inequality

Automation Otherwise: A Review of “Automating Inequality”

by DANYA GLABAU, Implosion Labs What if we thought differently about how to integrate human and machine agencies?  Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the PoorVirginia Eubanks2018, 272 pp, St. Martin's Press As I sat down in to write this review of Virginia Eubanks’ latest book, Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, I couldn’t help but consider it in light of the growing restiveness among tech workers in response to their companies’ perceived ethical lapses. Rank and file employees have begun to speak out against the use of big data-driven software systems and infrastructure for ethically questionable ends like warfare, policing, and family separation at the United States-Mexico border. To date, these protests have mired several public-private contracts between government agencies and some of the world’s biggest tech companies in controversy, including Google’s Project Maven, a collaboration with...

How Is Evidence Created, Used & Abused? EPIC2018 Opening Remarks

by DAWN NAFUS (Intel), EPIC2018 Co-chair We chose Evidence as the EPIC2018 theme in part to explore this question of why some things constitute evidence and not others. There are lots of factors we could point to, but since I’m standing next to a data scientist the first one I’ll talk about is digitization. Digitization changes how people live, and it creates forms of evidence about people’s lives that we need to reckon with methodologically. Many of us are in the thick of organizations that handle some complicated datasets, traces of people and their environments, and so on. We’ve got to figure out how to engage with them, and I think that means we need new approaches if we are going to meaningfully intervene. The toolbox of user experience is only going to get us so far. So we’re going to need some friends, particularly those data scientists who are, like us, committed to the idea that datasets ought to be moored in some kind of social reality, and that they can’t just be built based on what’s expedient at the time. While...

Automating Inequality

VIRGINIA EUBANKS University of Albany, SUNY EPIC2018 Keynote Virginia Eubanks is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University at Albany, SUNY. Her most recent book is Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, which dana boyd calls “the first [book] that I’ve read that really pulls you into the world of algorithmic decision-making and inequality, like a good ethnography should,” and Ethan Zuckerman calls “one of the most important recent books for understanding the social implications of information technology for marginalized populations in the US.” Eubanks is also the author of 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 The American Prospect, The Nation, Harper’s and Wired. For two decades, Eubanks has worked in community technology and...

The Root Cause is Capitalism… and Patriarchy

LINDSEY WALLACE, PHD Adobe Design Research & Strategy Team JENNA MELNYK Adobe Design Research & Strategy Team Case Study—The authors used anthropology and other design research methods to develop a new kind of study to capture the world of professional creatives and the people they work with. To uncover core collaboration challenges for professional creatives the authors asked asked them to walk through past projects, who they interacted with at different points, and discuss their affective experiences. Critical collaborative problems for participants in this study stemmed from two factors: ever-increasing corporate demands to do more with less, and concurrent attempts to automate feminized administrative coordination tasks. To communicate actionable findings, the authors balanced systems-level thinking with the identification of the kinds of problems Adobe could and would solve. While large scale social change was outside the scope of actionable recommendations for a product design team, the implications of social structures...

Gaming Evidence: Power, Storytelling and the “Colonial Moment” in a Chicago Systems Change Project

NATHAN HEINTZ Systems Change Consultant Case Study—In 2016 The Chicago Community Trust (“The Trust”), a local Chicago foundation, partnered with Roller Strategies (“Roller”), an international professional services firm, to deploy an innovative mixed-methods approach to community-driven social change on the South Side of Chicago. This partnership convened a diverse group of stakeholders representing a microcosm of the social system, and launched a project with the aim of developing resilient livelihoods for youth aged 18-26 in three specific South Side neighborhoods. Roller designed and facilitated a process through which the stakeholder group scoped, launched, piloted and prototyped community-driven initiatives. While innovative and successful by some metrics, the project had its challenges. The convening institutions and their staff were often perceived as “outsiders” and “experts” without intimate local knowledge of the social challenges they were attempting to address. This dynamic played out in complex power...

Cooperation without Submission: Some Insights on Knowing, Not-Knowing and Their Relations from Hopi-US Engagements

JUSTIN B. RICHLAND Associate Professor of Anthropology, UC Irvine; Faculty Fellow, American Bar Foundation; Associate Justice, The Hopi Appellate Court EPIC2018 Keynote Address...

Can Cheaters Prosper In Cambodia?

LAUREN MARKOFSKY Ultimate Software PechaKucha Presentation This PechaKucha explores the ways in which the author navigated cheating culture, community norms, and her own biases to think through sustainable education solutions in Cambodia. Students in Cambodia's countryside are structurally disadvantaged and attempt to redress wealth and knowledge imbalances through cheating. However, cheating causes skills gaps that hinder students as they look for jobs, particularly since they are competing with applicants from other ASEAN countries. The presenter discusses how she, and her Cambodian co-teacher, sifted through their competing biases about the merits and pitfalls of cheating in their classroom, settling on ethnographic practice as a way forward. They observed student cheating behaviors, noting the tools, networks, and systems of exchange through which information passed. Instead of penalizing students for cheating, the presenter and her counterpart attempted to transform these deceptive methods into something more productive. Lauren...

Ghostly Spectres: On Ethnography and Identity

ES BRAZIEL Greenberg Strategy PechaKucha Presentation Taking Avery F. Gordon's definition of a ghost as a social figure making the unknown apparent as a departure point, the piece dives into the “ghosts” silently present in an ethnography on how parents view gender in media. Through utilizing the image of an ethnographer as a “ghost hunter,” I track what traces of the social spectral remain invisible to everyday life. Occupying the subject position of “ghost hunter” and “ghost” – the subject of research, and subject being denied research – I assert why business ethnography cannot afford to remain objective when personal and political struggles are on the line. Es Braziel is a researcher and designer working at the intersection of emerging technologies and markets. They currently explore questions around how notions of connectivity, belonging, identity formation, and community are changing in the digital age as a Strategist for Greenberg Strategy and Co-founder of Other Futures Design. hello@esbraziel.co 2017...

