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Charlton McIlwain – “Dreams of (Black) Tech Futures Past”
February 12 @ 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm CST
Abstract: This is what could have been. If the computer geeks at MIT in 1960 had just held on just a little while longer with our Mississippi freedom riders. If our uprisings in Watts, and Detroit, and Newark and Kansas City did not make us the computing revolution’s first problem to solve. If we had averted the collision between civil rights and computing technology that Willard Wirtz once predicted. If we had bothered to seriously engage Roy Wilkins’ admonition to “computerize the race problem.” I walk us through the alternative black technological futures that some had already begun to imagine and design more than fifty years ago. Who what and why were those futures foreclosed upon, and how did they impact our tech present? Can we still salvage our former technological dreams to imagine – and realize – a different kind of Black future?
Author of the new book Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, From the Afronet to Black Lives Matter, Charlton McIlwain is Vice Provost for Faculty Engagement & Development at New York University and Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication. His work focuses on the intersections of computing technology, race, inequality, and racial justice activism. In addition to Black Software, McIlwain has authored “Racial Formation, Inequality & the Political Economy of Web Traffic,” in the journal Information, Communication & Society, and co-authored, with Deen Freelon and Meredith Clark, the recent report “Beyond the Hashtags: Ferguson, #BlackLivesMatter, and the Online Struggle for Offline Justice.” He recently testified before the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services about the impacts of automation and artificial intelligence on the financial services sector, and frequently provides commentary on race and technology for outlets such as The Guardian, MIT Technology Review, Slate’s FutureTense, The Christian Science Monitor, and more.
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