Center for Media at Risk + CDCS Book Talk: Sun-ha Hong, Simon Fraser University

Technologies of Speculation: The Limits of Knowledge in a Data-Driven Society
11 Nov 2020 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Virtual Event
Open to the Public
Book Talk

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This event will be held virtually via Zoom: The meeting will go live at 12pm, and participants will be muted on entry. Questions for the Q&A portion should be submitted through the chat function.

This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Media at Risk and the Center on Digital Culture and Society.

About the Talk

What counts as knowledge in the age of big data and smart machines? In the pursuit of ‘better’ knowledge, technology is reshaping what counts as knowledge in its own image. The push for algorithmic certainty sets loose an expansive array of incomplete archives, speculative judgments, and simulated futures. All too often, data generates speculation as much as it does information. 

Technologies of Speculation traces this twisted symbiosis of knowledge and uncertainty in emerging state and self-surveillance technologies. The book tells the story of vast dragnet systems constructed to predict the next terrorist, and how familiar forms of prejudice seep into the data by the back door. In software placeholders like ‘Mohammed Badguy,’ the fantasy of pure data collides with the old specter of national purity. It examines how smart machines for ubiquitous and automated self-tracking are manufacturing knowledge that paradoxically lies beyond the human senses. What counts as a productive or healthy subject is thus being reframed in terms of behavior that are the most predictable, or rather, machine-readable. For some, such a surfeit of data can seem an empowering thing, an opportunity to stride boldly towards a posthuman future. For others, to appear correctly in databases can be the unhappy obligation on which their lives depend.

About the Speaker

Sun-ha Hong (Ph.D. '16) is Assistant Professor of Communication at Simon Fraser University, and an Annenberg School alum. His research interrogates the social life of technological fantasies, with an emphasis on AI and data-driven surveillance. He is the author of Technologies of Speculation: The Limits of Knowledge in a Data-Driven Society (NYU Press, 2020). Follow him on Twitter: @sunhahong.

This event may be photographed and/or video recorded for archival, educational, and related promotional purposes. We also video stream many of these video recordings through the Annenberg web site. By attending or participating in this event, you are giving your consent to be photographed and/or video recorded and you are waiving any and all claims regarding the use of your image by the Annenberg School for Communication. The Annenberg School for Communication, at its discretion, may provide a copy of the photos/footage upon written request.