In this episode I talk to Virginia Eubanks. Virginia is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University at Albany, SUNY. She is the author of several books, including Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor and Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age. Her writing about technology and social justice has appeared in The American Prospect, The Nation, Harper’s and Wired. She has worked for two decades in community technology and economic justice movements. We talk about the history of poverty management in the US and how it is now being infiltrated and affected by tools for algorithmic governance.
- 0:00 – Introduction
- 1:39 – The future is unevenly distributed but not in the way you might think
- 7:05 – Virginia’s personal encounter with the tools for automating inequality
- 12:33 – Automated helplessness?
- 14:11 – The history of poverty management: denial and moralisation
- 22:40 – Technology doesn’t disrupt our ideology of poverty; it amplifies it
- 24:16 – The problem of poverty myths: it’s not just something that happens to other people
- 28:23 – The Indiana Case Study: Automating the system for claiming benefits
- 33:15 – The problem of automated defaults in the Indiana Case
- 37:32 – What happened in the end?
- 41:38 – The L.A. Case Study: A “match.com” for the homeless
- 45:40 – The Allegheny County Case Study: Managing At-Risk Children
- 52:46 – Doing the right things but still getting it wrong?
- 58:44 – The need to design an automated system that addresses institutional bias
- 1:07:45 – The problem of technological solutions in search of a problem
- 1:10:46 – The key features of the digital poorhouse
- Virginia’s Homepage
- Virginia on Twitter
- Automating Inequality
- ‘A Child Abuse Prediction Model Fails Poor Families’ by Virginia in Wired
- The Allegheny County Family Screening Tool (official webpage – includes a critical response to Virginia’s Wired article)
- ‘Can an Algorithm Tell when Kids Are in Danger?’ by Dan Hurley (generally positive story about the family screening tool in the New York Times).
- ‘A Response to Allegheny County DHS’ by Virginia (a response to Allegheny County’s defence of the family screening tool)
- Episode 41 with Reuben Binns on Fairness in Algorithmic Decision-Making
- Episode 19 with Andrew Ferguson about Predictive Policing