Moving Toward the Ugly: A Politic Beyond Desirability | Leaving Evidence

Moving Toward the Ugly: A Politic Beyond Desirability | Leaving Evidence.

Many people assume that I identify as femme and even call me femme, but the truth is that “femme” has not felt like a term where I belonged nor was it a place I wanted to be.   I rarely see femme being done in a way that actually challenges and transforms gender, rather than colluding in an alternative enforcing of gender.  Many of the people in this room are more invested in being beautiful and sexy than being magnificent.  Even something as small as the time I nervously asked a comrade femme of color friend of mine to wear sneakers in solidarity with me, instead of her high heels, because I didn’t want to be the only one and didn’t want to get chided from other femmes of color about my shoes (as so often has happened).  She said “no,” but she (of course) “totally didn’t think there was anything wrong with wearing sneakers.”

Comment: Beyond ‘quick wins’: Decolonizing British Columbia – Op-Ed – Times Colonist

Comment: Beyond ‘quick wins’: Decolonizing British Columbia – Op-Ed – Times Colonist. Way to go, Times Colonist. How can I encourage them to keep posting thoughtful pieces like this? Should we be sending letters in response?

Redress settlements are necessary, but not enough. As the Idle No More movement so well illustrates, the problems associated with a century or more of white supremacy are hardly over. The murder and disappearance of hundreds of indigenous women is tragic testimony to that fact. Without mainstream society taking responsibility for the past, do we have a future?

For its part, the provincial government has done even less than the federal government. In our classes, students are often stunned and at times end up in tears when they learn the truth about the province’s past. They deserve better.

Dark shadows

Dark shadows, Clay Shirky on politics of infographics and software interfaces. “The Washington Post has produced a white-people map of murder. Homicide Watch has produced a brown-people map.” Yes.

The Post’s default view is a map. Homicide Watch’s default view is a face. The Post’s view is aggregate and historical; Homicide Watch’s is personal and recent. The Post focuses on murders, Homicide Watch on victims. The Post gives you all the murders; you have to zoom in for the details. Homicide Watch starts with the most recent events; you have to zoom out for the bigger picture. The most recent murder the Post puts on its map was in December of 2011. As I write this, the most recent murder Homicide Watch put on its map was last night—Howard Venable Jr., stabbed to death at Fuller and 16th NW.

The Post’s map is about neighborhoods and patterns. (When I showed the Post’s map to my journalism students and asked whom they thought the ideal audience was, they said, “Realtors.”) Homicide Watch’s map is about people and events. The Post’s map tells you things like, “Stay the hell away from Anacostia.” HW tells you that Venable was 68 years old, and gives you a tip line for the cops, if you have any idea who killed him.

Not to put too fine a point on it, The Washington Post has produced a white-people map of murder, a map that assumes you couldn’t possibly know the victim. Homicide Watch has produced a brown-people map—a map that assumes you might, a map for a city where brown people are 30 times more likely to be murdered than white people.

Latanya Sweeney’s name produces a different view than yours.

Latanya Sweeney’s name produces a different view than yours. Another example of how a “passive” or “neutral” algorithm will reflect racism and other biases from its context. Nice to see a response to this situation that asks how algorithms can reflect better politics, rather than asking how people can be more forgiving of the programmers who didn’t think about this.

Professor Latanya Sweeney found that searching “Black-identifying” names like hers resulted in Google.com and Reuters.com generating ads “suggestive of an arrest in 81 to 86 per cent of name searches on one website and 92 to 95 per cent on the other.” This means that when Professor Latanya Sweeney (who has no criminal record) googles herself, or when anyone googles her, one of the top results is “Latanya Sweeney: Arrested?” According to the study, when we google the names of Black-identifing names, we’re very likely to see the words “criminal record” or “arrest.” That view sucks! And it only serves to edify negative stereotypes, which potentially limit people with “Black” names from accessing equal means of sustenance and amenities. Meanwhile, googling a white-identifying name produces “neutral” content. (The ads that come up when I google my own name offer viewers private information for a fee.)

And it is how this digital view is shaped that is most disturbing: Google assures that there is no racial bias in the algorithms they use to position ads. Rather, the algorithms “learn over time” which ads are selected most frequently and then they display those. The algorithms are simply reflecting the dominant values of our time, but demonstrating them to each of us differently, depending on our own particularities, and from what is know from our individual and collective clicks: these algorithms cannot result in a more panoramic view. So, thank you to Latanya Sweeney for rubbing the fog off of my view, for now at least. Otherwise, because of my race, and my name, I may not have seen the racist outcomes these algorithms are producing.