Call for papers: Geography of/with A.I

Still from the video for All is Love by Bjork

I very much welcome any submissions to this call for papers for the proposed session for the RGS-IBG annual conference (in London in late-August) outlined below. I also welcome anyone getting in touch to talk about possible papers or ideas for other sorts of interventions – please do get in touch.

Call for papers:

We are variously being invited to believe that (mostly Global North, Western) societies are in the cusp, or early stages, of another industrial revolution led by “Artificial Intelligence” – as many popular books (e.g. Brynjolfsson and McAfee 2014) and reports from governments and management consultancies alike will attest (e.g. PWC 2018, UK POST 2016). The goal of this session is to bring together a discussion explicitly focusing on the ways in which geographers already study (with) ‘Artificial Intelligence’ and to, perhaps, outline ways in which we might contribute to wider debates concerning ‘AI’. 

There is widespread, inter-disciplinary analysis of ‘AI’ from a variety of perspective, from embedded systematic bias (Eubanks 2017, Noble 2018) to the kinds of under-examined rationales and work through which such systems emerge (e.g. Adam 1998, Collins 1993) and further to the sorts of ethical-moral frameworks that we should apply to such technologies (Gunkel 2012, Vallor 2016). In similar, if somewhat divergent ways, geographers have variously been interested in the kinds of (apparently) autonomous algorithms or sociotechnical systems are integrated into decision-making processes (e.g. Amoore 2013, Kwan 2016); encounters with apparently autonomous ‘bots’ (e.g. Cockayne et al. 2017); the integration of AI techniques into spatial analysis (e.g. Openshaw & Openshaw 1997); and the processing of ‘big’ data in order to discern things about, or control, people (e.g. Leszczynski 2015). These conversations appear, in conference proceedings and academic outputs, to rarely converge, nevertheless there are many ways in which geographical research does and can continue to contribute to these contemporary concerns.

The invitation of this session is to contribute papers that make explicit the ways in which geographers are (already) contributing to research on and with ‘AI’, to identify research questions that are (perhaps) uniquely geographical in relation to AI, and to thereby advance wider inter-disciplinary debates concerning ‘AI’.

Examples of topics might include (but are certainly not limited to):

  • A.I and governance
  • A.I and intimacy
  • Artificially intelligent mobilities
  • Autonomy, agency and the ethics of A.I
  • Autonomous weapons systems
  • Boosterism and ‘A.I’
  • Feminist and intersectional interventions in/with A.I
  • Gender, race and A.I
  • Labour, work and A.I
  • Machine learning and cognitive work
  • Playful A.I
  • Science fiction, spatial imaginations and A.I
  • Surveillance and A.I

Please send submissions (titles, abstracts (250 words) and author details) to: Sam Kinsley by 31st January 2019.

Talk – Plymouth, 17 Oct: ‘New geographies of automation?’

Rachael in the film Blade Runner

I am looking forward to visiting Plymouth (tomorrow) the 17th October to give a Geography department research seminar. It’s been nearly twenty years (argh!) since I began my first degree, in digital art, at Plymouth so I’m looking forward to returning. I’ll be talking about a couple of aspects of ‘The Automative Imagination’ under a slightly different title – ‘New geographies of automation?’ The talk will take in archival BBC and newspaper automation anxieties, management consultant magical thinking (and the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’), gendered imaginings of domesticity (with the Jetsons amongst others) and some slightly under-cooked (at the moment) thoughts about how ‘agency’ (what kinds of ‘beings’ or ‘things’ can do what kinds of action).

Do come along if you’re free and happen to be in the glorious gateway to the South West that is Plymouth.

(More) Gendered imaginings of automata

My Cayla Doll

A few more bits on how automation gets gendered in particular kinds of contexts and settings. In particular, the identification of ‘home’ or certain sorts of intimacy with certain kinds of domestic or caring work that then gets gendered is something that has been increasingly discussed.

Two PhD researchers I am lucky enough to be working with, Paula Crutchlow (Exeter) and Kate Byron (Bristol), have approached some of these issues from different directions. Paula has had to wrangle with this in a number of ways in relation to the Museum of Contemporary Commodities but it was most visible in the shape of Mikayla, the hacked ‘My Friend Cayla Doll’. Kate is doing some deep dives on the sorts of assumptions that are embedded into the doing of AI/machine learning through the practices of designing, programming and so on. They are not, of course, alone. Excellent work by folks like Kate Crawford, Kate Devlin and Gina Neff (below) inform all of our conversations and work.

