Announcement

Parables of AI in/from the Global South

Call for Participation

Workshop Dates:
October 21, 2021 and
October 22, 2021

Apply by:
August 30, 2021

On Thursday, October 21 and Friday, October 22, 2021, Data & Society Postdoctoral Scholar Ranjit Singh and Event Producer Rigoberto Lara Guzmán will host a two-day online workshop to reflect on storytelling both as a research craft and an intellectual practice. This will be an opportunity for collective listening and network building in the emerging field of AI in/from the Global South. Data & Society is working with an advisory group of partner experts as listed below.

The workshop is a part of a larger series of Fall events at Data & Society on AI in/from the Global South. The series includes a panel on ‘Mapping the Conceptual Vocabulary of AI in the Global South’ at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science co-hosted by Ranjit Singh and Noopur Raval and another D&S workshop in collaboration with the AI Now Institute on ‘Digital Labor and the Global South’ co-hosted by Noopur Raval and Sareeta Amrute.

We invite researchers, activists, artists, investigative journalists, and thinkers who focus on the Global South to participate as storytellers or listeners and share stories that portray the nuances of everyday life in a data-driven world.

Participation in this workshop is limited; submit your application by Monday, August 30, 2021 (midnight AoE [Anywhere on Earth]).

Workshop Partners

Featured stories will be selected in collaboration with an Advisory Group of experts. 

Advisors include: 

 

About the Workshop

What stories do we tell of a world that has increasingly come to rely on AI-based data-driven interventions to resolve social problems? How do we characterize the differences and similarities between these stories as they emerge from different parts of the world? When do such stories become illustrative parables to theorize the unevenly distributed conditions for and consequences of data and AI in/from the Global South? Data & Society is organizing a workshop on October 21, 2021 on illustrative Parables of AI in/from the Global South

Stories are a core resource in building a shared understanding around a research topic and situating a shared sensibility towards how an academic practitioner’s job is to be done. They offer the empirical foundation of lived experiences for theoretical and conceptual developments in academic disciplines. They are analytic resources for describing everyday forms of harm and redress that people encounter in living with data and AI. They become illustrative parables when they are used by a community of practitioners to stand for (or refer to) a theory or a concept. 

This workshop is an exercise not only in storytelling as a craft and intellectual practice, but also in collective listening where we invite workshop storytellers to narrate their stories in an online storytelling event on October 22, 2021. It is an opportunity to explore ordinary ethics and the co-constitutive relationship between the collective and the individual in taking everyday stories of particular persons and communities as illustrative parables for the emerging field of study around AI in/from the Global South.  

We invite applications from storytellers to workshop stories-in-the-making from their respective fields, and listeners to provide feedback and contribute to turning these stories into illustrative parables for understanding what makes AI in/from the Global South possible and problematic. Our goal is to use storytelling as a resource to work towards building a common conceptual vocabulary in thinking through the many different ethics, politics, and lived experiences of AI in/from the Global South. In inviting these stories, we consider both ‘AI’ and ‘the Global South’ as umbrella terms that incorporate a wide variety of interpretations and approaches. 

Data & Society workshops are invitations for conversations on topics that are at the core of its concerns. These community building workshops are deep dives enabling participants to come together to mutually shape their common topics of interest, from across perspectives (disciplinary or otherwise). They are intentionally designed to maximize scholarly thinking and public interest in the emerging issues surrounding data-driven technologies, and foster collaborations across fields of expertise.

Who We Are Looking For

The core concern for the workshop is exploring the deep relationship between stories of everyday experiences with data and AI and the concepts used to theorize how the conditions for and consequences of living with data-driven technologies are unevenly distributed. We are interested in everyday stories of people, things, places, and events.

We invite applications from researchers, activists, artists, investigative journalists, and thinkers in or outside the academy that investigate the meanings and implications of everyday life in a data-driven world. Prior engagement with and experience in critical technical practice or any one of the approaches to the Global South such as critical development, race, caste, gender, postcolonial, and decolonial studies is preferred. 

