Digital Democracies: Artificial Publics, Just Infrastructures, Ethical Learning

Imre Szeman  – Democracy / Digital / Environment

What role can democracy and the digital (separately or together) play in ameliorating global warming? On the contrary, how does each further contribute to the expansion of practices that generate more (and more) CO2? From the absence of the environment in many elaborations of the common to the greenhouse gases produced by server farms, this workshop will try to provide some answers to the complex equation: digital + democracy + environment.

Mél Hogan (Communication, Media and Film, U of Calgary)
Eva-Lynn Jagoe (Comparative Literature, U of Toronto)
Geoff Mann (Centre for Global Political Economy and Geography, SFU)
Alicia Massie (Communication Studies, SFU)

Data & Society’s Environmental Impact of Data-Driven Technologies Workshop (NYC)

On November 2, 2018, Data & Society will host a workshop in NYC on the environmental impact of data-driven technologies. The purpose of the D&S Workshop series is to enable deep dives with a broad community of interdisciplinary researchers into topics at the core of Data & Society’s concerns.

Environmental Impact of Data-Driven TechnologiesBy the end of 2018, Bitcoin will consume .05% of the world’s energy per year. This is equivalent to the energy consumption of Denmark. Major tech companies are working hard to make cloud services more energy efficient, but server farms still require tremendous power and water to function. Additionally, other parts of the “stack” (e.g., software development, usage patterns) do not take environmental impact into consideration. Likewise, financiers obsessed with blockchain and 5G are often ignoring the environmental impact of the proliferation of these new technologies. While some IoT chipmakers are competing on energy efficiency, cheap production still dominates that conversation at a moment in which data-oriented tech is being introduced into everything.

On the user end, people are streaming a billion hours of YouTube videos every day and loading countless hours of videos and images into online backup services where they are likely to be watched/viewed by humans only a handful of times. Gmail has normalized the idea that everyone should archive email in perpetuity, which means that Facebook notices indicating you have a new message that you received in 2007 are still using up energy.

Apple has been called out for slowing down its operating system when battery life declines to make the user experience more seamless, which, in effect, encourages users to buy more equipment. Yet, the environmental cost of new hardware is piling up – quite literally. Users of Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s Azure are encouraged to spin up new machines when they are working with data; they experience no visceral understanding of the environmental impact of their decisions. Likewise, even though most older computer scientists obsessed over runtime efficiency of their algorithms, few who grab code from Github give much thought to the environmental cost of their inefficient code.

Much work is still needed to understand the environmental cost of technology. The purpose of this workshop is to bring together researchers who are examining these issues from different disciplinary and analytic perspectives. Relevant topics for this workshop might include:

  • What is the environmental cost of blockchain, 5G, AI, and other hyped technologies?
  • How do design concerns at different parts of the “stack” affect the environmental impact of whole systems?
  • What would an environmental audit of artificial intelligence look like?
  • How do/might software engineers or other practitioners integrate climate concerns into their practice?
  • What is the relationship between privacy and energy-sensitive code?
  • How do data centers affect water policies in different countries?
  • How can decentralized engineering practices be made more environmentally responsible?


SCMS 2018 Toronto “Everywhere Infrastructure: The Systems, Structures, and Ideologies of Big Tech”

(March 14, 3PM )

D23 Everywhere Infrastructure: The Systems, Structures, and Ideologies of Big Tech

Chair: Andrea Zeffiro, McMaster University

Respondent: Rena Bivens, Carleton University

  • Mél Hogan, University of Calgary, “Templating the Body, from Eugenics to Storing Digital Data onto DNA”
  • Sophie Toupin, McGill University, “Preliminary Thoughts on African Hacking Practices”
  • Sarah Roberts, University of California, Los Angeles, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Commercial Content Moderation (CCM) and Social Media’s Logic of Opacity as Infrastructure”
  • Andrea Zeffiro, McMaster University, “A Methodology of Failure: Decoding the Data Infrastructural Regime”

DH Series Speaker at IIT: Heather Dewey-Hagborg (April 2015)

TUESDAY APRIL 7 or 21 12:45pm tbc

Genetic Insecurities
by Heather Dewey-Hagborg (SAIC)

In this talk Dewey-Hagborg will discuss her artwork, her journey, and her current body of work/dissertation topic ‘Genetic Insecurities’ which examines DNA in terms of interpretation, identity and new forms of surveillance. The talk will focus on her projects Stranger Visions, DNA Spoofing and Invisible.

Heather Dewey-Hagborg is a transdisciplinary artist and educator who is interested in art as research and provocation. Heather has shown work internationally at events and venues including the Poland Mediations Bienniale, Ars Electronica, Transmediale, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, the Science Gallery Dublin, PS1 Moma, the New Museum, and Eyebeam Art and Technology Center in New York City. Her work has been widely discussed in the media, from the New York Times and the BBC to TED and Wired.

