Tag: artificial intelligence

The Brilliant Future of AI

On a hot August afternoon in 2018, I attended a public lecture on AI and the future of work, broadly defined. Back then, I was a student in Brazil conducting my fieldwork for my master’s thesis in anthropology, and interested in understanding artificial intelligence (AI) representations in Brazilian media. As such, I conducted ethnographic fieldwork at events and talks in Computer Science and other departments at my university (Universidade Federal de Goiás, UFG) and carried out archival research of media stories about AI written in Portuguese. In this post, I retell a field story to reflect on what I noticed has changed when it comes to discussions around AI and the future of work in popular media since then.  (read more...)

Lonely Planet Looking for Connection: Citizen Science SETI Research at NASA

NASA’s homepage is as glitzy as you would expect of the U.S. Government’s sexiest administration. Glossy pictures of nebulas, astronauts, and asteroids float across the top of the page and even the ozone hole over Antarctica manages to look like a snack. A quick swipe over to the Citizen Science Page, however, and now the images give enthusiastic, low-res, DIY vibes coupled with pun-filled project titles like “Aurorasaurous” and “Spiritacular.” Each one beckons: anyone with a cellphone or a laptop can do this project. A Jacob’s Ladder of binary stretching into the blurry heavens stops my scroll with its provoking title—Are we alone in the universe? Well golly, I don’t know. Go to Project Website. So I do. (read more...)

On Algorithmic Divination

Algorithms are tools of divination. Like cowry shells, scapular bones, or spiders trapped under a pot, algorithms are marshaled to detect and relay invisible patterns; to bring to light a truth which is out there, but which cannot ordinarily be seen. At the outset, we imagine divination is a means to answer questions, whether in diagnosis of past events or for the prediction and guidance of future outcomes, choices or actions (Ascher 2002, 5). Yet, divination has an equally potent capacity to absorb the burdens of responsibility, to refigure accountability and, in so doing, to liberate certain paths of social action. (read more...)

AI as a Feminist Issue

By choosing to look at the funding from the American Government on this field, I aim to tell a different story about AI. A quick search for the word “librarian” on Google reveals images upon images of women holding books amongst big shelves, attending to patrons, reading stories for children, or stocking book shelves. Librarian is one of those professions that, like many others, such as nurse and secretary, have been associated with the female world.  If this text is about AI, you might be asking why I’m writing about libraries and librarians–but as scholars Safyia Noble (2018) in her Algorithms of Oppression and Monica Westin (2023) more recently have shown, what most people in Western countries usually understand as the internet, and what fuels the data collection of digital information that feeds generative artificial intelligence (AI) such as ChatGPT, was first started in the 1970s by groups of librarians (read more...)

Platypod, Episode Seven: An Anthropology of Data, AI, and Much More

Download the transcript of this interview. For this episode of Platypod, I talked to Dr. Tanja Ahlin about her research, work, and academic trajectory. She’s currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and her work focuses on intersections of medical anthropology, social robots, and artificial intelligence. I told her of my perspective as a grad student, making plans and deciding what routes to take to be successful in my field. Dr. Ahlin was very generous in sharing her stories and experiences, which I’m sure are helpful to other grad students as well. Enjoy this episode, and contact us if you have questions, thoughts, or suggestions for other episodes.  (read more...)

If I Could Talk to the Algorithm

In the film Doctor Dolittle (1967), the title character yearns to “Talk to the Animals,” as the song goes, to understand their mysterious and often vexing ways. It is interesting to observe a similar impulse to understand and communicate with algorithms, given their current forms of implementation. Recent research shows that intense frustration often emerges from algorithmically driven processes that create hurtful identity characterizations. Our current technological landscape is thus frequently embroiled in “algorithmic dramas” (Zietz 2016), in which algorithms are seen and felt as powerful and influential, but inscrutable. Algorithms, or rather the complex processes that deploy them, are entities that we surely cannot “talk to,” although we might wish to admonish those who create or implement them in everyday life. A key dynamic of the “algorithmic drama” involves yearning to understand just how algorithms work given their impact on people. Yet, accessing the inner workings of algorithms is difficult for numerous reasons (Dourish 2016), including how to talk to, or even about, them. (read more...)

People Are Not Fixed Media

Sensory ethnography continually emphasizes that the sensorium is just as much a (product of) sociocultural practice as it is a biophysiological property of the human species (Pink 2015). Recognition of this point has prompted several shifts in ethnographic work. On the one hand, it has pushed ethnographers to include in their writing a greater discussion of how subjects engage with the world through their senses as well as how the putatively biological phenomenon of sensory perception is so highly variable across and within sociocultural milieux. On the other, it has inspired ethnographers to pursue media practices beyond text, particularly through ethnographic film or sound recording (Feld 1991). Regardless of form, this work has greatly increased the possibility for the reader, listener, or viewer to experience with their senses the social environment that subjects inhabit and where the ethnographer conducted fieldwork. (read more...)

Human as the Ultimate Authority in Control

(Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of the Thematic Series Data Swarms Revisited) With the growing size of historical data available to researchers and industrial practitioners, developing algorithms for automating numerous aspects of everyday human life has become ever more dependent on data-driven techniques. Previous approaches relying on formal methods and global optimization no longer meet the increasing scalability requirements of modern applications. One of the most successful global optimization algorithms, such as Particle Swarm Optimization (PSO), continues to be employed in practice but more often as a part of more complex approaches, only being able to provide partial solutions to complex modern optimization problems. PSO was first introduced by Kennedy and Eberhart (1995) who were inspired by the most mesmerizing phenomenon in nature—bird flocking. As in any collective behavior, birds converge to an equilibrium formation that maximizes their benefits as individuals and as a society overall. V-Formation as (read more...)