Digital Democracies Conference: Artificial Publics, Just Infrastructures, Ethical Learning

Keynote speaker Igor Vamos is a media artist and culture jammer. Vamos is also known as “Mike Bonanno,” in his work with The Yes Men, the performance-activist duo that impersonates captains of industry and surprise unsuspecting business audiences with satirical, poignant actions that comment upon pressing social and environmental issues. Vamos is also well-known for his collaborative public art projects such as the Barbie Liberation Organization and the Center For Land Use Interpretation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the increase and dissemination of knowledge about the nature of human interaction with the Earth. 

Jonathan Albright is the research director at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism and a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. His work focuses on the analysis of socially-mediated news events, misinformation/propaganda, and trending topics, applying an exploratory, mixed-methods, and data-driven approach. He is a co-author of the Pew Internet report, “The Future of Free Speech, Trolls, Anonymity and Fake News Online.” Albright’s work uncovering and mapping the news ecosystem has been featured in The Washington Post, The Guardian, Fortune, and cited in The New Yorker, AP Technology, BuzzFeed, Fox Business, Quartz, and the BBC.

Clemens Apprich is Visiting Research Fellow at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University in Montréal and member of the Centre for Digital Cultures (CDC) at Leuphana University of Lüneburg. His crrent research focuses on the epistemological, social and technical analysis of filtering algorithms, asking how they are organising digital cultures, what role they play in the transformation of democratic societies, and to what extent they can be explained by the latest push in computation, in particular in automated data analysis and machine learning. Together with Wendy Chun, Hito Steyerl, and Florian Cramer he co-authored Pattern Discrimination (Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­ne­so­ta Press/​me­son press, 2019), which investigates the centrality of race, class, gender and sexuality to big data network analytics and bridges research fields in the arts, humanities, and data sciences.

Ariella Azoulay is a prominent art curator, filmmaker, and theorist of photography and visual culture, who researches the platforms and the matter of mobilization of violence. She is a professor of Modern Culture and Media and the Department of Comparative Literature, Brown University. She is Curator of the archive “Act of State 1967-2007” (Centre Pompidou, 2016), Enough! The Natural Violence of the New World Order (F/Stop festival, Leipzig, 2016), “The Natural History of Rape,” Pembroke Hall, Brown University, “The Body Politic,” Reina Sofia, Madrid; When The Body Politic Ceases To Be An Idea, Exhibition Room - Manifesta Journal Around Curatorial Practices No 16 (MOBY, 2013), Architecture of Destruction (Zochrot, Tel Aviv), Everything Could Be Seen (Um El Fahem Gallery of Art). She is also the director of documentary films: Civil Alliances, Palestine, 47-48 (2012), I Also Dwell Among Your Own People: Conversations with Azmi Bishara (2004), The Food Chain (2004).

Jodi Byrd’s important research contributes to understanding racial formations and networked technologies and the practices of decolonizing infrastructures. She is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma and associate professor of English and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she is also a faculty affiliate at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. She is the author of Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism (University of Minnesota Press, 2011), and her work on critical Indigenous studies, queer Indigenous studies, and critical technology studies has appeared most recently in Settler Colonial Studies, Social Text, South Atlantic Quarterly and in Joanne Barker’s edited collection, Critically Sovereign: Indigenous Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (Duke University Press, 2017).

Dr. Kate Crawford, is Co-Director and Co-Founder, AI Now Institute, NYU; Distinguished Research Professor, NYU; and Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research New York City. Kate is a widely-published researcher, academic, and author who has spent over a decade studying large-scale data systems, machine learning and artificial intelligence. She is the co-founder and co-director of the AI Now Institute at NYU, which conducts research across computer science, social science and law to better understand and address the social implications of artificial intelligence. She is a Distinguished Research Professor at New York University, and a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research New York. In 2016, she co-chaired the Obama White House symposium on the social and economic implications of a AI. She has published in academic journals such as Nature, New Media & Society, and Information, Communication & Society, and written for The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, The Washington Post. She has advised policy makers at the European Commission, the United Nations, the Federal Trade Commission, and the City of New York. In 2018, she was selected for a Richard von Weizsäcker Fellowship at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin.