Here’s a collection of things that may provoke thought… I welcome any further suggestions or comments 🙂

Alexa, does AI have gender?


Alexa is female. Why? As children and adults enthusiastically shout instructions, questions and demands at Alexa, what messages are being reinforced? Professor Neff wonders if this is how we would secretly like to treat women: ‘We are inadvertently reproducing stereotypical behaviour that we wouldn’t want to see,’ she says.

Prof Gina Neff in conversation with Ruth Abrahams, OII.

Predatory Data: Gender Bias in Artificial Intelligence

it has been reported that female-sounding assistive chatbots regularly receive sexually charged messages. It was recently cited that five percent of all interactions with Robin Labs, whose bot platform helps commercial drivers with routes and logistics, is sexually explicit. The fact that the earliest female chatbots were designed to respond to these suggestions
deferentially or with sass was problematic as it normalised sexual harassment.

Vidisha Mishra and Madhulika Srikumar – Predatory Data: Gender Bias in Artificial Intelligence

The Gender of Artificial Intelligence

Chart showing that the gender of artificial intelligence (AI) is not neutral
The gendering, or not, of chatbots, digital assistants and AI movie characters – Tyler Schnoebelen

Consistently representing digital assistants as femalehard-codes a connection between a woman’s voice and subservience.

Stop Giving Digital Assistants Female Voices – Jessica Nordell, The New Republic

Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer, an emotion picture

Still from Janelle Monáe's Dirty Computer video

I came across Janelle Monáe‘s work a while ago, through Twitter, I was really taken by the video for “Many Moons“, which is beautiful. Metropolis, the album from which it is taken, is a really interesting blend of pop, sci-fi and perhaps afrofuturism, or at least forms of sci-fi that don’t conform to, or queer, standard Western/Global North sci-fi themes/norms. Some have argued Monáe’s videos blends American and African Sci-Fi themes (a teaser trailer for Dirty Computer was shown before cinematic performances of Black Panther) in a sort of queer aesthetic (that’s my reading of what longer pieces say anyway) and I think I can see it in several videos, though my knowledge of other work that might complement or contrast this is very limited.

In the “emotion picture” (what a beautifully evocative term) for the album Dirty Computer we’re presented with a rich and confident, feature length, work of art. I’m not currently able to dedicate the time to offer a lengthier visual analysis, I’m simply going to post the video, below. All I can say, really, is: wow.

Event > Data Feminism with Lauren Klein (at KCL)

Melba Roy

This event looks really interesting!

Via Pip Thornton.

Data Feminism

Lauren Klein, Assistant Professor, Georgia Tech

How might we draw on feminist critical thought to reimagine data practices and data work? Join us for a public talk with Lauren Klein (Assistant Professor, Georgia Tech) to discuss her recent work on data feminism. Hosted by Jonathan Gray at the Department for Digital Humanities at King’s College London.

With their ability to depict hundreds, thousands, and sometimes even millions of relationships at a single glance, visualizations of data can dazzle, inform, and persuade. It is precisely this power that makes it worth asking: “Visualization by whom? For whom? In whose interest? Informed by whose values?” These are some of the questions that emerge from what we call data feminism, a way of thinking about data and its visualization that is informed by the past several decades of feminist critical thought. Data feminism prompts questions about how, for instance, challenges to the male/female binary can also help challenge other binary and hierarchical classification systems. It encourages us to ask how the concept of invisible labor can help to expose the invisible forms of labor associated with data work. And it points to how an understanding of affective and embodied knowledge can help to expand the notion of what constitutes data and what does not. Using visualization as a starting point, this talk works backwards through the data-processing pipeline in order to show how a feminist approach to thinking about data not only exposes how power and privilege presently operate in visualization work, but also suggests how different design principles can help to mitigate inequality and work towards justice.

Lauren Klein is an assistant professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech, where she also directs the Digital Humanities Lab. With Matthew Gold, she editsDebates in the Digital Humanities (University of Minnesota Press), a hybrid print/digital publication stream that explores debates in the field as they emerge. Her literary monograph,Matters of Taste: Eating, Aesthetics, and the Early American Archive, is forthcoming from Minnesota in Spring 2019. She is also at work on two new projects: Data Feminism, co-authored with Catherine D’Ignazio, and under contract with MIT Press, which distills key lessons from feminist theory into a set of principles for the design and interpretation of data visualizations, and Data by Design, which provides an interactive history of data visualization from the eighteenth century to the present.

