Two excellent reflections on ethics in relation to Google’s AI principles

Holly from the UK TV programme Red Dwarf

Two excellent pieces by Anab Jain and Lucy Suchman that I recommend you read if you’re interested in studying technology (not just AI) that reflect upon Google’s announcement of its ‘AI principles’ and its apparent commitment not to work on the US Government’s “project Maven”.

Here’s a couple of quotes that stood out, but you should definitely read both pieces:

Corporate Accountability – Lucy Suchman

The principle “Be accountable to people,” states “We will design AI systems that provide appropriate opportunities for feedback, relevant explanations, and appeal. Our AI technologies will be subject to appropriate human direction and control.” This is a key objective but how, realistically, will this promise be implemented? As worded, it implicitly acknowledges a series of complex and unsolved problems: the increasing opacity of algorithmic operations, the absence of due process for those who are adversely affected, and the increasing threat that automation will translate into autonomy, in the sense of technologies that operate in ways that matter without provision for human judgment or accountability. […]

Tackling the Ethical Challenges of Slippery Technology – Anab Jain

The overriding question for all of these principles, in the end, concerns the processes through which their meaning and adherence to them will be adjudicated. It’s here that Google’s own status as a private corporation, but one now a giant operating in the context of wider economic and political orders, needs to be brought forward from the subtext and subject to more explicit debate.

Given the networked nature of the technologies that companies like Google create, and the marketplace of growth and progress that they operate within, how can they control who will benefit and who will lose? What might be the implications of powerful companies taking an overt moral or political position? How might they comprehend the complex possibilities for applications of their products? […]

How many unintended consequences can we think of? And what happens when we do release something potentially problematic out into the world? How much funding can be put into fixing it? And what if it can’t be fixed? Do we still ship it? What happens to our business if we don’t? All of this would mean slowing down the trajectory of growth, it would mean deferring decision-making, and that does not rank high in performance metrics. It might even require moving away from the selection of The Particular Future in which the organisation is currently finding success.

Worrying realities – doing spatial theory for digital geographies

worrying realities - kinsley 2018

I wrote something new… haven’t done that in a while for lots of reasons.

I was compelled to do it because I accepted the kind invitation of colleagues at the wonderful Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space for their Spring Academy 2018, themed: “virtuality and socio-materiality”.

I gave a talk called “Worrying realities – doing spatial theory for digital geographies”. In the talk I concerned myself, and maybe those listening, with the ways in which forms of spatial theory get ‘done’ in relation to ‘digital’ or ‘virtual’ phenomena, sometimes generalised as proper nouns… ‘the digital’ and so on. I was not interested, and I still am not, with ‘policing’ the correct theory here, instead I pointed out some habits of theorising space in relation to mediation that I think are interesting and that perhaps those of us interested in doing, talking about and writing about ‘digital geographies’ maybe need to reflect upon sometimes. In particular, I think what Theodore Adorno diagnoses as an ‘ontological need’ pertains, and we perhaps need to be a little more reflexive about how that plays out.

So, I’m sharing a PDF of the slides with the notes I’ve written up. [Now the revised PDF.]

In any case, I don’t know what to do with this… I’d like to write it up, not sure where it would go..? Any comments or arguments, or suggestions for venues to which it might be submitted, are gratefully received 🙂

Please take this material in the spirit in which it is shared – as an attempt to open a conversation. Please also give credit where it’s due – this is not (yet) published but these are my current ideas and I’m sharing them in good faith.

Data materiality – a new project by Scott Rodgers

A huge array of overhead wires on a street

This new project at Birkbeck by Scott Rodgers & Joel McKim looks really interesting:

Data Materiality: collaborative BIRMAC/Vasari project


Data Materiality

The expanded presence and impact of data, and arrival of so-called Big Data, has become an accepted, background feature of contemporary life. But while data clearly matters, the question arising now is: just how does data come to ‘matter’? What are the sometimes unseen material infrastructures that bring data into being, into circulation and into action? What are the social and political structures, policies and institutions through which data comes to have effects? And what might it mean to think about data – as suggested by Sarah Pink and others – as ‘broken’: as always already implicated in ordinary processes of maintenance and repair?