Cathy N. Davidson is the Founding Director of the Futures Initiative and a Distinguished Professor in the Ph.D. Program in English at the Graduate Center, CUNY and in the MA Program in Digital Humanities and the MS Program in Data Analysis and Visualization. She is also co-director of the CUNY Humanities Alliance, a program in partnership with LaGuardia Community College, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and dedicated to preparing graduate students for careers teaching in community colleges and co-PI of the Teagle Foundation-supported CUNY-wide Undergraduate Peer Leadership and Mentoring Program. Davidson is now the Co-Director (with Prof Jacqueline Wernimont of Arizona State University) of HASTAC, the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (, the world’s first and oldest academic social network. 

Nick Dyer-Witheford is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies, Western. His current research is engaged with emergent forms of counter-power against high technology, globalized capital; the political economy of computer and video game industry; and the digitization of libraries. His books include Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High-technology Capitalism and Cyborg Alexandria? Digital Capitalism and the Virtual Library (forthcoming).

Laura Kurgan is an Associate Professor of Architecture at the Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation at Columbia University, where she directs the Visual Studies curriculum, and the Center for Spatial Research. She is the author of Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics (Zone Books, 2013). Her work has been exhibited internationally, including the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, the Cartier Foundation in Paris, the Venice Architecture Biennale, MACBa in Barcelona, and the ZKM in Karlsruhe.

Krista Lynes is Canada Research Chair in Feminist Media Studies and Director of the Feminist Media Studio in the Department of Communication, Concordia University. Her research examines the intersections of video art, documentary, and independent film in making visible emergent feminist political subjects, as well as multiple visions of social life under conditions of duress, political struggle, disenfranchisement or exploitation. Her focus on the politics of visibility engages feminist and queer theories, theories of the body and gender (as articulated in and through contemporary art and media), postcolonial and transnational examinations of culture (nationalism, belonging, border politics), questions of witnessing, spectatorship and encounter. She is currently working on two research projects: the first examines the aesthetics of ‘groundedness’ in representations of popular struggle and protest; the second representations of blood ties, blood, and kinship structures under the conditions of globalization and transnational migration. Her books include Prismatic Media, Transnational Circuits: Feminism in a Globalized Present.

Lisa Nakamura is the Gwendolyn Calvert Baker Collegiate Professor of American Cultures at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and coordinator of its Digital Studies Institute. She is the author of four books on racism, sexism, and the Internet. Her areas of expertise include histories of indigenous electronic manufacture in post-war America, content moderation by women of color on social media, and virtual reality’s claims to produce racial and gender empathy. She is currently working on a book on women of color and the Internet that will contribute in discussion on racial formations and networked technologies.

Helen Nissenbaum is an expert in ethical, political and quality of life dimensions of digital technologies. She is professor of Information Science at Cornell Tech, where she is founding director of the Digital Life Initiative, Nissenbaum’s books include Obfuscation: A User's Guide for Privacy and Protest, with Finn Brunton (MIT Press, 2015), Values at Play in Digital Games, with Mary Flanagan (MIT Press, 2014), and Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life (Stanford, 2010). She received grants from the National Science Foundation, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, MacArthur Foundation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Recipient of the 2014 Barwise Prize of the American Philosophical Association, she has contributed to privacy-enhancing software, including TrackMeNot (for protecting against profiling based on Web search) and AdNauseam (protecting against profiling based on ad clicks).

Safiya Umoja Noble’s research targets racist and sexist algorithmic bias in commercial search engines; the design of digital media platforms on the internet and their impact on society. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California (USC) Annenberg School of Communication. Her work is marking the ways that digital media impacts and intersects with issues of race, gender, culture, and technology design. She is an author of Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (NYU Press, 2018), and is the co-editor of two books: The Intersectional Internet: Race, Sex, Culture and Class Online (Peter Lang, Digital Formations, 2016), and Emotions, Technology & Design (Elsevier, 2015). Safiya holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Library & Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a B.A. in Sociology from California State University, Fresno with an emphasis on African American/Ethnic Studies.

