'Feminist data set' event focuses on 'protesting' algorithms

Indiana University-Bloomington will host a "feminist data set" workshop.

Students will compile a set of information that “queers the archive, the spreadsheet, and the data set.”

Indiana University-Bloomington is inviting students to learn how to use data collection as a form of “artwork” and “protest,” with the organizer attempting to “updat[e] the current understanding of cyberfeminism.”

Facilitated by artist Caroline Sinders, the Feb. 26 workshop will teach students how to create a “feminist data set.” Participants will compile a set of information that “queers the archive, the spreadsheet, and the data set.” The goal here is to focus on “forcing” technology to “reflect the community.”

Student participants will examine feminist data as part of larger algorithms, social networks, and “big data.”  

“A feminist data set acts as a means to combat bias and introduce the possibility of data collection as a feminist practice, aiming to produce a slice of data to intervene in larger civic and private networks,” the event description explains.

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The Indiana University-Bloomington session will assess feminist data’s “potential to disrupt larger systems by generating new forms of agency,” and the possibility for data collection to “function as an artwork,” as well as to serve as an “act of protest against algorithms.”

In order to achieve this, students will be encouraged to identify digital content that they deem to be “feminist and queer in nature” to be entered into Sinders’ overall data set, an ongoing art project involving similar workshops, lectures, and collection of such data. Sinders’ goal is to remove perceived bias within the world of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

”By using workshops, I start to define the parameters for feminist words, interactions, their definitions, their origins and, potentially, their creators,” Sinders explains. “The project aims to initiate a standard for equity and equality, by centering collaboration in the creation of this data set. Ultimately existing as a source that can be applied to data and technology, it will also take shape as a living document and practical poetry, updating the current understanding of cyberfeminism.”

Algorithms are one of higher education’s newest targets, with many academics claiming they reinforce racism, sexism, and other biases. A similar upcoming event at the University of California Berkeley, titled “Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism,” will address “data discrimination” as a "social problem,” and demonstrate how online algorithms often “privilege whiteness and discriminate against people of color.”

[RELATED: Berkeley hosts prof to discuss how search engines are racist]

Campus Reform reached out to Indiana University Bloomington for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @celinedryan