Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism – presentation by
Dr Safiya Noble

As screen-based, networked digital technologies are seemingly a precondition for participation in contemporary everyday life, algorithms have become highly agentic semi-presences that massage our psyches, subjectivities and social systems.

Dr. Safiya Noble is an Associate Professor of Gender Studies and African American Studies at the University of California in Los Angeles where she cofounded the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry (C2i2). She is a 2021 MacArthur Fellow, a recipient of the inaugural NAACP-Archewell Digital Civil Rights Award, and author of the highly acclaimed Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (NYU Press).

As the keynote speaker of the symposium, she gives a talk online from California. In her presentation, she demonstrates how digital technology and its narratives are shaped by and infused with values that are not impartial, and reminded us that technologies consist of a set of social practices, situated within the dynamics of race, gender, class, and politics, and in the service of something — a position, a profit motive, a means to an end. She also discusses her book, Algorithms of Oppression, the impact of marginalisation and misrepresentation in commercial information platforms like Google search and the power struggles over representation on the web, as well as the implications for public information needs, and insists that we have to fight for information as a public good, as we are facing the internet as the “most unregulated social experiment of our times”.

The symposium, The Digital Divide, in three parts pushes algorithms into plain sight and considers their production and use as political acts, raising questions about claims to infrastructural neutrality, and highlighting programmed bias and resulting social injustice.


THE DIGITAL DIVIDE symposium was the launching event of the series of programs of the 2-year Creative Europe project ATTENTION AFTER TECHNOLOGY, a cross-border collaboration between Kunsthall Trondheim (@kunsthalltrondheim), Art Hub Copenhagen (@art_hub_copenhagen), Tropical Papers (@tropicalpapers_), State of Concept Athens (@stateofconceptathens) and Swiss Institute (@swissinstitute), funded by the European Union.