Race is inscribed in every detail of our lives, determining where and how we live, speak, write, move, sense and encounter one another. So it stands to reason that the technologies that mediate, as Ta-Nehisi Coates might say, “between the world and me,” are also generated by the constraints and expectations of race. In this conversation, Charlton McIlwain (Associate Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU Steinhardt and co-author of Beyond the Hashtags: Ferguson, #BlackLivesMatter, and the Online Struggle for Offline Justice) and Stephanie Dinkins (Artist and Associate Professor of Art at Stony Brook University whose practice sits at the nexus of artificial intelligence (AI) and socially engaged practice) discuss what artificial intelligence, big data, hashtags, Internet memes, and digital assistants tell us about being Black in the 21st century — and what they might portend for our future.
Charlton McIlwain is Associate Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and human Development. His recent work focuses on the intersections of race, digital media, and racial justice activism. He recently wrote Racial Formation, Inequality & the Political Economy of Web Traffic, in the journal Information, Communication & Society, and co-authored, with Deen Freelon and Meredith Clark, the recent report Beyond the Hashtags: Ferguson, #BlackLivesMatter, and the Online Struggle for Offline Justice, published by the Center for Media & Social Impact, and supported by the Spencer Foundation. He is currently working on the book Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, From the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter. He also founded the Center for Critical Race & Digital Studies to promote innovative work at the intersections of race and new media technologies. You can read more about his work here.
Stephanie Dinkins is an artist and professor at Stony Brook University interested in creating platforms for ongoing dialog about artificial intelligence as it intersects race, gender, aging and our future histories. She is particularly driven to work with communities of color to develop deep-rooted AI literacy and co-create more culturally inclusive equitable artificial intelligence. Her art is exhibited internationally at a broad spectrum of community, private and institutional venues by design. She is the 2016/17 Artist-in-Residence at NEW INC, a cultural incubator supporting innovation, collaboration, and entrepreneurship across art, design, and technology. Dinkins holds an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She is also an alumna of the International Center of Photography, the Independent Studies Program of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Artist in the Marketplace Program of the Bronx Museum of Art.