Doing Good is Hard: Ethics, Activism, and Social Impact Design as Seen from the Grassroots Perspective

JEFFREY GREGER San Jose State University This paper shares the experiences of two teams of design professionals working on parallel grassroots social impact design projects to address poverty and financial precarity in Silicon Valley and London. This paper explores challenges facing these teams as they channel a sense of moral outrage into the research and development of alternitives to high-risk financial services like payday loans. It charts the open, inclusive design process of these teams as they engage community partners and recognize the financial expertise of people getting by on tight incomes. The paper concludes with a discussion of how working slowly and openly through transdisciplinary communities of practice—like the two groups described here, or EPIC itself—can help keep alive conversations around power and activism in the practice of design and ethnographic research. These conversations are essential if social impact design is to reach its transformative potential while avoiding many of the pitfalls that have...

Keynote Address: Consumer Culture and Political Resistance—How Gay Entrepreneurs Sparked A Movement

DAVID JOHNSON David Johnson is a historian at the University of South Florida and an award-winning author whose research focuses on the crucial role that notions of gender and sexuality have played in American politics and consumer culture in the late 20th century. His first book, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government, which has been made into a critically acclaimed documentary, explores Cold War hysteria over national security and the introduction of “family values” into American politics. He is also co-editor of The United States since 1945, an anthology of key speeches, articles, and government documents from modern American politics and culture. David’s new book project brings together the fields of the history of sexuality and business history, chronicling the rise of a gay commercial network in the 1950s and 1960s. Contesting the notion that a gay market developed only recently in the wake of gay activism, Johnson challenges conventional understandings...

Keynote Address: Racist by Design—Why We Need a New Economic System for the 21st Century

CAROLYN ROUSE Princeton University Carolyn Rouse is a professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology and the Director of the Program in African Studies at Princeton University. Her work explores the use of evidence to make particular claims about race and social inequality. She is the author of Engaged Surrender: African American Women and Islam, Uncertain Suffering: Racial Healthcare Disparities and Sickle Cell Disease and Televised Redemption: Black Religious Media and Racial Empowerment. Her manuscript Development Hubris: Adventures Trying to Save the World examines discourses of charity and development and is tied to her own project building a high school in a fishing village in Ghana. In the summer of 2016 she began studying declining white life expectancies in rural California as a follow-up to her research on racial health disparities. Carolyn is also a filmmaker: she has produced, directed, and/or edited a number of documentaries including Chicks in White Satin (1994), Purification to Prozac: Treating Mental...

Ethnography for Equity: Using the Ethnographic Lens to Improve Outcomes for Everyone

by FATIMAH RICHMOND (Google) & SAM LADNER Why did Donald Trump get elected? Because of the rage of the “working class”? Why did Brexit happen? Because “working class” Britons were angry at getting left behind? We find these explanations troubling because they whitewash events. We convened the Salon Ethnography and Equality at EPIC2017 to discuss how our community can avoid doing exactly this kind of whitewashing as we work with our clients and stakeholders. We used an ethnographic lens to understand the systems that structure inequalities in our societies and organizations. To continue the conversation about this critical topic beyond the event in Montréal, this blog post describes the Salon’s main talking points and some practical solutions (one involving an actual toilet; more on that in a moment). We explicitly told the 35 people gathered for our Salon that the discussion was to be safe. By that, we meant that there would be specific order for when a participant may speak, and that before sharing anything about...

Navigating Relativism and Globalism in Sustainability

by CAROLINE TURNBULL, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School & Maryland Institute College of Art Sustainability & Ethnography in Business Series, Mike Youngblood, Editor Sustainability initiatives—social, economic or environmental—can have universal value for stakeholders. But how sustainability is defined, and what successful solutions might look like, can vary dramatically among different communities, or even conflict. One particular interaction a few years ago forced me to re-evaluate my own definition of sustainability, and this experience has affected my approach to the solution-finding process ever since. ⊚ In 2014 I was working for a nonprofit organization that partnered with companies to certify their carpet supply chains as being free of child labor. I was just four years out of college, dizzy with optimism and eager to be working in a field that married my interests in products, ethics and sustainability. The 20-year-old organization I represented was doing incredible work – freeing children from licensed...

Everyday Life in Tamil Nadu, India and Its Cost to “Free Basics”

SHRIRAM VENKATRAMAN University College London NIMMI RANGASWAMY Xerox Research Centre, India This paper explores how the ‘Free Basics’ initiative in India got transformed into a national debate on ‘net neutrality’ principle and finally led to it being banned in India. Further, this paper will also use ethnographic data to analyse how this ‘controversial’ initiative was debated, the claims it made and the actual ground level reality in the state of Tamil Nadu....

Critical Jugaad

DEEPA BUTOLIYA Carnegie Mellon University Download PDF PechaKucha—This Inquiry explains how people use ingenious making practices like Jugaad as a tool for existence, subversion and criticality against colonial powers of oppression. Jugaad like practices form cultural binders and empower people to find a collective force to fight oppression while practicing creative self-expression. This practice is a nonviolent critique that provokes and questions the technoutopian imaginaries in future of such practices. Criticality is manifested through critique and criticism of the social, cultural, economic and political issues engulfing a nation, through ingenious sociomaterial practices. This research inquiry is about tapping into potential of such sociomaterial practices and the epistemology of the critical practices that happen outside the preconceived assumptions of criticality. Being critical about the functioning of states and industry is not bound by a niche design practice but a democratic right of every individual. Keywords: Jugaad,...