danah boyd Discusses Algorithmic Technologies and Media Manipulation

By TAP Staff Blogger

Posted on May 11, 2018


Earlier this month, Data & Society President and Founder danah boyd presented the opening keynote at re:publica 2018 in Berlin. Her talk covered media manipulation, accountability, and strategic silence in our current media ecosystem.


A brief overview of Dr. boyd’s talk, “How an Algorithmic World Can Be Undermined:”


Short thesis

Algorithmic technologies that rely on data don’t necessarily support a social world that many of us want to live in. We must grapple with the biases embedded in and manipulation of these systems, particularly when so many parts of society are dependent on sociotechnical systems.



Data-driven and algorithmic systems increasingly underpin many decision-making systems, shaping where law enforcement agents are stationed and what news you are shown through social media.


The design of these systems is inscribed with organizational and cultural values. Often, these systems also depend on the behavior of everyday people, who may not act as expected.


Meanwhile, adversarial actors may seek to manipulate the data upon which these systems are built for personal, political, and economic reasons.


All of these factors can result in biased, if not harmful technology. As technology is integrated into every part of society, recognizing and grappling with the potential vulnerabilities that emerge is essential. In this talk, danah will interrogate some of the challenges that result from sociotechnical systems, going deep into how technology can be a tool to undermine many aspects of society that we hold dear.


Watch Dr. boyd’s keynote: “How an Algorithmic World Can Be Undermined:”


For additional information, Dr. boyd was interviewed by Deutsche Welle about themes from her re:publica keynote.


re:publica is one of the largest conferences about digital culture in the world. Representatives of digital culture share their knowledge and decision-making tools, and discuss the future of the information society.


danah boyd is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder of Data & Society. She is also a Visiting Professor at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program. Dr. boyd’s research examines the intersection between technology and society. For over a decade, her research focused on how young people use social media as part of their everyday practices. More recently, Dr. boyd has turned to focus on understanding how contemporary social inequities relate to technology and society more generally. With Data & Society researchers, she is exploring topics such as media manipulation, the future of work, fairness and accountability in machine learning, combating bias in data, and the cultural dynamics surrounding artificial intelligence.