“We’re not anti-tech; we’re anti-exploitation.” – Sara Ziff
In labor parlance, “recognition” is the pathway by which workers become a union. In what other ways can we recognize the value of work — beyond the form it takes? With artists and models finding that generative AI reduces them to their image, their words on a page, and even their measurements, how does this emerging technology diminish the value of workers and their contributions, and how might we recognize it? In this discussion, Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo, Şerife (Sherry) Wong, Sara Ziff, and Aiha Nguyen pry open the black box of generative AI and consider what is lost or appropriated in the process of extraction.
Generative AI has seeped into many corners of our lives, and threatens to upend the economy as we know it, from education to the film industry. How do workers’ encounters with it differ from their experiences with other systems of automation? How are they similar, and how might this help us understand the shape and stakes of this latest technology? In this three-part Databite series, Data & Society’s Labor Futures program brings together creators, platform workers, call center workers, coders, therapists, and performers for conversations with technologists, researchers, journalists, and economists to complicate the story of generative AI. By centering workers’ experiences and interrogating the relationship between generative AI and underexplored issues of hierarchy, recognition, and adaptation in labor, these interdisciplinary conversations will uncover how new technological systems are impacting worker agency and power.
Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo (SAMMUS) is a professional rapper, beatmaker, and assistant professor in the music department at Brown University. At Brown, she is co-founder and director of the Black Music Lab and a member of the science, technology, and society program steering committee. Enongo serves as director of audio at Glow Up Games, and is a member of the KEEPERS, a hip-hop collective developing the most comprehensive digital archive to map the contributions of womxn and girls across hip-hop’s 50-year history. She was born in the US, and her extended family hails from the Ivory Coast and the Congo. Enongo holds a PhD in science and technology studies from Cornell University.
Sara Ziff is the founder and executive director of the Model Alliance, a nonprofit research, policy, and advocacy organization for people who work in the fashion industry. There, she established the first industry-specific support line for fashion workers and played a leading role in assisting survivors as part of the #MeToo movement. Sara has successfully championed legislation to advance workers’ rights and protections, and is currently working to pass the Fashion Workers Act in New York State. She received her BA from Columbia University and her MPA from Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Artist Şerife (Sherry) Wong leads Icarus Salon, an art and research initiative on politics, culture, and technology. Her work investigates AI, data, power, and belief. She is an affiliate at O’Neil Risk Consulting and Algorithmic Auditing and an affiliate research scientist at Kidd Lab, UC Berkeley. She serves on the board of directors for Gray Area and Tech Inquiry; is the culture and AI governance lead at the Tech Diplomacy Network, and is part of the San Francisco DJ collective Brass Tax.
- United Musicians and Allied Workers
- Mark Savage: “AI-Generated Drake and The Weeknd Song Goes Viral,” BBC
- Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo: “(A)I, Rapper: Who Voices Hip-Hop’s Future?” Public Books
Şerife (Sherry) Wong
- Eryk Salvaggio: Cybernetic Forests
- Karen Hao: “A New Vision of Artificial Intelligence for the People,” Pulitzer Center
- Adam Conover: “WGA Deal Explained,” The Wrap (video)
Curation: Aiha Nguyen
Production: CJ Brody Landow
Web: Alessa Erawan
Design: Gloria Mendoza
Editorial: Eryn Loeb
Media: Sona Rai
Online engagement: Iretiolu Akinrinade, Tunika Onnekikami
Onsite engagement: Rigoberto Lara Guzmán, Ania Calderon, Irene Chung, Joan Mukogosi, Alexandra Mateescu, Tamara K. Nopper, Emnet Tafesse, Harry Hudome, Serena Oduro
Accounting: Robyn Jackson, Carly De Vries
Photography: Samantha Isom
Additional support provided by Data & Society’s Raw Materials Seminar, engagement, PTLC, development and contracts teams, and everyone at the Ford Foundation, especially Ritse Erumi (program officer, Future of Work(ers)), Whitney DuRall (production coordinator), Marianna DeAngelo (catering), and the indispensable Albert Fermin, Cat Ardila, and Bob Kreizel (A/V services).