Does Size Matter? A Tale of Performing Welfare, Producing Bodies and Faking Identity (5/13); You, me, and my computer (5/20)

May 7, 2014
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Upcoming Events / Digital Media
May 7, 2014
berkman luncheon series

Does Size Matter? A Tale of Performing Welfare, Producing Bodies and Faking Identity

Tuesday, May 13, 12:30pm ET, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, 23 Everett St, 2nd Floor. This event will be webcast live.


Big Data doesn’t get much bigger than India’s identity project. The world’s largest biometric database - currently consisting of almost 600 million enrolled - seduces with promises of inclusion, legitimacy and visibility. By locating this techno-utopian vision within the larger surveillance state that a unique identifier facilitates, Malavika will describe the ‘welfare industrial complex’ that imagines the poor as the next emerging market. She will highlight the risks of the body as password, of implementing e-governance in a legal vacuum, and of digitization reinforcing existing inequalities. The export of technologies of control - once they have been tested on a massive population that has little agency and limited ability to withhold consent - transforms this project from a site of local activism to one with global repercussions. By offering a perspective that is somewhat different from the traditional western focus of privacy, she hopes to generate a more inclusive discourse about what it means to be autonomous and empowered in the face of paternalistic development projects. She will highlight, in particular, the varied ways in which the project is already being subverted and re-purposed, in ways that are humorous and poignant.

Malavika Jayaram is a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, focusing on privacy, identity and free expression. She is also a Fellow at the Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore, and the author of the India chapter for the Data Protection & Privacy volume in the Getting the Deal Done series. RSVP Required. more information on our website>

berkman luncheon series

You, me, and my computer

Tuesday, May 20, 12:30pm ET, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, 23 Everett St, 2nd Floor. This event will be webcast live.


Can we use technology to help us be more human? To smile more, to touch and to listen to each other? What if a computer could understand and make decisions about our social relationships better than we could ourselves? Would our interactions be improved by computationally determining what to do and say? What happens if we crowdsource our dating lives and actually find love? This is a discussion of attempts to understand these questions through an artistic practice involving hacking, design and self-experimentation.

Lauren McCarthy is an artist and programmer based in Brooklyn, NY. She is adjunct faculty at RISD and NYU ITP, a researcher in resident at ITP, and recently a resident at Eyebeam. RSVP Required. more information on our website>

book launch

The Social Machine

Tuesday, May 20, 6:00pm ET, Harvard Law School. Free and Open to the Public. Reception to follow.


Online, interface designs fashion people's appearance, shape their communication and influence their behavior. Can we see another’s face or do we know each other only by name? Do our words disappear forever once they leave the screen or are they permanently archived, amassing a history of our views and reactions? Are we aware of how public or private our surroundings are?

In “The Social Machine”, Judith Donath addresses topics such visualizing conversations and networks; portraying identity with data and history; delineating public and private space, and bringing the online world's open sociability into the face to face world. “The Social Machine” is a manifesto for balancing legibility, social responsibility and innovation -- and a manual for designing radically new environments for social interaction.

Judith Donath synthesizes knowledge from urban design, evolutionary biology and cognitive science to design innovative interfaces for on-line communities and virtual identities. A Harvard Berkman Faculty Fellow and formerly director of the MIT Media Lab's Sociable Media Group, she is known internationally for her writing on identity, interface design, and social communication. RSVP Required. more information on our website>


RB213: The Public Spectrum


Most of the spectrum of frequency that exists in the US is occupied or owned by large wireless corporations, cable companies, by the government. But at least one small chunk of spectrum — “low-band spectrum” wireless, or TV white spaces (so-called because it is the space between the television dials) — has been somewhat open to the public. There are thousands of devices on the market that take advantage of this spectrum without paying a license fee, allowing consumers to transmit bits without interference from walls, trees, or radiation from devices like microwaves. But the Federal Communications Commission is now deciding whether to auction off this spectrum to the highest bidder, putting at risk not only billions of dollars in economic activity, but also very fundamental concepts of affordable public access to information spaces. And on May 15th, just a couple days away from this podcast, the FCC will be holding an open meeting to discuss whether auctioning off this spectrum would be a good idea. Harold Feld, senior vice president for Public Knowledge, recently sat down with David Weinberger to talk about why we should be concerned about auctioning off this spectrum. video/audio on our website>

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Last updated

May 7, 2014