The documentary shows how Amazon’s AI experts uncovered a major issue: their new recruiting tool didn’t care for women. The group had been building computer programs since 2014 to survey work candidates’ resumes determined to motorize the quest for top ability.Continue reading “Algorithmic discrimination and legal consequences”

DNA Ancestry Testing 2/2

DNA Ancestry Testing in the Bavarian Police Law In criminal forensics, DNA ancestry tests are sometimes used in order to find something out about the appearance of the perpetrator or other people involved in a crime based on DNA traces at the crime scene. Under the new version of the Bavarian Police Task Act (Polizeiaufgabengesetz,Continue reading “DNA Ancestry Testing 2/2”

DNA Ancestry Testing 1/2

Although it is commonly accepted among most scholars that human races are not existing in a factual biologic sense, ideas of race are emerging again and again in the sciences, even today, in various forms and labeled with new seemingly innocent terms.  One such race-related concept is that of biogeographic ancestry, a concept invented inContinue reading “DNA Ancestry Testing 1/2”

Your Task Is My Boss

Gig Work as Ghost Work in a half-automated Reality of racial Capitalism As Neda Atanasoski and Kalindi Vora state in their chapter Technoliberalism and Automation: “Human labor, and its differential exploitation under the conditions of racial capitalism, is neither separate from the current tech boom nor a vestige of the past that is now finallyContinue reading “Your Task Is My Boss”

Technologies of Revealing and Disclosing in Capitalist Control Societies

Horkheimer and Adorno, having fled Germany due to National-Socialism, published the Dialectic of Enlightenment1 in 1944. Being existentially threatened in Germany they were also just as much disillusioned by America’s late capitalist alternative of Culture Industry. The latter term marked a shift from Marx’s classical conception2 of the base-superstructure dichotomy, where the ideological superstructure (art, family, culture, scienceContinue reading “Technologies of Revealing and Disclosing in Capitalist Control Societies”

Digital monitoring of refugees

As Virginia Eubanks stresses in her book “Automating Inequality” data collection with digital tools and the automated analysis of data can be used “to create a shadow institution for regulating the poor” in the context of social service programs and social benefits (Eubanks 2018, S. 4). This can also be interesting when referring to surveillance,Continue reading “Digital monitoring of refugees”

Race – a capitalist technology?

As many have noted before, the current Covid-19 pandemic seems to render social and economic inequalities more visible for a broader audience. The same is true for relations of exploitation of racialized people in the capitalist system. In her article Racial Capitalism and COVID-19, Zophia Edwards (2021), speaking from a North American perspective, takes seasonalContinue reading “Race – a capitalist technology?”

BLACK MEME. Thoughts on Legacy Russel’s video essay

Graphical user interface, text, application Description automatically generated Video still from “BLACK MEME”[1] “Memes are not neutral. The labor enacted through black meme culture raises questions about subjectivity, personhood, and the ever-complicated fault lines of race, class, and gender performed both on- and offline. I want to talk about the economy and engine of thisContinue reading “BLACK MEME. Thoughts on Legacy Russel’s video essay”

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