A taxonomy of unethical technology design patterns


Tristan Harris, formerly Google’s Design Ethicist and Product Philosopher, delves into the way that technology design can “hijack your attention,” by introducing casino-like intermittent reward; by framing a subset of possible actions as a comprehensive-seeming menu; by deliberately introducing a sense that you might miss out; by forcing you to move though a clickbaity newsfeed to access your friends’ updates; by paraphrasing one request (“where can we go for a quiet chat”) as another (“which nearby bars make good cocktails?”).

It’s a Monster Manual of design anti-patterns that are all too familiar in the technology that we use every day.


Consent of the Networked: indispensable, levelheaded explanation of how technology can make us free, or take away our liberty #4yrago


I’ve just finished Rebecca MacKinnon's Consent of the Networked, and now I’m kicking myself for letting it languish in my review pile for as long as I did. It is an absolutely indispensable account of the way that technology both serves freedom and removes it. MacKinnon is co-founder of the Global Voices project, and a director of theGlobal Network Initiative, and is one of the best-informed, clearest commentators on issues of networks and freedom from a truly global perspective.

MacKinnon does a fantastic job of tying her theory and analysis to real-world stories. She illustrates how governments are figuring out how to use networks to take freedom away, to control debate, to find and crush dissent. She shows how Internet corporations – even the ones with a good track-record on protecting their users – are prone to cooperating with the worst, most repressive instincts of governments (including supposedly liberal western governments).

But she also describes how technology contributes to freedom, and how savvy use of technology, combined with activism in the realm of Internet governance, lawmaking, and corporate affairs can turn technology into a force for liberation, accountability and freedom. She teases out the good and the bad of technology, working from recent examples like the Arab Spring uprisings, and names names and cites facts and figures when it comes to companies and governments who worked to undo the liberating power of technology.

Most of all, MacKinnon lays out a roadmap for tipping the technological balance towards freedom. She describes how diverse groups, including ones she works with, provide opportunities for all of us to work for positive change, in our capacity as citizens, employees of corporations, members of government, and as clued-in techies.

MacKinnon is a realist, but never a cynic, and provides a much-needed straight-shooting, levelheaded account of how the Internet changes power-relationships. This book should be read by anyone who cares about freedom today and in the decades to come.

Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle For Internet Freedom


Parham on The Digital in the Humanities


Marisa Parham interviewed by Melissa Dinsman in part 6 of “a new series exploring the role of the digital humanities, as well as the digital in the humanities as it currently exists in the US academy” for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Yes, I know. The same LARB that has managed to embroil itself in two not-quite-as-progressive-as-they-think-they-are-where-are-the-people-of-color-editors scandals at the exact same time–one around the digital humanities and the second around its treatment of writers of color. Yes, I know. Google for details, if you care to.

That said, Parham is excellent here and the work Five College Digital Humanities does is important and it is poc/qtpoc facing. Please do read on….

On digital things as black things —

“One thing I’m interested in is what I think of as the deep roots of the digital in Black cultural expression. But thinking about this means identifying how digitality —signals that are lost, found, glitched, compressed — influences all kinds of texts, even prior to electricity — so taking the idea of the digital itself as a thing.”

On digital humanities and the neoliberal university —

“When it comes to how projects are often grant funded and the ways in which projects often require you to develop teams that will ensure long-term project sustainability and growth, digital humanities people need to learn to look at their work as production, as an enterprise. This is difficult because it brings “business thinking” into scholarly work; however, I am not convinced it was not already there. And if you look at the kinds of battles scholars have had over the 20th and 21st centuries around publication rights, marketing, audience, freedom of speech, academic freedom, there is a way in which all those concepts are equally tied up in one’s right to imagine one’s own work as belonging to oneself. The question is, who actually has control?

On diversity and academia —

“It is really fascinating to me when scholars want to pick up something about, for instance, Asian-American or African-American life and you realize that they have never sought out an area studies course in their lives, despite opportunities to do so, or they fall back on citation practices that reify myths about the “absence” of diverse voices. You definitely see this in the digital humanities in that people have already constrained their scholarly range and, in today’s academic world you’ve chosen to be constrained, whether you admit it or not. You’ve made choices not to take these types of courses or to turn away from certain exposures and conversations, and have thus decided that they weren’t important. It’s a strong statement, but I believe it. We’ve made this world.”

On black folk doing digital things —

“There’s a way in which the notion that the technological has nothing to do with people of color is embedded in society. It runs deeply. This perspective stems from three different inaccurate beliefs: 1) we take the technological for being futurist, and it’s not, 2) we often think of technology as frivolous, and it’s not, and 3) even if one and two were true, Black people deserve frivolity and the future. So on the one hand you get the institutional argument for how technology and the digital will make the humanities more relevant while simultaneously claiming that certain populations don’t need the digital. When you put those contradictory statements together what underlies them is the question of who counts as at the center of an inquiry. Who can participate in an inquiry? Looking at this from a Black perspective, and an African-American perspective specifically, you are looking at a diverse community that has always had a profound relationship with new technologies, usually because African-Americans are always looking for the next new thing, because the past was pretty crap [laughs]. Black communities around the world are innovation engines, but Blacks are never seen as innovators. They make something new but are never seen as inventors. This is just a racialized version of men become chefs and women become cooks.”

Read it all: The Digital in the Humanities: An Interview with Marisa Parham – Los Angeles Review of Books

Filed under: #DH Research, Black Futures, Black Life x Ephemera, Social Justice Tagged: academia, black code studies, digital, digital africana, digital black studies, digital humanities, marisa parham, tumblr

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did-you-kno: 18-year-old Joshua Browder created a ‘robot…


18-year-old Joshua Browder created a ‘robot lawyer’ that allows people to get free, custom-generated legal documents to appeal their wrongly issued parking fines. 

“I’m not trying to encourage illegal parking, but if you look at the statistics, around half of all parking tickets are appealed and I think a lot of these penalties are issued incorrectly. There is big business in penalising motorists, raking in £100 million in profit for councils, according to the RAC.”

“I think it is a huge shame that those most likely to make a mistake and get a ticket are the most vulnerable members of society — the elderly and disabled.” 

“Money does not motivate me. I just don’t think councils should be unfairly — and in some cases illegally — penalising those who don’t have the time, legal knowledge or energy to appeal.”

“I won’t make any money from it because it’s a public service. I just want to help people. There is so much wrong-doing and that to me is a terrible shame. If only people knew what to do about it and exercise their rights.”

‘I hope to also help the disadvantaged fight for their rights, but with all the power of the internet.“

It’s estimated that his service has already saved users $3 million. Source

heyfranhey: The Black Women Behind Some Of Technology’s Most…


The Black Women Behind Some Of Technology’s Most Influential Companies

The Root writes:

The statistics are clear: There is a stark shortage of women in leadership roles at top technology companies in Silicon Valley and beyond. When it comes to addressing the lack of black women in managerial or senior roles within the industry, the numbers are grim.

Despite their gross underrepresentation, several black women are paving pathways for innovation and increased diversity at their respective companies. Their roles run the gamut, from serving as lead software engineers to heading up strategy to directing public policy or creative marketing campaigns.

We’ve compiled a list of eight black women leading America’s most prominent technology brands.