Discriminating Data with Wendy Hui Kyong Chun (SFU’s Canada 150 Research Chair in New Media)

Part of the President’s Faculty Lectures: shining a light on research excellence at SFU




In this President’s Faculty Lecture, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun (SFU’s Canada 150 Research Chair in New Media) will discuss themes from her forthcoming book Discriminating Data about how big data and predictive machine learning currently encode discrimination and create agitated clusters of comforting rage.

Chun will explore how polarization is a goal—not an error—within current practices of predictive data analysis and machine learning. These methods encode segregation, eugenics, and identity politics through their default assumptions and conditions. Correlation, which grounds big data’s predictive potential, stems from twentieth-century eugenic attempts to “breed” a better future. Recommender systems foster angry clusters of sameness through homophily. Users are “trained” to become authentically predictable via a politics and technology of recognition. These predictive programs thus seek to disrupt the future by making disruption impossible.

About the lecturer

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun is SFU’s Canada 150 Research Chair in New Media and leads the Digital Democracies Institute. She is the author of several works including Discriminating Data (forthcoming from MIT Press, 2021) and three other books published by MIT Press: Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media (2016), Programmed Visions: Software and Memory (2011), and Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (2005). She was Professor and Chair of the Department of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, and has held numerous visiting chairs and fellowships at institutions such as Harvard University, the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, N.J.), the Guggenheim, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the American Academy in Berlin.

The event is finished.


Sep 28 2021


9:30 pm - 11:00 pm

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