Data Materiality – a three-year collaborative project co-sponsored by the Birkbeck Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Media and Culture, and the Vasari Centre for Art and Technology – seeks to address these questions. By data ‘materiality’ we mean not only the ways in which data crystallises into physical forms and depends on material technical and social infrastructures, but also the related ways in which data comes to matter, in and through practical action, collective imaginaries, or biological conditions. So we are interested in questioning the proliferating network of data centres, fibre-optic cables and server farms that underpin our data usage, but we also wish to explore perhaps less tangible or apparent infrastructures of data – materialities that might include, for instance, digital objects and artefacts, from network protocols to markup languages, as well as the labour and organizational structures putting data to work.

Our key aim in exploring data materiality is to get beyond the idea of data as a raw or unprocessed and, as Lisa Gitelman has suggested, understand the ordinary material conditions under which data is induced and deduced. We wish to ask, in other words, how does data leave its traces on the world? And how does the world leave its traces on data?

Read more on Scott’s website.

Reblog> Derrida’s Margins: Inside the personal library of Jacques Derrida

Jacques Derrida

Really interesting… via Stuart Elden.

Derrida’s Margins: Inside the personal library of Jacques Derrida

downloadDerrida’s Margins: Inside the personal library of Jacques Derrida

For Jacques Derrida (1930-2004), reading was an active process: he read texts by thinkers like Rousseau, Heidegger, Lévi-Strauss, Hegel, and Husserl with a writing utensil in hand.  As Derrida affirmed in a late interview, the books in his personal library bear the “traces of the violence of pencil strokes, exclamation points, arrows, and underlining.”

Derrida’s Margins invites scholars to investigate these markings while unpacking the library contained within each of Derrida’s published works, beginning with the landmark 1967 text De la grammatologie (Of Grammatology).  Additional Derrida works will be added as the project continues.

The website catalogues each reference (quotation, citation, footnote, etc.) in De la grammatologie and allows users to explore Derrida’s personal copies of the texts he cites. Due to copyright restrictions, only annotated pages corresponding to references in De la grammatologie are shown here; users may also view external images of each book as well as images of the numerous insertions (post-it notes, bookmarks, calendar pages, index cards, correspondence, notes, etc.) Derrida tipped in to his books.

The website includes the following sections, accessible via the links in the four corners of this page: Derrida’s Library, where users may browse or search Derrida’s copies of the books referenced in De la grammatologieReference List, where users may browse or search the nearly one thousand references to other texts found in the pages of De la grammatologie; Interventions, where users may browse or search Derrida’s annotations, marginalia, and markings that correspond to the references in De la grammatologie; and Visualization, which provides users with alternative ways of exploring the references in De la grammatologie.  Users may search a particular section or the entire site at any time by using the search field at the top of every page.  

The Library of Jacques Derrida is housed at Princeton University Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections.

Workshop on feminist philosophy of technology – Vienna 25-26 Oct ’18

Donna Harraway

Via Mark Coeckelbergh.

Workshop on feminist philosophy of technology

Organizers: Dr. Janina Loh, Prof. Dr. Mark Coeckelbergh
Date: October 25-26, 2018
Venue: University of Vienna, Department of Philosophy, Universitätsstr. 7 (NIG), 1010 Vienna

There has been little attention to feminism and gender issues in mainstream philosophy of technology and vice versa: many feminists have focused on societal matters and relationships without taking into account how technics (i.e. technologies and techniques) shape those societies and relationships. However, since the beginning of the second-wave feminism by the mid 20th century, a growing awareness of the gravity and urgency for a critical reflection of technology and the sciences within feminist discourses can be observed. But feminist thinkers have not throughout interpreted technology and science as potentially emancipatory and liberating in every respect. In the same breath, the inherent structures of dominance, marginalization, and oppression have been confronted and disqualified within the feminist paradigm. The question of defining and ascribing responsibility in science and technics – regarding for instance the technological transformation of labor, the life in the information society, and the relationship between humans and machines – is essential for this workshop. Critical posthumanism and new feminist materialism define promising examples for a reformulation of known challenges such as essentialism and relativism, a transformation of hypostatized perspectives on traditional categories and dichotomies, as well as the claim to think off the beaten paths of socialist, liberal, and radical feminism. Confirmed keynote speakers are Corinna Bath, Rick Dolphijn, Nina Lykke, Kathleen Richardson, Lucy Suchman, and Judy Wajcman. The workshop Feminist Philosophy of Technology has two main aims: It shall present and spark a dialogue between the prominent approaches within feminist philosophy of technology (first day). On the second day we would like to explore and discuss potential challenges and perspectives within current movements of feminist philosophy of technology. We welcome submissions on any – but not limited to – the following issues:

