Syllabus: Art, AI, & The Aesthetics of Algorithmic Justice
ARTH 295: Topics in Art History
Prof. Mashinka Firunts Hakopian
2021 Mellon Professor in the Practice, Department of Art and Art History
Artificial intelligence increasingly structures the sociotechnical terrain of our present, and the human agents who train it shape political imaginaries of what is yet to come. From predictive policing to judicial risk assessment to border surveillance to automated hiring, the encoded biases of AI systems magnify existing structural inequalities. Predictive models don’t forecast a world that might be: they reproduce the world depicted in their training data. They project outcomes marked by algorithmic oppression (Safiya Noble), the New Jim Code (Ruha Benjamin), algorithmic violence (Mimi Ọnụọha), and algorithmic coloniality (Shakir Mohamed, Marie-Therese Png, & William Isaac). Algorithmic worldmaking often unfolds in a “black box”: an opaque space of automated decision-making whose rationale is hidden from public view. Over the last decade, a cadre of researchers and cultural workers have opened up the black box for scrutiny, imagining possibilities for feminist, antiracist, and decolonial AI.
This class attends to the work of artists who map the limits of our current algorithmic imaginaries, including Algorithmic Justice League, Morehshin Allahyari, Stephanie Dinkins, Suzanne Kite, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Lauren Lee McCarthy, Mimi Ọnụọha, and Astria Suparak. Their pieces will be paired with work in media studies and critical race studies by Ruha Benjamin, Safiya Noble, Cathy O’Neill, Virginia Eubanks, Timnit Gebru, and others. Reading across these works, the class will consider how contemporary artists render algorithmic harms visible and imagine speculative futures optimized for just outcomes.
This course will use labor-based contract grading, which is designed to mitigate the structural inequities associated with traditional grading methods. In labor-based contract grading, sudents will coproduce the course’s assessment rubrics, and will be active co-creators of the course curriculum through student-generated modules.
In lieu of an exam or paper, the final for this course will take the form of a speculative blueprint for future AI systems, building on the artworks and readings we examine in class.
This course is convened in conjunction with the Fall 2021 exhibition at Oxy Arts, Encoding Futures: Critical Imaginaries of AI, co-curated by Prof. Hakopian and Meldia Yesayan.
Occidental College occupies the traditional, unceded lands of the Tongva people.
09.07 | INTRODUCTION TO AI
Reading: Mimi Ọnụọha and Diana Nucera, The People’s Guide to AI (excerpt)
Reading (In Class): Şerife Wong, “Why AI Policy Needs Artists”
Stephanie Dinkins, “¿Human ÷ (Automation + Culture) = Partner?”
Meredith Broussard, Artificial Unintelligence (excerpt)
Artworks: Şerife Wong, Fluxus Landscape: An Expansive View of AI Ethics and Governance, 2019
Stephanie Dinkins, Conversations with Bina48, 2014-Present
Zach Blas and Jemima Wyman, im here to learn so :)))))), 2017
09.14 | ALGORITHMS OF OPPRESSION
Reading: Safiya Umoja Noble, Algorithms of Oppression (excerpt)
Reading (In-Class): Allison Koenecke et al., “Racial Disparities in Automated Speech Recognition” (excerpt)
Yarden Katz, Artificial Whiteness (excerpt)
Artworks: Algorithmic Justice League, Voicing Erasure
Martine Syms, Mythiccbeing, 2018
09.17 | PROGRAMMING: SAFIYA UMOJA NOBLE LECTURE
Dr. Safiya U. Noble is an Associate Professor of Gender Studies and African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where she serves as the Co-Founder and Director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry (C2i2). She is the author of a best-selling book on racist and sexist algorithmic bias in commercial search engines, entitled Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (NYU Press), which has been widely-reviewed in scholarly and popular publications. Her work is both sociological and interdisciplinary, marking the ways that digital media impacts and intersects with issues of race, gender, culture, and technology. https://safiyaunoble.com
09.21 | THE NEW JIM CODE
Reading: Ruha Benjamin, Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code (excerpt)
Reading (In Class): Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, “Before the Bullet Hits the Body: Dismantling Predictive Policing in Los Angeles” (excerpt)
Nora Khan, Seeing, Naming, Knowing (excerpt)
Artwork: Lynn Hershman Leeson, Shadow Stalker, 2018-2021
Algorithmic Justice League, The Coded Gaze
09.28 | ENCODING FUTURES: CRITICAL IMAGINARIES OF AI AT OXY ARTS
Class will meet at Oxy Arts for group presentations and a discussion of the exhibition Encoding Futures: Critical Imaginaries of AI.
Oxy Arts is located at 4757 York Blvd.
10.05 | DATA FEMINISM
Reading: Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein, “Collect, Analyze, Imagine, Teach,” in Data Feminism (excerpt)
Reading (In-Class): Legacy Russell, Glitch Feminism (excerpt)
Artworks: Mimi Ọnụọha, The Library of Missing Datasets, 2016
Caroline Sinders, Feminist Dataset, 2017-Present
10.07 | PROGRAMMING: ENCODING FUTURES: SPECULATIVE MONUMENTS FOR LA PANEL DISCUSSION
Over 3 months during the summer of 2021, Nancy Baker Cahill, Audrey Chan, Joel Garcia with Meztli Projects, and Patrick Martinez researched and created original augmented reality artworks through Oxy Arts’ artist-in-residence program. The prompt was to create a future monument for a chosen site in Los Angeles. The collection of artworks created through this residency represent new sociotechnical imaginaries for the city. This panel discussion brings together resident artists, Nancy Baker Cahill, Audrey Chan, Joel Garcia with Meztli Projects, and Patrick Martinez, moderated by Tricia Kim.
