Alison Harvey’s research focuses on inclusion and equity in digital culture and creative work. Her recent work explores the role of formal and informal education in supporting greater participation of women, racialized people, LGBTQ+ individuals, and others who have been excluded and marginalized in digital games production. Harvey highlights the limitations of the ‘pipeline’ metaphor as a solution to exclusion foregrounding entryways rather than the culture and structure of work in this major creative industry. The research shows that the digital games production industry fails to address the myriad ways in which exclusion functions in activities from skills training to internship opportunities to recruitment processes. It also does not recognize the ongoing marginalization occurring in the workplace in games, ranging from microaggressions in teams, pay gaps, and inadequate care accommodations to sexual harassment and racist abuse. Her work challenges the viability of the supposed easier solution of focusing on entryways by situating them within historical and systemic problems of inclusion in games.
Her future projects push this further by considering how mentorship is organized to support equity in creative technology work and exploring how organizations seeking greater inclusion can assess the impact of their activities. Overall, her research aims to provide a critical lens on what are seen as solutions to exclusion to better address the barriers faced by marginalized people in creative and tech work.
My colleagues – Troy Cochrane and Callum Ward – and I decided to examine how ‘Big Tech’ (Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook) transform digital personal data into a private asset. Our findings, though, showed that users are made measurable and legible as assets, rather than personal data per se. Hence, the assetization of digital data entails a specific form of governance predicated on the monetization of user data within digital “ecosystems”. This is because Big Tech cannot de jure own personal data as an asset, as illustrated by the near absence of references to personal data in earnings calls or on their balance sheets. Instead, users are assetized – turned into assets – through (1) the deployment of standards and digital architectures to measure and delineate users and usage; (2) the configuration of users within an ecosystem; (3) the contractual (i.e., terms of service) and technical (i.e., interoperability restrictions) enclosure of user and usage metrics for different purposes (e.g., training algorithms, data analytics); and (4) the capitalization of future revenues derived from different monetization mechanisms, including locking-in users to digital ecosystems (e.g., Apple), offering subscription services (e.g., Microsoft), selling access to users and user data (e.g., Facebook, Google), or collecting a range of fees for use of a platform (e.g., Amazon). We called this “techcraft” – echoing the arguments of James C. Scott on “statecraft” – since it involves making a particular kind of data (i.e., user metrics) measurable and legible as an asset to Big Tech and their investors. Innovation and business strategies are specifically valued on the back of the generation of user numbers, user engagement, user clicks, click-through rates, and so on.
My dissertation will be an examination of the work of the seventeenth-century Spanish polymath Juan Caramuel, who took seriously the marginalized knowledge of indigenous peoples, and who was himself marginalized because he hailed from the European periphery. In the undated manuscript “De Mexicana Arithmetica,” Caramuel deplores the erasure of indigenous mathematical knowledge by the Spanish conquistadors. In his 1670 essay “Meditatio Prooemialis,” Caramuel disputes the claim made by the Jesuit missionary, Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, that the Guaraní indigenous people of Paraguay “have no arithmetic.” Caramuel likens numbering systems to languages—an insight that he explicitly links to the existence of alternative numbering systems in the New World. It is a commonplace that the European encounter with the New World led to a burgeoning of scientific knowledge. It is rare, however, for early modern natural philosophers to constitute the indigenous inhabitants of the New World as knowing subjects.
Among my research questions is the following: “In what ways did the indigenous peoples of the New World inspire Caramuel to develop his theory of numeration, his notion that there exists a plurality of possible arithmetics?” In answering the questions, I will draw upon postcolonial theory, especially as it relates to STS (science and technology studies) and the history of science. Postcolonial STS theory presumes that current scientific knowledge is an effect of colonization. In seeking to identify the multifarious origins of scientific knowledge, postcolonial STS theory foregrounds diversity.
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