Ramon Amaro: The Trouble with Visibility

Lecture in English from 2022

Accompanied by a Dialogue with Tiara Roxanne, moderated by Nelly Y. Pinkrah

About the Series ‘Decolonizing Technology

Ramon Amaro explores how the history of data and statistical analysis provide a clear (and often sudden) grasp of the complex relationship between race and machine learning.

Amaro juxtaposes a practical analysis of machine learning with a theory of Black alienation in order to inspire alternative approaches to contemporary algorithmic practice. In doing so, Amaro offers a continuous contemplation on the abstruse nature of machine learning, mathematics, and the deep incursion of racial hierarchy.

Ramon Amaro’s writing, research and practice emerge at the intersections of Black Study, psychopathology, digital culture, and the critique of computation reason. He draws on Frantz Fanon’s theory of sociogenic alienation to problematise the de-localisation of the Black psyché in contemporary computational systems, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence.

His recent book The Black Technical Objectaims to introduce the history of statistical analysis and a knowledge of sociogenesis – a system of racism amenable to scientific explanation – into machine learning research as an act of impairing the racial ordering of the world.

While machine learning – computer programming designed for taxonomic patterning – provides useful insight into racism and racist behavior, a gap is present in the relationship between machine learning, the racial history of scientific explanation, and the Black lived experience.

Tiara Roxanne is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Data & Society in NYC. They are a Tarascan Mestiza scholar and artist based in Berlin. Their research and artistic practice investigates the encounter between Indigeneity and AI by interrogating colonial structures embedded within machine learning systems. As a performance artist and practitioner, Roxanne works between the digital and the material using textile. Currently their work is mediated through the color red.

Roxanne has presented at Images Festival (Toronto), Squeaky Wheel Film and Media Art Center (NY), Trinity Square Video (Toronto), European Media Art Festival (Osnabrück), University of Applied Arts (Vienna), SOAS (London), SLU (Madrid), Transmediale (Berlin), Duke University (NC), Tech Open Air (Berlin), AMOQA (Athens), Zurich University of the Arts (Zurich), Autonomous Intercultural Indigenous University (Columbia), Utrecht University (NL), University of California (San Diego), Münchener Kammerspiele (Munich), Laboratorio Arte Alameda, (Mexico City), among others.

Nelly Y. Pinkrah is a cultural and media theorist and political activist, mainly involved in anti-racist, empowerment, and community-building projects. Areas of interest: (digital) media and technology, black studies & black feminist theory, political thoughts and practices, and cultural history.