Lisa Parks is an expert in three related areas: satellite technologies and global media cultures; critical studies of media infrastructures; and media, militarization and surveillance. She is a Professor of Comparative Media Studies at MIT. She is the author of Cultures in Orbit: Satellites and the Televisual (Duke UP, 2005), Coverage: Vertical Mediation and the War on Terror (Routledge, forthcoming), and Mixed Signals: Media Infrastructures and Cultural Geographies (in progress). She is co-editor of: Life in the Age of Drone Warfare (Duke UP, forthcoming 2017), Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures (U of Illinois, 2015), Down to Earth: Satellite Technologies, Industries and Cultures (Rutgers UP, 2012). Parks has held visiting appointments at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin, McGill University, University of Southern California, and the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2018, Parks was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowships.

Gillian Russell (Emily Carr University) is a design anthropologist whose projects centre on the interplay between design and its critical contexts. She is a lecturer at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Vancouver, Canada, where she teaches Critical Design Practice, Inventive Methods in Design Research, and Narrative Environments. She co-founded the ‘Defamiliarization Lab’ a transdisciplinary platform for developing methodologies and tools to re-imagine designs role in sensing the world anew. She has worked on projects and exhibitions with the Design Museum London, London Design Festival, Milan Furniture Fair, Tent London, and Victoria & Albert Museum. Gillian holds a PhD in History of Design at the Royal College of Art, London (2017). It was undertaken with AHRC funding in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Sarah Sharma is Director of the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology and Associate Professor in the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology at University of Toronto. Her research focuses on the relationship between technology and culture with a particular focus on social inequalities. In particular, her research has focused on time as a site of social difference in a culture that is imagined to be technologically speeding up. Her current project engages medium theory and feminist approaches to technology on such sites as algorithmic culture, the “sharing” economy, and the changing structures of care labour.

Imre Szeman is University Research Chair and Professor of Communication Arts at the University of Waterloo. He conducts research on and teaches in the areas of energy humanities, environmental studies, critical and cultural theory, social and political philosophy, and Canadian studies. He is the founder of the Canadian Association of Cultural Studies and a founding member of the US Cultural Studies Association. Szeman is also co-founder of the Petrocultures Research Group and the founder and director of Banff Research in Culture. Szeman’s books include the forthcoming On Petrocultures: Globalization, Culture, and Energy(2019) and Energy Culture: Art and Theory on Oil and Beyond(2019).

Fred Turner is the Harry and Norman Chandler Professor in the Department of Communication at Stanford University. He is an expert in the histories of technology who studies the rise of fascism within the ecosystem of decentralized media. Turner is the author of three books: The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties (University of Chicago Press, 2013); From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism (University of Chicago Press, 2006); and Echoes of Combat: The Vietnam War in American Memory (Anchor/Doubleday, 1996; 2nd ed., University of Minnesota Press, 2001). Before coming to Stanford, he taught Communication at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He worked for ten years as a journalist and wrote for newspapers and magazines ranging from the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine to Nature.

Siva Vaidhyanathan is an expert of politics of information in contemporary, connected societies. His research interrogating the structures, functions, habits, norms, and practices of particular aspects of information culture and in analyzing how these issues go beyond simple arguments about digital "rights" to include consideration of the more subtle impacts of cost and access that have the potential for chilling effects on a "semiotic democracy" that is situated in "global flows of information." He is the Robertson Professor of Media Studies and director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia where he directs the Center for Media and Citizenship. He is the author The Googlization of Everything -- and Why We Should Worry (California UP, 2011) and Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects People and Undermines Democracy (Oxford UP 2018).

Ken Wissoker is the Editorial Director at Duke University Press and Director of Intellectual Publics at The Graduate Center, CUNY. His areas of Specialization: Anthropology, Construction of Race, Gender and National Identity, Cultural Studies, Feminist Theory, Film and Television, Lesbian and Gay Studies, Literary Theory and Criticism, New Media, Popular Music, Postcolonial Theory, Social Studies of Science, Visual Studies