DH Speaker Series at IIT: Aymar Jean Christian (Mar 3, 2015)

TUESDAY MARCH 3 12:45pm – Siegel Hall, IIT Humanities

TV, Wide Open: Developing Art for Networked Distribution
by Aymar Jean Christian

Aymar Jean Christian at IIT

Aymar Jean Christian

Assistant Professor in the Media, Technology and Society program in the Department of Communication Studies at Northwestern University

This talk charts the beginnings of an experiment in developing community-based networked television. The Wide Open series, part of the Open TV network, empowers a diverse set of creative artists to tell original stories as part of an art-driven online anthology series.  Blending elements of scripted entertainment, performing arts, and other creative practices, Wide Open is focused on under-represented artists and audiences — e.g. queer, black, Latin@, trans, femme, and others) — and seeks to evolve from an online anthology series into a fully-resourced multimedia platform providing under-served communities with a viable alternative to mainstream entertainment. This project is an intervention in television, film, online video and art industries, all of which undervalue the creative work of people of color and other marginalized workers. The persistent inequality of these creative economies has resulted not only in a stilted mainstream entertainment industry but also a rich, under-explored wealth of diverse artistry already moving forward in alternative spaces. By showcasing underrepresented arts and artists through more open platforms online, Wide Open seeks to build a broad, diverse and consistent audience for underrepresented and under-funded arts, television and film.


Aymar Jean “AJ” Christian is assistant professor in the Media, Technology and Society program in the Department of Communication Studies at Northwestern University and editor of Televisual. Dr. Christian researches new media and creative economy. As part of this research he documents the changing market for television across popular and academic publications, including Indiewire and academic journals Continuum, Transformative Works & Culture, First Monday, Cinema Journal and Communication, Culture and Critique. His book-length manuscript, Open TV: Innovation Beyond Networks, will be the first full study on the rise of web video, incorporating years of documenting and participating in this emerging art form and market.


DH Speaker Series at IIT: Ed Marszewski (Feb 10, 2015)

TUESDAY FEB 10, 12:45pm – Siegel Hall, IIT Humanities

The Community of the Future and What it Means to You
by Ed Marszewski

Ed Marszewski will speak about his journey to Bridgeport, “the Community of the Future”. An overview of projects, publications, and other concerns that have informed his practice as an artist/developer, beer nerd, and socially engaged artivist will be shared via projected slideshow with commentary. Students, prepare to be recruited!

Ed Marszewski is the Co-Director of the Public Media Institute, a non profit corporation that programs the space, the Co-Prosperity Sphere; produces the annual Version Festival; and publishes Lumpen magazine, Proximity magazine, Mash Tun Journal and other titles. He is also co-owner of Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar and is the President of Marz Community Brewing Co. He also makes work from time to time that focuses on housing rights issues and gentrification.


On Opposition, Tangibility, and Annihilation: An Interview with Hannah Leja Epstein by Alison Harvey

As part of my curatorial work at the MAL, I link artists to theorist for interviews on various media arts and media archaeology topics.

On Opposition, Tangibility, and Annihilation: An Interview with Hannah Leja Epstein by Alison Harvey

January 30, 2014

Hannah’s artistic practice is simultaneously fascinating and confounding, spanning analogue (including rug hooking) and digital media (such as digital games and video), and exploring themes that might seem on the surface surprisingly divergent, from cyborgs to intellectual property to prison exploitation films. We exchanged a series of emails delving into her visions, dreams, and praxis.

Alison Harvey: Who are you and what do you do?

Hannah Leja Epstein: I am a super cute chaos machine – light. I create middle-of-the-road mischief- <3 <3 <3.

AH: Where did you come from and where are you going?

HLE: I come from a kaleidoscopic multi-lens perspective, stemming from the divergent duality of a Latvian mother and Ashkenazi father. I believe that being cast in oppositional histories has directed me on a path of perpetual reconciliation. As such, I feel I am zooming towards a creative moment of concisely devastating action. Conceptual annihilation of division, that is if the forecast stays clear.

AH: Why are you so promiscuous in your use of media formats? What do your diverse platforms share and how do they differ? Do you have a favorite mode?

HLE: I am slutty in every aspect of my life.

I think that possessing a variety of creative avenues is a way of remaining flexible in uncertain times. I like to think that if one mode of expression were to take off then I would wholly devote myself to it but that is likely just wishful thinking as unpredictable behavior and interests is a characteristic of my self that I have come to accept and know, that managing it requires a lack of formal direction or containment in a single sphere.

I don’t know if my diverse platforms necessarily share anything except that I have access and proficiency with them.

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