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My research focuses on how the way we think and talk about technologies shape their human and social implications. My research asks questions like:
- What kind of beliefs and feelings about objectivity, neutrality, and technological progress underlie our approaches to algorithms and AI? What does it mean, for example, to think that automated scoring systems for job interviews or risk assessment can actually measure human beings - and how do those assumptions often lead us to amplify existing inequalities and harms?
- What does it mean to believe that privacy is 'dead', or to valorise the surveillance of 'bad people' as an exciting technological adventure? How do technologies like predictive policing and facial recognition rely on & perpetuate longstanding beliefs about crime or terrorism?
- Where did our popular notions about Facebook as a platform, Twitter as a quasi-public space, or the internet as a medium for 'free' speech, come from? How do our prevailing fantasies about communication and reason shape - and limit - the possibilities of what the internet can and should look like?
I usually draw from research in and around communication and media studies; critical data / algorithm studies; science and technology studies (STS); history of technology; critical theory.
My first book, Technologies of Speculation: The limits of knowledge in a data-driven society (NYU Press, 2020), asks: what counts as knowledge in the age of big data and smart machines? Drawing on mixed methods research into the Snowden affair and self-tracking technology, I argue that in the pursuit of better knowledge, technology is reshaping what counts as knowledge in its own image. The push for algorithmic certainty sets loose an expansive array of incomplete archives, speculative judgments and simulated futures. All too often, data generates speculation as much as it does information.
I am currently working on a SSHRC-funded project entitled Personal Truthmaking. It traces the cultural and historical resonances between two different ways in which the idea of 'truth' and 'facts' are being weaponised today: (1) in the politically polarised, platform-amplified practice of 'fact signalling' that demonises the other side as irrational and antimodern; (2) constantly recycled technological futures that encourage us to dream of fully automated luxury objectivity through the power of algorithms and AI.
More info & open access PDFs of my publications are available on my personal website.
I am currently accepting MA and PhD students. I'm happy to consider any project that takes some humanistic, cultural, social, and/or historical approach to new media and technology, including but not limited to algorithms and AI.
I welcome students from interdisciplinary or non-Communications/Media Studies backgrounds. I should note that if your work is primarily focused on solving technical problems around AI and algorithms, or you are above all looking for expertise in quantitative social sciences methods, I am probably not best equipped to advise you!
At SFU, graduate student applications are reviewed by a centralised committee. I invite you to apply using our Admissions page; once you are accepted, I'd be happy to discuss fit for advising.
My recent students and their areas include:
- Shirong Ding (MA): COVID & platform disinformation
- Catherine Dubé (MA): Beauty apps, health/wellness tech and biopolitics
- Rowan Melling (PhD): Romanticism & Silicon Valley tech culture
FOR COLLEAGUES & MEDIA:
I regularly speak to media outlets, student newspapers, podcasts, and I'm also happy to do guest lectures or academic talks / symposia. For any inquiries, please get in touch by email.
- 2016 Ph.D. Communication, University of Pennsylvania
- 2010 M.A. Media Studies, Victoria University of Wellington
- 2008 B.A. Hons. Media Studies & B.A. Classical Studies, Victoria University of Wellington
Future courses may be subject to change.
- (2020) Technologies of Speculation: The limits of knowledge in a data-driven society. NYU Press. (Formerly Fabrications)
Selected Journal Articles
- 2021 "Technofutures in Stasis: Smart Machines, Ubiquitous Computing, and the Future That Keeps Coming Back", International Journal of Communication 15, 1940-1960.
- 2019 "The Futures of Anticipatory Reason: Contingency and speculation in the sting operation." Security Dialogue 50:4, 314-330. With Piotr Szpunar.
- 2017 “Criticising Surveillance and Surveillance Critique: why privacy and humanism are necessary but insufficient.” Surveillance & Society 15:2, 187-203.
- 2016 “Data’s Intimacy: Machinic sensibility and the quantified self.” Communication +1 5.
- 2015 “Subjunctive and Interpassive Knowing in the Surveillance Society.” Media and Communication 3:2, 63-76.
- 2015 “When Life Mattered: the politics of the real in video games’ reappropriation of history, myth and ritual.” Games & Culture 10:1, 35-56.
- 2014 “The Other-Publics: mediated othering and the public sphere in the Dreyfus Affair.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 17:6, 665-681.
Selected Book Chapters
- 2020 "'Fuck Your Feelings': The Affective Weaponisation of Facts and Reason." In: Affective Politics of Digital Media: Propaganda by Other Means, ed. Megan Boler & Elizabeth Davis. Routledge.
- 2018 “Surveillance, Sensors, and Knowledge through the machine.” In: Digital Existence: Ontology, Ethics and Transcendence in Digital Culture, ed. Amanda Lagerkvist. Routledge.
- 2016 Sun-ha Hong & François Allard-Huver, “Governing Governments: Discursive contestations of governmentality in the transparency dispositif.” In: Studies of Discourse and Governmentality. New perspectives and methods, ed. Paul McIlvenny et al., John Benjamins.
- 2017 Place, Space, and Mediated Communication: Exploring Context Collapse, ed. Carolyn Marvin, Sun-ha Hong & Barbie Zelizer, Routledge.
Selected Short Pieces & Interviews
- 2021 "Antiseptic Glass Stream", LA Review of Books
- 2021 "Control Creep: When the Data Always Travels, So Do the Harms", Center for International Governance Innovation
- 2021 "Why Transparency Won't Save Us", Center for International Governance Innovation
- 2020 "Quantified Life: An Interview with Sun-ha Hong", LA Review of Books
- 2019 "Trevor Paglen Discusses ImageNet and Machine Vision with Surveillance Scholar Sun-ha Hong", Art in America
- 2018 "take care", GAS Gallery San Francisco
Keywords: New media, critical theory, continental philosophy, big data, AI, digital culture, surveillance, affect, science and technology studies