Co-designing ML Models with Data Activists

In this talk I will introduce the principles of data feminism and give a first-person report from a large participatory-action-research-design project where we are co-designing technology with data activists. The “we” in question is myself, Silvana Fumega, and Helena Suárez Val, and we work in collaboration and solidarity with activist groups producing data to challenge feminicide – fatal gender-related violence against women – across the Americas. As all practitioners know, practice is messy and rarely adheres cleanly to pleasing principles. Throughout the talk, I will highlight resonances and tensions between our design process and the principles of data feminism, showing how we tried to operationalize these principles in interactive digital tools and machine learning models. I hope to surface my aspirations for more participatory technology design processes as well as raise lingering questions to the community so that we may think together about the limitations of co-designing for justice.

About the speaker

Catherine D’Ignazio is an Assistant Professor of Urban Science and Planning at MIT. She is also Director of the Data + Feminism Lab which uses data and computational methods to work towards gender and racial equity, particularly as they relate to space and place. D’Ignazio is a scholar, artist/designer and hacker mama who focuses on feminist technology, data literacy and civic engagement. With Rahul Bhargava, she built the platform, a suite of tools and activities to introduce newcomers to data science. Her 2020 book from MIT Press, Data Feminism, co-authored with Lauren F. Klein, charts a course for more ethical and empowering data science practices. Her research at the intersection of technology, design & social justice has been published in Science & Engineering Ethics, the Journal of Community Informatics, and the proceedings of Human Factors in Computing Systems (ACM SIGCHI) and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (ACM CSCW). Her art and design projects have won awards and been exhibited at the Venice Biennial and the ICA Boston.

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