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reVisions: Decoding Technological Bias

June 10, 2021 @ 12:00 pm - June 18, 2021 @ 1:00 pm PDT

Join City Lights, the Goethe-Institut San Francisco, and Gray Area for reVisions, a week-long festival exploring how technological bias shapes our cultural realities.

Our trust in mediated experiences has never been lower. Governed by algorithms that perpetuate the biases and weaknesses of their developers, our cultural consumption is increasingly shaped by undetectable forces that determine our reality. Images play an important role here: fake photos and videos created with deep neural networks threaten privacy, democracy, and national security. Vision recognition systems skew gender, race, and class differences and become vehicles of discrimination. Underdeveloped AI models misrepresent the health disparities faced by minority populations.

How can we illuminate the algorithmic bias embedded within technology and counter the perpetuation of bias? What innovative approaches can we develop to strengthen inclusion, diversity, and sustainability in technology?

This festival brings a network of luminaries together to share new perspectives and rewrite new visions advocating for justice and reclaiming power.

The festival is part of the project IMAGE + BIAS that critically engages with the cultural realities being increasingly determined by imperceptible technologies.


• Jillian York
• Maureen Webb
• Kalindi Vora and Neda Atanasoski
• Ryan Milner and Whitney Phillips
• Jer Thorp and Romi Ron Morrison


• Understanding AI Data Bias Workshop
• BYOW Workshop: Build Your Own Words to Resist Algorithmic Censorship
• Meme Tactics Workshop

All events are free but require registration. Links are posted below each event description.




Thursday June 10, 2021

Session 1

12:00 pm Pacific / 3:00 pm Eastern

Against Technosolutionism! Why We Can’t Regulate Our Way Out Of This Mess

with Jillian York


The same radical technologies that helped give rise the social and political movements of 2010-12 later enabled a rise in disinformation, propaganda, and the promotion of other harms. Today, our societies are grappling to find solutions, but looking in all the wrong places.

Jillian C. York is International Activism Director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, EFF. She is also a founding member of the feminist collective, Deep Lab. She has been covering questions of  surveillance and freedom since the 2000s. She was named by Foreign Policy as one of the top 100 intellectuals on social media. She has written for the Guardian, Al Jazeera and Foreign Policy. Verso Books recently released her new book Silicon Values: The Future of Free Speech under Surveillance Capitalism. She is based in Berlin.

Click the (RSVP LINK) on the Gray Area website to reserve your place in the virtual hall.


Friday, June 11, 2021

Session 2

12:00 pm Pacific / 3:00 pm Eastern

Coding Democracy – How Hackers Are Disrupting Power, Surveillance, and Authoritarianism

with Maureen Webb


Hackers have a bad reputation, as shady deployers of bots and destroyers of infrastructure. Maureen Webb would like to offer another view. Hackers, she argues, can be vital disruptors. Hacking is becoming a practice, an ethos, and a metaphor for a new wave of activism in which ordinary citizens are inventing new forms of distributed, decentralized democracy for a digital era. Confronted with concentrations of power, mass surveillance, and authoritarianism enabled by new technology, the hacking movement is trying to “build out” democracy into cyberspace.

Maureen Webb is a human rights lawyer and activist. She has spoken extensively on post-September 11 security and human rights issues, most recently testifying before the House and Senate Committees reviewing the Canadian Anti-terrorism Act. In 2001, Webb was a Fellow at the Human Rights Institute at Columbia University in New York. A litigator for some of the first constitutional cases heard under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the landmark freedom of association case, “Lavigne, “and a case challenging the powers of Canada’s newly instituted spy agency, CSIS, she sits as co-chair of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group. She is also the Coordinator for Security and Human Rights issues for Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada. She is the author of Illusions of Security: Global Surveillance and Democracy in the Post-9/11 World published by City Lights Books and has taught national security law as an Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia.

Click the (RSVP LINK) on the Gray Area website to reserve your place in the virtual hall.


Session 3

3:00 pm Pacific / 6:00 pm Eastern

Surrogate Futures: Technology, Race, and the Human

with Kalindi Vora and Neda Atanasoski


In this talk, Kalindi Vora and Neda Atanasoski consider how the surrogate effect of technology within technoliberalism, as they describe it in their book, Surrogate Humanity: Race, Robots and the Politics of Technological Futures (2019), comes to bear on recent discussions around technological bias. Assessing how technological design is central to envisioning and shaping different potential futures, they emphasize the importance of thinking beyond bias if we are to understand how racial capitalism undergirds technological design. They also explore radical design politics that disrupt more mainstream uses and visions of technological value.

Neda Atanasoski is Professor of Feminist Studies and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and author of Humanitarian Violence: The U.S. Deployment of Diversity.

Kalindi Vora is Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at the University of California, Davis, and author of Life Support: Biocapital and the New History of Outsourced Labor.

Click the (RSVP LINK) on the Gray Area website to reserve your place in the virtual hall.


Saturday, June 12, 2021

Session 4

12:00 pm Pacific / 3:00 pm Eastern

You Are Here: A Field Guide

with Ryan Milner and Whitney Phillips


Our media environment is in crisis. Polarization is rampant. Polluted information floods social media. Even our best efforts to help clean up can backfire, sending toxins roaring across the landscape. In You Are Here, Whitney Phillips and Ryan Milner offer strategies for navigating increasingly treacherous information flows. Using ecological metaphors, they emphasize how our individual me is entwined within a much larger we, and how everyone fits within an ever-shifting network map.

Whitney Phillips is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies at Syracuse University and the author of This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture (MIT Press).

Ryan M. Milner is Associate Professor of Communication at the College of Charleston and author of The World Made Meme: Public Conversations and Participatory Media (MIT Press).

