The Coded Gaze was presented in Nxt Museum’s first exhibition Shifting Proximities, which explored human experience and interaction in the face of social and technological change. Fusing creative ideas with groundbreaking academic research and technological innovation, the exhibition illustrated the space between ourselves and others.
This series of four video works by Algorithmic Justice League, an organisation that combines art and research to illuminate the social implications and harms of artificial intelligence, premiered at Nxt’s Lab. In The Coded Gaze, Poet of Code and founder of the Algorithmic Justice League Joy Buolamwini reveals personal frustrations with facial recognition technologies and the need for more equitable and accountable approaches to AI. In today’s world, AI systems are used to decide who gets hired, the quality of medical treatment we receive, and whether we become a suspect in a police investigation. While these tools show great promise, they can also harm vulnerable and marginalised people and threaten civil rights.
Unchecked, unregulated and, at times, unwanted, AI systems can amplify racism, sexism, ableism and other forms of discrimination. Digging deeper into The Coded Gaze, the research behind Gender Shades revealed that IBM, Microsoft and Face++ were better at guessing the gender of male faces than female and especially struggled on darker female faces. The work demonstrates that automated systems are not neutral; they reflect the priorities, preferences and prejudices of those who have the power to mould artificial intelligence.
The Algorithmic Justice League’s mission is to raise awareness about the impacts of AI, equip advocates with empirical research, build the voice and choice of the most impacted communities, and galvanise researchers, policy makers and industry practitioners to mitigate AI harms and biases.
Demonstrating real-world examples of this research is a spoken word piece: AI, Ain’t I A Woman? by Joy Buolamwini. It highlights the ways artificial intelligence can misinterpret the images of iconic black women: Oprah, Serena Williams, Michelle Obama, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, and Shirley Chisholm. Finally, Voicing Erasure, a poetic piece inspired by Allison Koenecke’s research and recited by champions of women’s empowerment and leading scholars on race, gender and technology questions: “Is it okay for machines of silicon and steel or flesh and blood to erase womens’ contributions?”.