2024 > Keynotes


Anita Ghai

Ambedkar University Delhi Presenting in Bangalore

“Leaving no one behind”: Data gaps and exclusion agenda

I take the epistemic location of an academician with visible mobility impairment for my keynote. My life, and that of my fellow disabled, is interwoven with data, beginning from prescription, diagnosis, medical assessment and finally certification. Digital transformation creates a data ecosystem with data on every aspect of our world.  However, for people with disabilities, data gaps are inescapable from our past, present and future. While every human being requires a number of documents, such as voter identification card, social security card, driving license etc., disabled people also have to be “certified” for any of their requirements. Though increasing volumes of diverse data from multiple sources create significant opportunities for drawing out valuable knowledge, for the disabled data is often disaggregated. My objective would be to share the lived realities of disabled people, and weave this reality with issues such as certification, inclusion in census data , Aadhar (UDID) and exclusion in policy networks . My submission is on how disabled bodies are rendered into digitized information through quantification but also on how different kinds of value is attached to government, big NGOs and perhaps communities . 

In today’s digital era, big corporations need not own big armies, as companies are protected by nation-states and bailed out when required. The neocolonial project runs on digital platforms, while the popular narrative of bridging the digital divide between “able bodied” and disabled by giving internet access to millions of people resembles the idea of the “able, white upper-class savior” liberating the “noble savage” through modern Western education. Social media’s grand plan of providing access to all can be best understood as a neocolonial strategy to mine the data of billions by equating it with water and land.  Therefore, nations endorsing democratic values should be especially wary of the trap of neocolonialist forces, as such nations are particularly vulnerable to their project. I will conclude by underscoring   the fact  that counting the disabled   has to be seen as separate from the issue of counting disabled people, when seen in terms of their quality of life and their participation in society, as even those who do not have benchmark disability may face different forms of discrimination.

Anita Ghai retired as Dean and Professor in School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University Delhi, which she had joined in 2015. Anita was earlier an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology in Jesus and Mary College, University of Delhi. Her interests are in critical disability studies and issues of sexuality, care, psychology and gender. As a former fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum Library, Teen Murti Bhavan, New Delhi, Anita has researched on issues of care of disabled women recipients and providers of care with leanings towards feminist and disability theory. Anita has been the former President of the Indian Association for Women’s Studies. She has authored Re-thinking Disability in India, Routledge, New Delhi (2015), (Dis) Embodied Form: Issues of Disabled Women (2003), coauthored The Mentally Handicapped: Prediction of the Work Performance with Anima Sen and edited Disability in South Asia: Knowledge and Experience (2018). She is also an editor for the journals Disability and Society, Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research and Indian Journal of Gender studies.

Vidushi Marda

REAL ML Presenting in Bangalore

Aiming for a marathon and not a sprint: Critical reminders for the current AI moment

In 2024, we are at the pinnacle of AI hype, investment and development. While mainstream narratives about this current moment of tech development emphasize scale and speed of “innovation”, Vidushi’s work has found that a deliberate understanding of the infrastructures, datasets, assumptions and institutional realities that surround and underlie AI systems serve true growth and innovation much better in the long run.

Drawing on a decade of work on data, technical infrastructures, human rights and data driven systems, Vidushi will highlight critical pathways for expanding and strengthening our understanding of the societal and contextual impact of data-driven systems, with a focus on asymmetric power relations.

Vidushi Marda is an independent lawyer working on technology regulation, asymmetric power relations, and fundamental rights to advance social justice. She is the co-executive director of REAL ML, a nonprofit organization that translates algorithmic accountability research into impactful interventions that benefit the public interest. Marda’s work engages with technical, legal, academic and advocacy communities. She has produced pioneering research on machine learning, particularly in non-Western jurisdictions including India, China, and Myanmar. She has been involved in advocacy efforts at the EU level related to the EU AI Act, and is a regular contributor to United Nations resolutions on privacy, freedom of expression, and digital technologies. She also actively engages with technical communities at standardization bodies like the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and research venues including the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). Marda’s work has been cited by the Supreme Court of India in a historic ruling on the right to privacy, by the United Kingdom House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence, and by multiple United Nations special rapporteurs. She is an advisor at Data and Society, a member of the IPIE Scientific Panel on Global Standards for AI Audits, and the UN Global Pulse Expert Group.  

