Making Poverty Pay

Making Poverty Pay: Digital Creditors, Gentrifying Landlords & Financial Capitalism Today

14 April 2021, 7PM

Registration is Free: https://westernuniversity.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_iiHuAhF5SgSK5X-279GWMA

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/431916264559886/ 

Website: https://bdam.fims.uwo.ca

Twitter: @bigdatamargins

Featuring: Rob Aitken (Alberta) and Susanne Soederberg (Queen’s). Hosted by FIMS Rogers Chair Matt Stahl (Western). 

How is finance capitalism today “making poverty pay”?

For several years now, corporations and governments have been developing systems for accessing and capturing the details of impoverished people’s everyday lives, and for extracting profit out of their day-to-day activities.

The research of Rob Aitken into “alternative credit scoring” examines a cluster of new practices designed to make visible—and extract value from—those people whose economic activity is too marginal to count for the purpose of the formal credit scores that would enable them to buy a car or a house. Susanne Soederberg’s comparative study of the privatization of social housing in European cities reveals how public housing agencies and private landlords subject impoverished people to exploitation, eviction, and erasure, fueling gentrification in cities like Berlin and Dublin.

The work of these two Canadian researchers outlines how impoverished people in North America and Europe are increasingly subject to a “dialectic of visibility and erasure”—made visible so that they can be squeezed for interest on loans and shuffled through social housing and emergency shelters, and erased so that they don’t show up in policy debates or on the streets of gentrifying urban districts.
Making Poverty Pay is generously sponsored by the Rogers Chair in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at Western University & Big Data at the Margins.

Digital Piece Work

Digital Piece Work: The New Workers and Geographies of the Digital Economy

25 March 2021, 7PM

Make sure to register for our next free Zoom Webinar, open to everyone at Western and beyond. Registration is Free: Click Here.

Digital Piece Work: The New Workers and Geographies of the Digital Economy
Featuring Lilly Irani (UC, San Diego), Lisa Nakamura (Michigan), and Greig de Peuter (Wilfrid Laurier). Hosted by Nick Dyer-Witheford (Western)

How can we support workers in communities on the margins whose jobs and livelihoods are being threatened or transformed by developments in AI, big data and machine learning? How we can demand accountability from the powerful platforms that are engendering these transformations while denying the rights of their workers to fair pay and safe working conditions?

The third in our Big Data at the Margins series examines the ways in which digitization and AI are profoundly transforming the kinds, nature, and location of work, often with severe consequences for those on the social and economic margins or living in smaller towns and rural communities. As traditional manufacturing jobs have disappeared or moved overseas, new forms of AI and digitization have moved in, threatening jobs such as construction, maintenance, food preparation, service and agricultural work, and pushing workers into new forms of ‘gig’ or ‘micro’ work – short-term, standardized, precarious and low-paying jobs, which take place primarily on powerful digital platforms such as Uber, Task Rabbit, or Amazon Turk. These jobs are most often held by women, young people, migrants, indigenous people and people of colour, intensifying already existing forms of social stratification and deepening economic inequality. And, while these platforms publicly praise their workers as ‘entrepreneurs’ or ‘partners’, behind the scenes they work tirelessly to deny, punish or bust any attempts by workers to organize unions or demand legal recognition and protections.

Our internationally recognized panelists will address the impact of AI and digitization on the nature of work and the implications of these transformations for workers and their communities. The award-winning work of Lilly Irani, an associate professor at the University of California San Diego and member of the AI Now Academic Council, looks at the ways digital platforms deploy the discourses and practices of entrepreneurialism to justify further exploiting and disempowering workers around the globe. Lisa Nakamura, Director of the Digital Studies Institute at the University of Michigan and member of the Precarity Lab, is a leading scholar in the examination of race and digital media whose recent work looks at the ways in which precarity unfolds across disparate geographic regions and practices, consolidating the wealth and influence of a few and further marginalizing women, migrants and people of colour. Greig de Peuter, associate professor at Wilfred Laurier University and co-founder of Cultural Workers Organize, explores the re-composition of labour politics today, as artists, contract workers, interns, self-employed, freelancers, part-timers and other flexible labour forces seek to collectively confront precarity and financial and social insecurity.

Digital Policing

Digital Policing: Facial Recognition Software and Community Resistance

Featuring: Featuring Tawana Petty, Deborah Raji, and Ann Cavoukian.

Make sure to register for our next free Zoom Webinar, open to everyone at Western and beyond: click here.

How can we come together to push back on the deployment of facial recognition technologies by police forces, schools, and other civic institutions? What are the best strategies for the successful abolition of these and other carceral technologies? 

The second in our Big Data at the Margins series examines how the digitization and datafication of the criminal Justice system has intersected with the development and deployment of AI-driven technologies like facial recognition and predictive policing. Police forces in Canada have been eager to use facial recognition to identify and arrest, raising major concerns surrounding data privacy and the civil rights of the accused. Civil society activists ranging from the Water Protectors of Standing Rock to the Black Lives Matter activists of this past summer’s uprisings against policy brutality and the carceral have been similarly targeted for FRT surveillance by law enforcement authorities. And algorithms used in the US criminal justice system to predict recidivism have drawn international condemnation for their potential for bias against Black defendants. This intensification of policing via digital tools has been met by stiff resistance by communities across North America, calling not only for many of these technologies to be banned, but also for the broader dismantling of the irredeemably racist elements of the carceral state. 

Our internationally recognized panelists will address the impacts of facial recognition technologies on individual privacy, the perpetuation of algorithmic bias against already disadvantaged groups, and the struggle for community data justice. The award-wining work of Deborah Raji, incoming Mozilla Fellow and collaborator with the Algorithmic Justice League, has highlighted the racial bias intrinsic to computer vision systems. Ann Cavoukian, former Information & Privacy Commissioner of Ontario and one of the world’s leading privacy experts, has pioneered Privacy by Design, a framework to ensure human privacy is protected via digital technologies. And Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty, co-founder of Our Data Bodies and  former director of the Data Justice Program at Detroit Community Technology Project, is one of North America’s foremost community advocates and social justice activists pushing both for the abolition of carceral technologies and for grassroots community-led digital life. 

Digital Care & Cruelty

Digital Care and Cruelty: Social Provisioning and Deprivation in the Era of Big Data 

What good can big data, automation and artificial intelligence do for individuals in need of social assistance and what harms can it perpetuate?

The first in our Big Data at the Margins series explores the impacts of artificial intelligence, big data and digital technologies on those in need of social supports and resources in smaller towns and cities across Canada. Increasingly, cash-strapped city governments are outsourcing decisions about who can receive social benefits, such as housing, health, or other social services, to privately-owned software providers. While these outsourced, algorithmically determined decisions may expedite access, they are not transparent and can contain unacknowledged biases. As a result, people in need can find themselves on the wrong end of an opaque decision they are unable to challenge.