10.12 | OCCIDENTAL FALL BREAK
10.19 | DESIGN JUSTICE
Reading: Sasha Costanza-Chock, Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need (excerpt)
Artworks: Feminist AI, Thoughtful Voice Design, 2016
Lauren Lee McCarthy, LAUREN, 2017-Present
Stephanie Dinkins, Not the Only One (N’TOO), 2018-Present
10.21 | PROGRAMMING: STOP LAPD SPYING COALITION COMMUNITY ORGANIZING WORKSHOP
The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition is an alliance of different organizations, each with their own interests, mission and vision, that come together to collaborate and take collective action. They reject all forms of police oppression and any policy that make us all suspects in the eyes of the State. Their vision is the dismantling of government-sanctioned spying and intelligence gathering, in all its multiple forms. https://stoplapdspying.org/
10.26 | TECHNO-ORIENTALISM
Reading: Margaret Rhee, “In Search of My Robot: Race, Technology, and the Asian American Body”
Reading (In Class): Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, “Race And/As Technology” (excerpt)
In-Class Screening: Astria Suparak, “Asian Futures Without Asians” Presentation
Artwork: Astria Suparak, “Virtually Asian,” 2021
10.30 | SYMPOSIUM: “ENCODING FUTURES: SPECULATIVE BLUEPRINTS FOR CRITICAL AI”
This symposium invites participants to envision speculative futures for artificial intelligence articulated in the form of creative blueprints. Participants will imagine how both extant technologies and those not yet developed could contribute to just sociotechnical systems and visions of futurity. The primary criterion for the blueprints will be alignment with FAccT rubrics. I.e., the blueprint objective will be to visualize or materialize how technologies might operate toward fairness, accountability, transparency, and justice.The symposium gathers together a transdisciplinary set of participants including cultural workers, machine learning researchers, and media studies scholars to share their blueprints and conceptualize ways to engineer emerging technologies toward speculative outcomes.
11.02 | INDIGENOUS EPISTEMOLOGIES OF AI
Reading: J.E. Lewis, N. Arista, A. Pechawis, and S. Kite, “Making Kin with the Machines”
Reading (In-Class): Jason Edward Lewis, ed. “Indigenous Protocol and Artificial Intelligence Position Paper”
Artworks: Suzanne Kite, Everything I Say Is True, 2017
Suzanne Kite, Three Diffractions of LA, 2021
Screening: Amelia Winger-Bearskin, “Antecedent Technology,” 2019 (excerpt)
11.04 | PROGRAMMING: MANDY HARRIS WILLIAMS LECTURE-PERFORMANCE
Mandy Harris Williams is a theorist, multimedia conceptual artist, writer, educator, radio host and internet/community academic. She is from New York City and currently lives in Los Angeles. Raised between the Upper West Side and Harlem, Mandy’s work focuses on the tensions that unfold between 96th street and 125th. Privilege, dis privilege, and back again in 15 minutes churning underground. Mandy’s work seeks to get everybody the love that they deserve. She focuses on desirability privilege as a real and mythological market and political force. She graduated from Harvard, having studied the History of the African Diaspora, as well as the mass incarceration crisis, and other contemporary black issues. She received her MA in Urban Education and worked as a classroom teacher for 7 years in low income communities. She integrates a holistic and didactic style in to her current creative practice. Her creative work has been presented at Paula Cooper Gallery, Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, Art + Practice, Navel, Knockdown Center and Women’s Center for Creative Work to name a few. She has a monthly radio show, the #BrownUpYourFeed Radio Hour, on NTS. She has contributed writing work to Dazed Magazine, MEL magazine, ForHarriet, and The Grio and is a frequent radio and podcast guest.
11.09 | DECOLONIAL AI
Reading: Shakir Mohamed, Marie-Therese Png, William Isaac, “Decolonial AI: Decolonial Theory as Sociotechnical Foresight in Artificial Intelligence”
Reading (In-Class): Mimi Ọnụọha, “Notes on Algorithmic Violence”
Artworks: Morehshin Allahyari, Digital Colonialism (2016-2019)
11.14 | PROGRAMMING: FEMINIST AI WORKSHOP
In conjunction with the exhibition Encoding Futures: Critical Imaginaries of AI, Feminist AI, poieto, and Occidental College will “come together to re-imagine “Search.” through discussion and prototyping. This workshop is a part of Feminist.AI and poieto’s larger Search programming, “Encode” series (2019-present). Search draws inspiration from Professor Safiya U. Noble’s 2018 book, Algorithms of Oppression, which critiques the racist and sexist search results about marginalized groups online, and the algorithms that continue to propagate, and profit from, these misrepresentations. In our upcoming workshop, we will utilize poieto, a collaborative design tool for emerging technologies, to guide participants in envisioning a future of search, outside of detrimental algorithmic bias.”
11.16 | ALGOLINGUICISM
Virtual Session: “Armenian Futures Beyond Algolinguicism”
Prof. Hakopian Virtual Lecture for Cooper Union’s Intra-Disciplinary Seminar Lecture Series, organized by Omar Berrada and Leslie Hewitt
Reading: Mashinka Firunts Hakopian, “Algolinguicism,” in A New AI Lexicon, AI Now Institute, eds. Noopur Raval and Amba Kak (Forthcoming.)
11.23 | BLUEPRINTS FOR OTHER AI
Reading: A New AI Lexicon selections, AI Now Institute, eds. Noopur Raval and Amba Kak
Artwork: Maya Ganesh, A Is For Another, 2020
Workshop: Blueprinting Other AI
11.30 | BLUEPRINT PRESENTATIONS & CODED BIAS
Screening (In Class): Coded Bias, dir. Shalini Kantayya, 2020 (excerpts)