Co-PI’s: Sophia Brueckner and Christian Sandvig (Communications/Information)
Co-I’s: John Granzow (Performing Arts Technology), Catie Newell (Architecture), William Calvo-Quirós (American Culture)
As human experience is increasingly digitally mediated, encounters with work, leisure, information, and space are now produced by algorithms. For many people, sense is now computed—hidden calculations in computers determine what rises to their awareness. More and more, we inhabit an algorithmically constructed reality governed by “black box” algorithms that are personalized to each of us, yet not well understood. The stakes of this mediation are high and reach beyond the risks of inefficiency or confusion: misunderstanding the operation of algorithmic systems has led to the circulation of misinformation, medical errors, privacy breaches, the automation of unlawful discrimination, and even death. Important research in human-computer interaction (HCI), visualization, and “explainable” artificial intelligence (AI) seeks to reveal algorithmic decisions and even the motives behind them in order to
make everyday algorithms comprehensible. Yet each algorithm’s complexity and at times the
secrecy surrounding their operation makes this a substantial challenge. The Utopia Swim Club is made up of faculty and students from diverse departments. We are researching the intersection of the emerging field of algorithmic forensics/“algorithmic auditing” with artistic practices like “found objects” and “assemblage” to understand how pervasive black box algorithms shape our lives. This experimental cross-disciplinary project seeks to attack this problem from a radically different perspective. We borrow tactics and methods of inquiry from artistic and humanistic scholarship and apply them to the problem of exposing and understanding hidden algorithmic decision-making. We are sharing our findings for a wider audience through podcasts, exhibitions, and publications.