Welcome to a new series of seminars under the theme: AI ETHICS at Chalmers. The seminars are organized by the AI Ethics Committee, within Chalmers AI Research Centre. The series speaker this time is Francis Lee, Associate Professor and researcher at Chalmers University of Technology, at the Division of Science, Technology and Society with the theme: The problem with FAT (Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency) -
Challenging the auditing perspective on algorithms through situated analysis
In the social study of algorithms there is a worrying trend to reduce algorithms to coherent and stable objects whose computational logic can be audited for
biases to create fairness, accountability, and transparency (FAT). To counter this reductionist and determinist tendency, this article proposes an analytical strategy which examines algorithms as multi-situated to highlight situated agencies and situated opacities. Empirically, the article follows the algorithmic enactment of a pandemic—the recent Zika outbreak—at the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
A key argument in the article is that we, as social analysts of algorithms, need to attend to how multiple spaces for agency, opacity, and computational power open and close in different parts of algorithmic assemblages. The heart of the matter is that actors experience different degrees of agency and opacity in different parts of any algorithmic assemblage. Consequently, rather than auditing algorithms for biased logic, the article shows the usefulness of examining calculative power as enacted and situated.
About the speaker, Francis Lee:
Francis Lee is an associate professor and researcher at Chalmers University of Technology, at the Division of Science, Technology, and Society. Lee works in the interdisciplinary tradition of Science and Technology Studies and the primary research interest is focused on social and cultural aspects of digitalization and knowledge production. The work draws on sociology, media studies, anthropology, history of science, and cultural studies. Lee has written about knowledge production in the biosciences, epistemic standards in education, and exclusion in socio-technical processes.
Francis Lee is a member of the Editorial Board of the peer-reviewed journal Valuation Studies and a co-founder of the academic network Algorithms as Devices of Power and Valuation. Lee has published in Science, Technology & Human Values; Science as Culture; Valuation Studies, and History and Technology among others and edited the volume Value Practices in the Life Sciences (Oxford University Press, 2015), and is currently writing a monograph titled Trials of Value, which has been contracted by Mattering Press.