Reblog> Celebrating 25 years of Gender, Place and Culture

Via the Gender, Place and Culture blog.

Celebrating 25 years of Gender, Place and Culture: a note on our celebrations and the ’25 blogs’ series, by Editor Pamela Moss

It is wonderful that Gender, Place and Culture is celebrating 25 years of publication. As part of this celebration, throughout the year, Gender, Place and Culture will be a sponsor for lectures and sessions at multiple conferences. There will be a series of reviews of some of the influential books within the discipline that give some insight into how feminist geographies came to be. We will also publish a number of journal articles that show how they have transformed the wider discipline of geography, what issues are important to feminist geographies now, and what the future may hold. If this is something that appeals to you, you can find out more about it here.

The introduction of this website for Gender, Place and Culture has also opened up a new venue for publishing. In addition to announcements and calls associated with the journal, the blog has been an opportunity to write about the things feminist geographers immerse themselves in every day – what is done well and what can be done better!

In celebration of turning 25 and in honouring our commitment to showcasing the contributions of feminist geographers in the field, Anna Tarrant and Lisa Dam have commissioned a new set of blogs to be published throughout the year that speak to the interests of feminist geographers – whether it be a reflection on the ethics of research practice, on a moment in the history of the discipline, or on how to survive the challenging times we live in. We invite you to keep up with us as we post a new blog (hopefully more!) roughly every month.

We know that the field is flourishing. And it has been mostly about you – your research, your scholarship, your reviews, your commitment, your feminism, and your interest in feminist geographies! If you have an idea that you want to blog about this year in order to contribute to our celebrations – let Anna and Lisa know at gpcat25@gmail.com.

John Danaher interview – Robot Sex: Social and Ethical Implications

Gigolo Jane and Gigolo Joe robots in the film A.I.

Via Philosophical Disquisitions.

Through the wonders of the modern technology, myself and Adam Ford sat down for an extended video chat about the new book Robot Sex: Social and Ethical Implications (MIT Press, 2017). You can watch the full thing above or on youtube. Topics covered include:

  • Why did I start writing about this topic?
  • Sex work and technological unemployment
  • Can you have sex with a robot?
  • Is there a case to be made for the use of sex robots?
  • The Campaign Against Sex Robots
  • The possibility of valuable, loving relationships between humans and robots
  • Sexbots as a social experiment

Be sure to check out Adam’s other videos and support his work.

Gender, Place & Culture annual award for new & emerging scholars

People in a large conference hall

This is a good initiative from Gender, Place & Culture and I am sure it will help those awarded. I hope we can all encourage eligible candidates to apply!

Annual Award for New and Emerging Scholars

Application closing date: 26 January 2018

The editorial team of Gender, Place and Culture is pleased to announce an annual award valued at a maximum of US$1,500 for new and emerging scholars. The award is targeted at emerging researchers in feminist geographies who are trying to establish research careers and create research momentum. The purpose is to support the research programme of promising feminist geographers and to give an impetus to their careers. The applicant should be involved in independent research and not be merely part of a larger group’s research project. Priority for this award will be given to current graduate students or faculty members within three years of receiving their PhD who are situated in partially or poorly funded positions, who work in departments where little or no money is available for conference participation and who have no recourse to grants from funding agencies such as the Economic and Social Research Council in the UK and the National Science Foundation in the USA or equivalent (if you currently hold one of these grants or have just completed one you will not be considered eligible for this award).

This award is intended to be used for attendance at an international conference of your choice, at which you will present a paper on a topic relating to feminist geography. The successful applicant is expected to use the award within one year of its receipt.

Applicants are asked to submit the following:

  • an abstract of the conference paper (250-300 words) and conference information including, if possible, confirmation of acceptance of your paper;
  • an academic CV;
  • a paragraph outlining how your research contributes to feminist geography;
  • a proposed budget (for accommodation, travel, conference fees, per diem, etc.);
  • and a cover letter including your contact details (mailing address, email, and telephone number).

Please send your applications to the Managing Editor, Pamela Moss, by 26 January 2018. A decision on the award will be made within 4 to 6 weeks of this deadline. Within one month of attending the conference the successful applicant is expected to submit receipts as well as a one page report.