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Digital Literacy and AI

Design & Infrastructure Biases

Design and Infrastructure Biases

Many of us are faced with using digital tools and technologies that may not work for us. This could be because:

  • Infrastructure is typically designed by one group, individual, or company.
  • Designers typically make infrastructure as invisible as possible. 
  • Infrastructure is not absolute, but relative to working conditions.
  • Infrastructure is often a neglected aspect of social interaction and communication. 
    • I.e. : a company might donate outdated computers to a classroom not recognizing that these classrooms lacked the basics like a telephone, compatible internet connections/cables, or underfunded and/or overstressed teachers barely able to teach themselves their own computer skills, let alone their students.  
  • Access is never equal.
    • I.e. broadband internet, new technological advancements, education, etc.
  • Biases and institutional racism, sexism, ageism, and ableism.  
    • I.e. : it can be difficult to convince web page designers to consistently make Braille terminals or text-to-speech fast text readers available. 

"We tend to view architects as the designer of a given building, and as a result we overlook the massive modifications that any building undergoes in a course of its life." - Susan Leigh Star & Geoffrey C. Bowker in How to Infrastructure

Algorithm Biases

Algorithm Biases

The power of algorithms and the way in which digital decision making occurs in algorithms often reinforces oppressive social relationships, such as creating a new mode of racial profiling in a digital space. 

There needs to be closer examination of both visible and invisible automated decision-making systems (Noble, 2018). The biggest challenge in this inspection is understanding that these automated decisions are created by humans; therefore, data and algorithms are not neutral or objective. 


Source: Noble, S. U. (2018). Algorithms of oppression : how search engines reinforce racism. New York University Press.