Virtual Event: Technology and Anti-Black Surveillance
June 16, 2020
Four emerging scholars in the field of science and technology studies at Virginia Tech presented research-based perspectives on the nexus of technology and racism in a virtual panel discussion on June 17.
“The racism of our system of police, courts, and prisons is also embedded in the technologies for observing, tracking, and controlling entire populations,” said Daniel Breslau, chair of the Department of Science, Technology, and Society. “Our event, ‘Technology and Anti-Black Surveillance,’ addressed the technological extensions of institutional racism.”
The panelists included:
- Jack Leff, a doctoral candidate in science and technology studies, who presented, “We Need to Talk about Tear Gas: Histories of Militancy, Racist Deployments, and Protecting Yourself Against It”;
- Ariel Ludwig, a recent doctoral graduate in science and technology studies, who discussed, “Carceral Bodies and Imagined Futures: Abolitionist STS and the End of the Age of Mass Incarceration”;
- Fabian Prieto-Nañez, an assistant professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society, who presented, “Opacities and the Long Histories of Surveillance in the Americas”; and
- Damien Williams, a doctoral candidate in science and technology studies, who discussed, “Fitting the Description: Sociotechnical Elements of Identification and Surveillance in Anti-Black Policing.”
observing, tracking, and controlling populations have often been
developed out of stereotypical or otherwise biased data and thus map
least well onto the Black communities and other communities of color on
whom they are most often used,” said Williams, who also organized the
event. “Yet we must be deeply critical of the idea that the solution to
this is the development of more diverse training data. Some technologies
are simply unjust at their core.”
The panelists’ comments were followed by a moderated discussion with audience participation. Rebecca Hester, an assistant professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society, served as moderator.
“Technology and Anti-Black Surveillance” panelists offer a range of resources for further exploration in this downloadable PDF.