In class on Wednesday, we will be doing an activity that requires talking about your experiences with dating apps, specifically, how some of these apps can be racist. Any background or outside knowledge you have about dating apps / racism online is extremely encouraged to facilitate a strong class discussion! There is a video and an article that we would like you to post your reactions to in the comments – a paragraph or two. Nothing too long, just honest opinions! Please post your comments before class time on Wednesday 🙂
The digital gateway that is the, “Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee”, is an archival and documentary based website that offers viewers a look back into time The concept for an archival web platform came from a collaboration between Duke University and the SNCC Legacy Project; the hope being to continuously educate about voter registration and trying to empower black youth to strive for a more polished democracy. The goal of this project is to empower and encourage young black voters to take information from the past, and use those tools to their advantage to strive for a better future. The initial movement / group was founded in 1960, but the idea of archiving the information came about in 2013, which is when Duke and SNCC started collaborating. The first pilot website was published in 2015, and has continued to have information added since then.
Some of the information that can be found on the website are profiles examining individuals who helped the movement, historic materials such as photographs, oral history interviews, audiovisual material, articles from activists themselves, events that trace the history of organizing, and a map that connects viewers to the people / places where events took place. The digital gateway wanted to bring the history of the younger generation becoming involved with the Civil Rights movement to life, in a way that could be preserved forever. They wanted to digitize materials, so that the intended audience of the current younger generation could have access to these resources. However, I believe that the information offered on this website could be beneficial to anyone who views it, whether that be the younger or older generation. While I do not believe there is any monetary compensation for those who make this platform carry on, I do think that the ability of people to share their stories, while empowering the youth, is payment in and of itself.
This reading brought to light a few issues the author felt that technological redlining fosters. Many of these were incredibly eye-opening, evoking a sense of fear and frustration. Safiya Umoja Noble discusses the ways in which the algorithms that control what we see, when we see, and how we see, are made by individuals. Noble says, “… some of the very people who are developing search algorithms and architecture are willing to promote sexist and racist attitudes openly at work and beyond, while we are supposed to believe that these same employees are developing ‘neutral’ or ‘objective’ decision-making tools. Human beings are developing the digital platforms we use…” (2). These mathematic formulas have a human impression, which ultimately leaves the power of bias and discrimination in the hands of the creator. This is a terrifying thought for many reasons. The first being the underlying and sometimes prominent racism on the World Wide Web, and the second being the sense of powerlessness I felt while reading this. The inventors of these algorithms are people who are not only technologically advanced, but those who hold a power and control over what content is distributed. They ultimately have the final say of what material is being shown on different search engines, forms of social media, or advertised to users; leaving everyday people left with the challenge of sifting though and spotting these inequalities. How do we stop this? If the internet is supposed to be a free and open space for all, how can these issues still exist?
Reading these pages in particular made me think of the documentary I brought up in class last week that discussed Cambridge Analytica. For those who are unfamiliar, Cambridge Analytica is a consulting firm that processes user’s data to influence or sway feelings on certain topics. During the case of Presidential election here in the United States back in 2016, it was discovered that Cambridge took personal data from millions of Facebook users, without their consent, in hopes of targeting certain groups of people for political advertising. If the data site saw that one user supported the Republican Party, or liked a page or article having to do with Donald Trump, Cambridge Analytica would then tailor the content that user saw to increase the person’s support of the Republican Party. The same thing would occur for someone who was a Democrat; their content would be altered for the “greater good” of a political campaign. Taking this information from users without consent is damaging to not only their safety, but their mindset as well. If they don’t need to look any further than their timeline for information that supports their political beliefs, then they won’t (no matter if the article or advertisement is true or false). This hinders people’s ability to think freely, and gives political candidates an unfair advantage and leg up over others who are running for office. Facebook and its creator, Mark Zuckerberg, are still being investigated and continue to testify in front of Congress.
In a day and age where information is only a click away, one would hope that the content we view would not be influenced as heavily as it is. This book serves as an eye opener to anyone who reads it; we are never “safe” online, and our search history and information are constantly being monitored and evaluated.
What efforts can teachers / professors take to better educate their students about the issue of technological redlining? How can we educate each other to spot and call out racist ideals on the internet?
Even though studies show that search engines like Google are racist, why do you think people still use them so frequently? Do you think Google’s popularity will ever decrease?
Can you think of any other search engines or websites that portray groups of people in a certain way? Or sites that contain algorithms that can be racist? Safiya Umoja Noble, Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (New York University Press, 2018).
Hi guys! My name is Adrienne and I’m a senior this year at Cortland. This is my second class with Professor Savonick and I am super excited! On the weekends, I work at AJ’s Family Diner (down Port Watson Street) so come grab some pancakes and say hi! 🙂