Kim Sawchuk & Eric Craven

Concordia University & Atwater Library and Computer Centre Presenting in Graz

Tales from the Data Swamp: older adults speak

The datafication of later life is fraught with real world ramifications for those living in situations of precarity. This presentation addresses our complementary experiences of doing community-engaged, participatory research, in various digital literacy projects with older adults over the past 15 years. These projects have largely been oriented towards empowering older adults, many from marginalized communities, to not only access digital culture, but to transform it. This culture has changed within the past 10 years. Increasingly participation in a digital world is no longer an option, but obligatory. Likewise, increasingly engagement is not always a clear choice, given the deep imbrication of ordinary everyday devices in routine corporate information-gathering and deep data mining. Offering literacy training within this context is fraught with a variety of challenges and risks, including legitimate concerns about privacy, cybersecurity, or the potential of identity theft. How, in this world where data is power, can we provide digital literacy training in good faith? How might we ethically reassure our participants that they should participate, when WE don’t really trust these information systems? This key note will discuss the desires and dilemmas identified by the older adults we have worked with, and discuss the creative strategies developed to confront data power in this realm.In particular, we focus on what an attention to age, considered not as a variable, but as a critical lens, has to tell us. The older adults we have worked with have lived a lifetime of technological change, and thus have a complex tale to tell of their relationship to this datasphere. We also highlight a commitment to “research-creation” as an approach. In the first instance we question what constitutes data from this perspective, and allows us to express this ambivalence and our desire to navigate this territory collectively and creatively. Rather than understanding data as a pristine, clean universe of swirling ones and zeros, we instead offer the image of the swamp as a central metaphor for our discussion. Swamps can be fetid pools of putrid, stagnant water- at least representationally- but they are also rich ecosystems that can nourish and sustain life

Kim Sawchuk is the Director of engAGE: Centre for Research on Aging Montreal and the ACTLab (Aging + Communication + Technology), Concordia University is the Director of the Aging in Data project. She holds a Concordia University Research Chair in Mobile Media Studies, which focuses on how older adults engage with digital technologies in their everyday lives (www.actlab.ca) as well as critical disability studies. Dr. Sawchuk has written articles, book chapters, policy reports and edited books and special journal issues on aging with technology. Her research often involves participatory action methods, and finding creative collaborative solutions to shared social issues, in the name of social justice. Kim is an active member of the Board of RECAA: Respecting Elders Communities Against Abuse. Most recently she has co- developed an escape room on older adult mistreatment with community organizations and experts in older adult mistreatment. Kim will be presenting with Eric Craven above.

Eric Craven is a creative digital media facilitator who has worked with many community groups and educational institutions in Montreal. For 12 years, he was the Community Development Librarian at the Atwater Library and Computer Centre. Eric’s work focuses specifically on using digital media to disrupt normative expectations and perceptions in the community. As coordinator of Atwater Library’s Digital Literacy Project, he has created programming that directly responds to community needs, creating spaces for participants to express themselves, find new ways to talk about things important to them and to help them build their own communities and work towards their own goals through creative digital media projects. Eric has worked with a wide range of academic and community stakeholders bringing different groups of people together, ages 6 through 96, to express themselves through digital art and media including many community new media projects focusing on seniors and digital music and video. Eric will be presenting with Kim Sawchuk (see below for her bio).

Lucy Suchman

Lancaster University Presenting online

Open Worlds and the Limits of Datafication

This talk is in conversation with Science and Technology Studies (STS) and kindred research that works to denaturalise data by attending closely to the systems of categorisation, labour, interests, and erasures that enable datafication. I take as my case in point projects in the automation of targeting, both in its more literal operations in the context of militarization and armed conflict and the broader sense of multiple practices of discriminatory profiling. Central to the analysis is close attention to the elision of closed worlds of data with the open worlds from which data are derived. Fixed and labelled within datasets, images of things and traces of lives stand as proxies suitable for computational analysis. Investigations informed by STS can help to recover the complex histories, ambivalences and multiplicities that escape these operations, opening spaces in which to consider the political economies of datafication and the possibilities of knowing otherwise. 

Lucy Suchman is Professor Emerita of the Anthropology of Science and Technology at Lancaster University in the UK. Before taking up that post she was a Principal Scientist at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), where she spent twenty years as a researcher. Her current research extends her longstanding critical engagement with the fields of artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction to the domain of contemporary militarism. She is concerned with the question of whose bodies are incorporated into military systems, how and with what consequences for social justice and the possibility for a less violent world.