We are interested in not only listening to your story, but also understanding how your story draws and builds on or reframes theory and/or conceptual work in the emerging field of AI in/from the Global South. We look forward to initiating lasting conversations between a wide range of emerging and established practitioners in broadly-defined fields of 1) data and AI governance and public policy; 2) anthropological, sociological, philosophical, legal, and media studies of data, algorithms, and computing; 3) studies of data-driven platforms, and AI for development; 4) critical data and algorithm studies; 5) studies of data-driven state, governance, and bureaucracy; 6) surveillance, security, and privacy studies; 7) human and digital rights studies; 8) intersections of humanities, narrative, and area studies in Africa, North America, Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the Pacific; 9) diaspora studies; 10) Black and Indigenous studies;  11) queer studies; and 12) disability studies. 

Our selection criteria is based on the following factors:

  • Narrative structure. For example, a linear story arc has a clear beginning, middle, and end. 
  • Participant’s ability to contribute to conversations on researching AI in/from the Global South.
  • Potential of the story to contribute to theoretical/conceptual work. 
  • Attention to the making and management of difference through data and AI.
  • The interplay between the story and techno-solutionist assumptions around AI. 

About the Workshop Theme

Parables are foundational building blocks of academic fields; they are told, taught, learned, become readily cited paradigmatic case studies, support the legitimacy of theoretical frameworks, and sometimes, refute the same legitimacy. In short, they underpin common sense understanding of academic fields as professions. The power of such parables emerges from several interconnected aspects: they leave room for multiplicity in interpretations, yet they preserve a concrete reference to real life experiences; and they often capture broad theories and concepts integral to the practice of academic fields that resonate with common sense. This workshop is an effort to build a diverse collection of such stories of everyday experiences with data-driven systems and AI from across the world. Our hope is to work together to develop them into illustrative parables that can stand for concepts used to theorize living with AI in/from the Global South.

In searching for such parables, we build on the broadest conception of AI. On a similar note, we consider the concept of ‘Global South’ to be equally diverse with its meaning ranging from [1] a site in its own right to study situated technological developments, and [2] a method to understand, analyze, and build developmental, postcolonial, and decolonial computing practices to [3] a metaphor for varying forms of suffering caused by capitalism and colonialism at a global scale, and [4] an effort to creatively resist and subvert such suffering. We treat ‘Global South’ as an imperative to focus on cognate lived experiences of the excluded, silenced, and marginalized populations as they contend with data and AI on an everyday basis. 

The workshop broadly focuses on four storytelling themes: 

PEOPLE

  • Storytelling centered on a protagonist (for example, key field informants) to represent unique/uneven experiences with data-driven services
  • Exploring the mutual shaping of the life of a person/community and their data
  • Composite characters to illustrate a web of challenges encountered by different people in contending with digital technologies
  • Stories that differentiate between the work of humans and machines
  • Stories to understand and (re)present the lifeworlds of the next billion users

 

THINGS

  • Social and moral lives of devices that mediate relationships between people and services
  • Explorations of object-oriented ontologies or what is it like to be an AI
  • Digital objects as sites of controversies or collaborations

 

PLACES

  • Stories of how lived experiences of places and technologies mutually shape each other 
  • Stories at the intersection of place building and technological developments (for example, development imaginaries of nation states)
  • Exploring the contests between AI as a distinct form of authority, discourse and action, and places with their own repertoire of norms, institutions, and traditions. 
  • Stories from the margins as well as seams of data infrastructures 

 

EVENTS

  • Stories of a controversy that captures the complexities of living with data and AI
  • Stories that traverse the processes of infrastructuring data and AI in everyday life
  • Descriptions of how past data-driven interventions recede into the background of ordinary life in the present
  • Events that foreground the invisible and taken-for-granted routines and habits of living with data and AI

Format

This is a two day event. Unlike a conference, this event will focus on storytelling as craft and method; reading, imagining, and offering interdisciplinary feedback on in-progress stories; building collaborative networks for exploring interwoven themes; and finally, performing and listening to stories.