  • critical posthumanism
  • new materialist feminism
  • feminist philosophy of technology
  • technofeminism
  • cyberfeminism
  • xenofeminism
  • human-machine-interaction
  • relationships with machines
  • sexrobotics
  • the future of work (industry 4.0, automatization, digitalization)
  • women, technics, and education
  • women, technics, and arts.

Please submit abstracts of around 500 words to, by July 30. Acceptance notifications will be sent out by the end of August.

How Technology Changes Us – Ihde & Verbeek [video]

A statue of three men hammering

A video of a fairly accessible discussion of broadly ‘post-phenomenological’ theories of technology with the philosophers Don Ihde & Peter-Paul Verbeek. Via dmf.

How Technology Changes Us – Lecture and discussion with philosophers of technology Don Ihde and Peter-Paul Verbeek

Thursday 11 January 2018 | 19.30 – 21.15 hrs | Theater Hall C, Radboud University

“From the bow and arrow to smartphones, changes come along with every new technology. According to Don Ihde, one of the founders of North American philosophy of technology, technology does not only offer us new opportunities, it also changes our relation to the world. Come and listen as the Dutch philosopher of technology Peter-Paul Verbeek and his mentor Don Ihde talk about philosophy and technology in the past, present, and future.”

Reblog> Lecture by Stelarc and discussion in DesignLab, U. Twente

Peter Paul Verbeek blogged this, looks good! >>

Lecture by Stelarc and discussion in DesignLab

Thursday 24th of May from 4-7 pm

Location: DesignLab Universiteit Twente

The Australian performance artist Stelarc has visually probed and acoustically amplified his body and is well known for his pioneering work and ideas about extending the capabilities of the human body with technology. From 17th of May until 19th of August, Tetem is presenting the exhibition StickMan by Stelarc. During his stay in Enschede, Stelarc will give an extensive lecture in DesignLab about his pioneering performances and installations – for which he uses prosthetics, robotics, medical instruments, suspension, VR, biotechnology and internet to investigate the psychological and physical limitations of the body.

The event will be introduced by Frank Kresin (managing director of DesignLab). After Stelarc’s lecture, there will be a discussion with Stelarc, Herman van der Kooij (professor in Biomechatronics and Rehabilitation Technology and director of Wearable Robotics Lab) and Peter-Paul Verbeek (professor of Philosophy of Technology and co-director of DesignLab). During the discussion, led by moderator Wilja Jurg (director Tetem), we will explore the scientific, social and ethical implications of wearable robotics.

This event is organized in collaboration with DesignLab as part of StickMan exhibition in Tetem. DesignLab is a creative and cross-disciplinary ecosystem at the University of Twente, connecting science and society through design:

Short description about StickMan:

The StickMan is a minimal but full-body exoskeleton, that algorithmically actuates the artist with six degrees-of-freedom. 64 possible combinations of gestures are generated. Sensors on StickMan generate sounds that augment the pneumatic noise and register the limb movements. A ring of speakers circulates the sounds, immersing the audience in an acoustic landscape as an extension of StickMan’s body.

The StickMan is an anthropomorphized, programmable motion and sound machine which functions with not only the body connected, but also as an installation by itself. A smaller replica of StickMan enables visitors to record and play their choreography by bending the limbs into a sequence of positions, which also inadvertently composes the sounds generated.

StickMan is shown for the first time in Europe. The smaller replica of StickMan was made especially for the exhibition in Tetem.

