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Decolonizing the Machine

race/gender/disability bias in robotic/cyborg art

Politics of the Machines – Rogue Research

The 3rd POM Conference
September 13-18, 2021

Politics of the Machines

Track #1: Decolonizing the Machine

To render a robot in familiar stereotypes and historical meanings was to domesticate it; to mask it in racial terms or meanings rendered anxieties palatable.

CHUDE-SOKEI, L. (2015). THE SOUND OF CULTURE

This track explores black feminist critiques of posthumanism in/through artistic practice and performance research that utilize robots, machine learning and computation. The purpose is to uncover the veiled links between racial, gendered, and ableist practices and to combat the governing codes that construct – and continue to normalize – practices of dehumanizing exclusions. The track takes as a starting point Alexander Weheliye’s claim that although critical discourses in the humanities and social sciences have relied heavily on the concepts of the cyborg and the posthuman, these discourses “largely do not take into account race as a constitutive category in thinking about the parameters of humanity.”1 While robots and cyborgs have potential to figure posthuman forms of subjectivations, in algorithmic societies they often reinforce human-machine, self-other, or abled-disabled binaries, thus glossing over the racist and dehumanizing exclusions that uphold neoliberal forms of power and Western conceptions of the human.

Black feminist scholar Sylvia Wynter identified how the notion of what it means to be “human” is marked by race and other axes of difference, and points to how different ‘genres’ of humanity (full-humans, not-quite humans, and nonhumans) are encoded through racial, gendered, and colonial hierarchies. Disability studies scholar Margrit Shildrick proposes that embodiment is never self-complete or protected against otherness, noting how the neoliberal notion of embodiment is grounded on an imaginary of corporeal wholeness and integrity. Recent scholarship has looked at how these hierarchies and imaginaries are encoded through biased digital technologies that systematically harm persons of color and elide people with disabilities. However, critical race studies, decolonial theories and disability studies are rarely considered in discourses surrounding machines and art. 

What are the impacts of algorithmic bias and encoded discrimination in the context of machine vision algorithms, natural language processing and robotic embodiments as they relate to gender, race and disability? How might artistic practice and rogue research methods challenge/refute/disrupt/blow up the dehumanizing practices that are encoded into machines? Our thinking/framing is informed by Sylvia Wynter, Margrit Shildrick, Alexandre Weheliye’s Habeus Viscus, Louis Chude-Sokei’s The Sound of Culture, Ruha Benjamin’s Race After Technology, Safiya Noble’s Algorithms of Oppression, Jennifer Rhee’s The Robotic Imaginary, and Joy Buolamwini’s work on inclusive coding and The Coded Gaze. We invite contributions that critically inquire issues of race, gender and disability as they relate to performing machines/technological bodies in robot and cyborg art. 

This track intends to attract diverse and inclusive scholarship and practice that emphasise inter- and transdisciplinarity and privilege decolonial thinking/making. In coordination with the POM theme “Rogue Research”, we encourage inter/trans/anti- or post-disciplinary perspectives, as well as theory and research involving critical and experimental approaches.

1. Weheliye, A. "After Man" American Literary History, Vol 20 (1) 2008, pp.321-336.




Topics of interest may include or combine (but are not limited to):

- Algorithmic oppression in robot/cyborg art
- Black feminist theory
- Racialized movement, computational racialization 
- Histories of race + technology in robotic/cyborg art
- Indigenous technologies/epistemologies in art and performance
- Somatechnics + race / gender / disability
- Race / gender / disability bias in robotic/cyborg art
- Critical race studies 
- Critical Feminism
- Critical Embodiment Studies
- Critical Phenomenology + technology in robotic/cyborg art
- Cybertheory
- Disability Studies
- Posthumanism

Robot/Cyborg Art & Theory

Robot/cyborg art theory

Race/gender/disability bias in robotic/cyborg art

Algorithmic oppression in robotic/cyborg art, computational racialization

Race & Technology

Critical race studies

Histories of race and technology in robotic/cyborg art

Indigenous technologies/epistemologies in art and performance

Black feminist theory

Critical Embodiment

Critical phenomenology, critical feminism, critical embodiment studies, disability studies, cybertheory, somatechnics, critical posthumanism.

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Submission

The deadline for abstracts has been extended to March 15th! Submit abstracts here.

Decolonizing the Machine

This track explores black feminist critiques of posthumanism in and through artistic practice and performance research that utilize robots, machine learning and computation. While robots and cyborgs have potential to figure posthuman forms of subjectivations, in algorithmic societies they often reinforce human-machine, self-other, or abled-disabled binaries, and gloss over the racist and dehumanizing exclusions thatContinue reading “Decolonizing the Machine”

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