iSchool Research Symposium: Seeta Peña Gangadharan
Technological refusal: Reflections on a politics of computing
While public discourse on automated decision-making systems and artificial intelligence speaks remains optimistic about innovation, human progress, and benefits of new technologies to society, a significant minority harbors deep anxieties about the development and deployment of new technologies. Some groups and individuals argue such technologies exacerbate their experience of systematic hardships and cause material and emotional harm, especially to societys most marginalized populations. These harms lead many to engage in collective, politicized opposition to sociotechnical systems, unadoption or rejection the adoption of particular technologies or technological practices, or individualized acts of resistance to the increased presence of automated technologies in their lives. At the same time, a variety of efforts in the tech industry and the field of computer science echo similar frustrations and inclinations to refuse. The practices range from explicit expressions of collective resistance, such as worker walkouts at Google against Project Maven, to implicit forms of rejection, including the espousal of public interest technology, decolonial AI, and other ethical frameworks in tech development. In this talk, I examine the nature of technological refusal across these examples, as well as explore—and question—the through line between these different domains of refusal. The talk ends with reflections on the possibilities for developing a politics of and in computing.
Dr. Seeta Peña Gangadharan is Associate Professor in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her work focuses on inclusion, exclusion, and marginalization, as well as questions around democracy, social justice, and technological governance. She currently co-leads two projects: Our Data Bodies, which examines the impact of data collection and data-driven technologies on members of marginalized communities in the United States, and Justice, Equity, and Technology, which explores the impacts of data-driven technologies and infrastructures on European civil society.