  • On Thursday, October 21, 2021 from 9 AM ET through 1 PM ET (exact timing to be confirmed), we will host a storytelling workshop. All eligible storytellers will receive a $150 USD  stipend. 
  • On Friday, October 22, 2021 from 9 AM ET through noon (exact timing to be confirmed), we will host an online storytelling event. This event is open to all workshop applicants who wish to attend the event. 

The event is divided into two days to make it a little easier for participants from different time zones to attend all the sessions and account for video conferencing fatigue. The storytelling workshop will include a mix of deep-dive discussion on storytelling as a craft with a storytelling coach (to be confirmed), networking opportunities, and one session for workshopping a story. Each session will be 75 minutes long. While all participants will be together for one session with a storytelling coach, there will be multiple (10 to 15) story workshopping sessions that will run in parallel. Within each group, a Session Facilitator will open the discussion after a story is performed and invite listeners to share responses and suggestions. The online storytelling event will be an exercise in collective listening where we all gather together to listen to stories featured in the workshop. Participants will also have the opportunity for informal networking and thematic conversations throughout the two days of the event. 

Storytellers: This is a fantastic venue for workshopping your story. If you have an appropriate in-progress story or other type of work (fieldnotes, podcast, comic book, etc.), you are strongly encouraged to submit a story summary for consideration. Stories are expected to be in an advanced draft stage with room for improvement; the goal of this event is not to present finished work but to truly workshop stories-in-progress. Storytellers are expected to submit a summary of their story (<500 words) for the initial submission. If selected, they will be expected to submit a written version (<3,000 words) and an audio recording of their story (<10 minutes). These limits are only indicative of the length of expected submission; we are open to longer stories, if the storytellers feel that their story needs more words/time. During the workshop, they will be expected to listen to, and engage with, critical discussion from the assembled group about their story, with the explicit intent of improving their performance and making their stories more compelling. A maximum of 2 co-storytellers may apply together using the same story summary. 

Note: We will invite storytellers to perform their stories in the online storytelling event, in addition to receiving feedback. We currently expect each story to take less than 10 minutes in the storytelling event, however this limit will change depending on the submissions we receive. Participation in the storytelling event is not mandatory, but is encouraged. 

Active Listeners: If you do not wish to submit a story-in-progress but are interested in the topic, we welcome your application as an active listener. Listeners will be able to attend the storytelling event and may be asked to review one story in advance of the event and prepare comments for intensive discussion. Some listeners who agree to review a story will also be invited to be Session Facilitators, and lead the conversation to engage the group in feedback.

How to Apply

If you are interested in attending this workshop, you may either
1) propose a story to be workshopped (
become a storyteller); or
2) describe how your expertise and experience makes you a relevant participant (
become an active listener).

If you select “Either,” please submit a summary of your story only: you will be considered for participation even if your story is not selected for the workshop.

Note: A maximum of 2 co-storytellers may apply together using the same story summary. 

By August 30, 2021 (AoE) please submit your application via the following form: https://data-society.typeform.com/to/EdShNXvT 

Key Dates

By Midnight AoE:

Application Deadline      Mon, August 30, 2021
Selection Notifications      Mon, September 13, 2021
Revised Story Summary + RSVP Deadline     Mon, September 20, 2021
Stories Submission Deadline     Mon, October 4, 2021
Connecting Listeners with Storytellers     Mon, October 11, 2021
Workshop     Thu, October 21, 2021
Online Storytelling Event    Fri, October 22, 2021

 

Questions? Contact [email protected]

Credit and Acknowledgments

This workshop is the result of ongoing collaboration between Ranjit Singh and Rigoberto Lara Guzmán.

Designing this workshop would not have been possible without brainstorming sessions with Michael Lynch, Jonathan Corpus Ong, Dibyadyuti Roy, Jared McCormick, and Noopur Raval. We would also like to thank Sareeta Amrute, Jacob Metcalf, Emanuel Moss, Elizabeth Anne Watkins, Ania Calderon, and Janet Haven for their generous support to this project and feedback on initial drafts of this call. Data & Society’s entire production and communications crews have played a role in putting this call out in the world, especially Chris Redwood, CJ Brody Landow, Lyndon Spicer, and Sam Hinds.