Stefania Milan (Amsterdam):
Reclaiming Agency in Human-Machine Interactions
Amidst stunning advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) technology, citizens increasingly raise concerns about the implications of AI for civil rights, including the right to participate in the democratic life of their country. A number of scenarios have become increasingly common, in which human-machine interactions which are seemingly biased in favor of machine decision-making seem to put citizen sovereignty at risk. Examples include algorithmic predictive policing, invasive smart city technologies, and the deployment of AI for curbing global virus outbreaks – see, for example, facial recognition-enabled thermal cameras regulating access to public space during the COVID-19 pandemic. These technologies are frequently rolled out in the absence of public debate, democratic oversight, and adequate regulation, thus exposing citizens to serial abuse. What’s more, once adopted in times of crisis, their presence is rarely ever questioned.
Dialoguing with critical software studies and political sociology, this talk surveys how the expansion of intelligent systems into society alters the exercise and the perception of political agency. In particular, it explores grassroots responses and activist initiatives in their efforts to develop alternative data epistemologies and algorithmic counter-imaginaries able to “translate” the threats of our complex digital ecosystem for lay users in view of stimulating an informed public debate.