Click the (RSVP LINK) on the Gray Area website to reserve your place in the virtual hall.


Session 5

3:00 pm Pacific / 6:00 p.m.

Living in Data

with Jer Thorp and Romi Ron Morrison


To live in data in the twenty-first century is to be incessantly extracted from, classified and categorized, statisti-fied, sold, and surveilled. Data—our data—is mined and processed for profit, power, and political gain. In Living in Data, Thorp asks a crucial question of our time: How do we stop passively inhabiting data, and instead become active citizens of it?

Jer Thorp is an artist, a writer, and a teacher. He was the first data artist in residence at The New York Times, he is a National Geographic Explorer, and he served as the innovator in residence at the Library of Congress in 2017 and 2018. He lives under the Manhattan Bridge with his family and his awesome dog, Trapper John, MD. Living in Data is his first book.

Romi Ron Morrison is a Black queer non-binary artist, researcher, and educator. Their work investigates the personal, political, ideological, and spatial boundaries of race, ethics, and social infrastructure within digital technologies. Using maps, data, sound, performance, and video, their installations center Black Feminist technologies that challenge the demands of an increasingly quantified world—reducing land into property, people into digits, and knowledge into data.

Click the (RSVP LINK) on the Gray Area website to reserve your place in the virtual hall.


Workshop Schedule


Wednesday, June 16, 2021, 10am – 1pm Pacific / 1pm – 4pm Eastern

Understanding AI Data Bias

Instructors: Paul Bethge, Ralph Eger, Yannick Hofmann, & Jana Müller

In this workshop, participants will be introduced to the basics of Deep Learning and explore the topic of data bias. Together, the implications of this technology will be explored using generative neural networks in the visual media domain.

Coordinated by The Intelligent Museum

The Intelligent Museum is a practice-based research and development project at the ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe and the German Museum, with the aim of connecting the museum with current AI technologies, making it a place of experience and experimentation, a social space where art, science, technology and public discourse come together.


Thursday, June 17, 2021, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm Pacific / 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm Eastern

BYOW Workshop: Build Your Own Words to Resist Algorithmic Censorship

Instructors: Xiaowei Wang, Qianqian Ye


To enroll click the (ENROLLMENT LINK) on the Gray Area website.

Our capacity for change is shaped by our capacity for language: new phrases, words, revolution are created by our ability to imagine new worlds and vocabularies. From hashtags and political slogans, words serve as reminders and provocations of where we’ve been and where we are headed.

Yet online, words are not just expressions — words are now a form of data. “The systemic manipulation and monetization of digitized language is a threat to the security and stability of modern society. The very words we use to communicate, learn, debate, and critique have become compromised by opaque algorithmic organisation and optimisation, and the market-driven profits of private companies such as Google. We might therefore ask ourselves, just how resilient and secure is language in the digital age?” writes researcher Pip Thornton. Whether in the US, in China, globally, language online has become the medium in which activism arises. Language has also become a form of data, ready to be co-opted, used to create machine learning systems for profit, such as words for training data that form AI models that can “write”. Words have also become an arena for automated censorship and moderation. In China, automated censorship has led to a surge of creativity as online netizens scramble to “fool the machine”, through creative use of homophones to images and new characters that bypass OCR (optical character recognition).

Writing has long been a form of dissent and provocation. Words can destroy worlds or create new worlds. Our new languages will be prismatic in nature, subject to the multiple, relational and transnational ways of expression.

In this workshop, we’ll use the Hanzimaker and other parts of the Algorithmic Censorship Toolkit by Future of Memory to experiment with creating new words, phrases and vocabularies to document the past and think through the future. These new hybrid characters, a mash of multiple languages, just as diasporic as their creators will escape classification and recognition by automated systems. We see these characters as a form of visual poetry.
As Audre Lorde wrote, “Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundation for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.”

What words will we be left with to describe the past? What words will build our future? What is the new vocabulary we need for different kinds of revolution?

Xiaowei Wang is an artist, coder and a writer. The creative director at Logic magazine, their work encompasses community-based projects on technology, ecology, and education. Their projects have been finalists for the Index Design Awards and featured by the New York Times, the BBC, CNN, VICE, and elsewhere.

Qianqian Ye is an artist, educator and organizer based in Los Angeles. She currently teaches at USC Media Arts + Practice and works as a p5.js co-lead at Processing Foundation. She was born and raised in China and moved to the US in 2012. Trained as an architect, she explores the complex interaction between digital, architectural, and social spaces.


Friday, June 18, 2021, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm Pacific / 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm Eastern

Meme Tactics Workshop

Instructors: Josue Chavez, Kira Simon-Kennedy


To enroll click the (ENROLLMENT LINK) on the Gray Area website.

Memes make us laugh, and make a message catch on. Best of all, people can remix them and pass them on. We need all the tools we can get to negotiate power and assert presence. Meme Tactics is a session to share strategies to harness the humorous power of memes for movements. We’ll share examples of dances, symbols, zines and patches from Nicaragua, India, mainland China, and beyond. You’ll leave with a set of tactics specific to amplify your own messages.

Josue Chavez researches media, translation and labor in China and Central America. He is the co-curator of Meme Tactics, and his critical writing has been featured in Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media and Technology. He is a Ph.D. student in the Hispanic Studies department at Penn.

Kira Simon-Kennedy helps creative people do impactful and interesting things as the co-founder & director of China Residencies, a co-founder of Rivet, and an independent film producer. She likes writing guides, redistributing resources, and curating meme tactics.

Sponsored by the City Lights Foundation


June 10, 2021 @ 12:00 pm PDT
June 18, 2021 @ 1:00 pm PDT
Event Category:


City Lights Books
Goethe Institut