- 2019 Conference
Artificial Publics, Just Infrastructures, Ethical Learning
May 14-16, 2019 at SFU Harbour Centre, Vancouver BC
When the Internet first emerged as a mass medium in the mid-1990s, it was sold as the technological solution to our most pressing political problems: from racism to capitalist exploitation; from citizen apathy to media monopolies. Three decades later, the picture could not be more different. The Internet has been blamed for: the rise of cyberbullying, extremist groups, hate speech, and global disinformation networks that undermine the results of local elections; the fragmentation of the national public sphere into a series of echo chambers that foster conspiracy theories and general mistrust of all institutions; world-wide surveillance systems that compromises user privacy and rights and that regularly experiments on them via personalized social media platforms; the establishment of mega-corporations, such as Amazon, that have decimated small businesses. Further, it has fueled machine learning algorithms, which data scientist Cathy O'Neill has called "weapons of math destruction," because they amplify inequalities in hiring policies, policing, education, etc. The question now debated is not "how can the Internet save democracy?" but, as Nathaniel Persily has put it, "Can democracy survive the Internet?" What has happened and what can we do, especially given that the "features" that grounded the hopes of the early Internet as inherently democratic--anonymity, free participation, esoteric communities, and disembodied communications--are now being blamed for undermining society and security?
To respond to these questions, Digital Democracies: Artificial Publics, Just Infrastructures, Ethical Learning will bring internationally renowned experts in Ethics and Artificial Intelligence, Digital Journalism, Global Infrastructure Studies, Critical Race and Digital Media Studies, Information Science, Architecture, Indigenous Studies, Contemporary Art, and Communications to SFU's Vancouver Campus for this 2.5 day conference to disseminate cutting edge research on the topics: "Ethics and Machine Learning," "Internet Platforms and the Public Sphere," and "Decolonizing Infrastructures."
This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Social Science Research Council, and Simon Fraser University.