For more information and events visit:


A huge array of overhead wires on a street

From the footnotes of Dan Ross’ introduction to Stiegler’s Neganthropocene comes this limpid definition (p. 271):

‘Transductive’, here, refers to an approach to thinking processes in which the terms of a relation cannot be understood as preceding the relation itself.

There is a danger with much ontology talk we encounter, especially in geographyland, for the ontological category of the thing to stand, almost static, in place of the necessary engagement with what is encountered in the world. In this sense, to think transductively, I suggest, is to follow a counterflow to the monolithic ontology talk that, for all of the appeals to vitality and the lively effervescence of the world, tends to fix things in catch-all concepts (such as ‘affect’, ‘atmosphere’ and other ‘a’s) without really engaging with the relations of the stuff of/under study. To ‘do’ transduction then might involve more than merely pointing it out – of which I am rather guilty.

That’s my quick and not very coherent take at the moment… I think this is actually a constructive form of critique – I believe there is a way forward in this kind of deconstructive thinking but it needs much more fleshing out.

Seminar> Charis Thompson: On the Posthuman in the Age of Automation and Augmentation

Still from the video for All is Love by Bjork

If you happen to be in Exeter on Friday 11th May then I urge you to attend this really interesting talk by Prof. Charis Thompson (UC Berkeley), organised by Sociology & Philosophy at Exeter. Here’s the info:

Guest speaker – Professor Charis Thompson: On the Posthuman in the Age of Automation and Augmentation

A Department of Sociology & Philosophy lecture
Date 11 May 2018
Time 14:00 to 15:15
Place IAIS Building/LT1

Charis Thompson is Chancellor’s Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies and the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society, UC Berkeley, and Professor, Department of Sociology, London School of Economics. She is the author of Making Parents; The Ontological Choreography of Reproductive Technologies (MIT Press 2007), which won the Rachel Carson Prize from the Society of the Social Studies of Science, and of Good Science: The Ethical Choreography of Stem Cell Research (MIT Press 2013). Her book in progress, Getting Ahead, revisits classic questions on the relation between science and democracy in an age of populism and inequality, focusing particularly on genome editing and AI.

She served on the Nuffield Council Working Group on Genome Editing, and serves on the World Economic Forum’s Global Technology Council on Technology, Values and Policy. Thompson is a recipient of UC Berkeley’s Social Science Distinguished Teaching Award.  In 2017, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the National Science and Technology University of Norway for work on science and society.

SPA PGR Conference Committee
Maria Dede
Aimee Middlemiss
Celia Plender
Elena Sharratt

Reblog> digital | visual | cultural

Nvidia's Metropolis platform

Gillian Rose has a new project, which she’s blogged about. It sounds interesting. I was sort of wondering if the analysis of a “specific way of seeing the world through digital visualising technologies emerging” might crossover with Matt Jones’ ‘sensor vernacular‘ and James Bridle‘s, and others’, conceptualisation of a ‘new aesthetic‘…

Lovely that such work is supported by an institution (Oxford). I am sure it will create all sorts of interesting linkages and conversations.

digital | visual | cultural

I’m very excited to announce a new project: Digital | Visual | Cultural.   D|V|C is a series of events which will explore how the extensive use of digital visualising technologies creates new ways of seeing the world.

About Banner

The first event will be on June 28, when Shannon Mattern will give a public lecture in Oxford. Shannon is the author of the brilliant Code and Clay, Data and Dirt as well as lots of great essays for Places Journal. ‘Fifty Eyes on a Scene’ will replay a single urban scene from the perspective of several sets of machinic and creaturely eyes. That lecture will be free to attend but you’ll need to book. Booking opens via the D|V|C website on 23 April. It will also be livestreamed.

I’m working on this with Sterling Mackinnon, and funding is coming from the School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford University, and St John’s College Oxford.

The website has more info at, and you can follow D|V|C on Twitter @dvcultural and on Instagram at dvcultural. There’ll be a couple more events in 2019 so follow us to stay in touch.

So that’s the practicalities. What’s the logic?

The key questions D|V|C will be asking are: Is a specific way of seeing the world through digital visualising technologies emerging? If so, what are its conditions and consequences?

Read more.