Claiming Democracy over Digital Infrastructures
Wednesday, April 28, 2021, 12:00-1:00PM CT on Zoom
Abstract: We work and live through layers of infrastructure designed and installed by companies and public agencies, often out of sight and seemingly beyond our grasp. Design justice asks us to pay attention to how these infrastructure express the assumptions of the powerful and guides us to design with directly affected communities. In this talk, I will argue that we need to go a step further to address the problem of political agency over digital infrastructures. By political agency, I mean the capacity of agents to create effects through direct and institutional action. I will motivate and elaborate this argument with two case studies: a struggle to shape public-private smart cities infrastructure in San Diego, as well as struggles to transform platform work conditions for Amazon Mechanical Turk workers.
Bio: Lilly Irani is an Associate Professor of Communication & Science Studies at University of California, San Diego. She also serves as faculty in the Design Lab, Institute for Practical Ethics, the program in Critical Gender Studies, and sits on the Academic Advisory Board of AI Now (NYU). She is author of Chasing Innovation: Making Entrepreneurial Citizens in Modern India (Princeton University Press, 2019). Chasing Innovation has been awarded the 2020 International Communication Association Outstanding Book Award and the 2019 Diana Forsythe Prize for feminist anthropological research on work, science, or technology, including biomedicine. Her research examines the cultural politics of high-tech work and the counter-practices they generate, as both an ethnographer, a designer, and a former technology worker. She is a co-founder and maintainer of digital labor activism tool Turkopticon. Her work has appeared at ACM SIGCHI, New Media & Society, Science, Technology & Human Values, South Atlantic Quarterly, and other venues. She sits on the Editorial Committee of Public Culture and on the Editorial Advisory Boards of New Technology, Work, and Employment and Design and Culture. She has a Ph.D. in Informatics from University of California, Irvine.