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AI: History/Trajectory/Politics/Power and Sensing Ideology

Image by George Prentzas

Two Workshops:

1. AI: History/Trajectory/Politics/Power

2. Sensing Ideology

Eleanor Dare

1. AI: History/Trajectory/Politics/Power


In this workshop we will discuss a range of themes and questions relating to what is called 'AI' in the press and in advertising, but which might be more realistically defined as Machine Learning or 'computational statistics'. 


Is AI a completely new, neutral system of knowledge as some commentators might present it, or does it have come with historical and political entanglements? Writers such as Dan McQuillan (2022) and Ruha Benjamin (2019) have written extensively about the connections between AI and racist colonialism, AI and gender, AI and precarious employment. 


Together we will map out some of the trajectories and histories of artificial intelligence, including its roots in eugenics and colonial categorisations which enabled slavery. We will discuss whether other forms of knowledge and intelligence are at risk of being overlooked by the power of corporate and media hype. We will also discuss the types of cultural and creative knowledge and interactions which might emerge as alternatives to unsustainable and power-hungry machine learning systems such as ChatGPT.

What can we learn from so-called 'natural intelligence' - from ant colonies, slime and fungi? 


Throughout the session we will critically deploy a range of AI systems, for conversation, image generation and sound composition, inviting us to react and interact with the current and historical constructions of artificial intelligence.



Ruha Benjamin (2019) Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code, Durham: Duke University Press

Dan McQuillan (2002) Resisting AI: An Anti-Fascist Approach to Artificial Intelligence, Bristol: Bristol University Press

2. Sensing Ideology


This is both a practical and philosophical workshop, centred around Jennifer Gabrys's short text, 'How To Do Things With Sensors' (2019), but also looking at writers, activists and artists who use sensors to address issues such as surveillance and climate crisis.


We will start off with simple Arduino circuits (an Arduino is a microprocessor) using sensors to detect pollution, temperature and humidity in the area around the NSoTA. Then we will work out how to draw/represent/perform the data generated by our sensors,  but we will also draw upon the work of Angela Davis and William Heberling, addressing the potential for alternative approaches to public safety and security that do not rely on surveillance and control, and that are rooted in community-based practices of care and support. We will explore the politics of recognition and the ways in which sensors and surveillance can be used to categorize and regulate bodies, and how this can be resisted through practices of recognition and solidarity.





An Arduino and sensors for each person (about £30 per person)

A laptop or PC running the free software Arduino and Processing (this could be done in pairs)




Angela Y. Davis (2003) Are Prisons Obsolete? New York:  An Open Media Book

Jennifer Gabrys (2019) How To Do Things With Sensors, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press

Heberling, William B. (2022) "STOP SURVEILLING MY GENRE!: On the Biometric Surveillance of (Black Trans) People," Seattle Journal for Social Justice: Vol. 20: Iss. 3, Article 14.

Available at: 

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