Search Engines | "Octavia Butler AI: Other Radical Possibilities of Technology" Beth Coleman in Conversation with Lisa Nakamura and André Brock

Talk Abstract

“Meanwhile blackness means to render unanswerable the question of how to govern the thing that loses and finds itself to be what it is not.” Harney & Moten, The Undercommons

Beth Coleman's argument in this project is to make AI more wild, not less. By wild, she indicates generative possibility for the technology in opposition to the reproduction of the same. The prompt for this line of inquiry is the call for transparency and accountability as an “ethics” in AI design. Another prompt is the “alien encounters” described in Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis series of speculative fiction. This talk wonders if advocacy toward a corrective can produce the ends sought: less harmful bias and more equitable opportunity. What if—outside of the frame of the ethical corrective—one reorients AI application and ontology?


artificial intelligence, black techné, ethics, Octavia Butler, ontology, predictive, surround, supervised learning, unsupervised learning

Dr. Beth Coleman is an Associate Professor of Data & Cities at the University of Toronto, where she directs the City as Platform lab. Working in the disciplines of Science and Technology Studies and Critical Race Theory, her research focuses on smart technology & machine learning, urban data, and civic engagement. She is the author of Hello Avatar and multiple articles. Her research affiliations have included the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society; Microsoft Research; Data & Society Institute; and expert consultant for the European Commission Digital Futures. She was the 4S 2021 Toronto Conference Co-Chair. She is a founding member of the Trusted Data Sharing lab, Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society and the Inaugural Director, University of Toronto Black Research Network Institute Strategic Initiative. Coleman is a 2021 Google Artists and Machines Intelligence awardee and 2022 Google Senior Visiting Researcher. Her previous academic positions include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Waterloo. She is the co-founder of SoundLab Cultural Alchemy, an internationally acclaimed multimedia art and sound platform. She has a history of international exhibition including venues such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, New Museum of Contemporary Art, and Musée d'Art moderne Paris.

Lisa Nakamura is the Gwendolyn Calvert Baker Collegiate Professor in the Department of American Culture, and the founding Director of the Digital Studies Institute, at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Since 1994, Nakamura has written books and articles on digital bodies, race, and gender in online environments, on toxicity in video game culture, and the many reasons that Internet research needs ethnic and gender studies. These books include, Race After the Internet (co-edited with Peter Chow-White, Routledge, 2011); Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet (Minnesota, 2007); Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet (Routledge, 2002); and Race in Cyberspace (co-edited with Beth Kolko and Gil Rodman, Routledge, 2000). In November 2019, Nakamura gave a TED NYC talk about her research called “The Internet is a Trash Fire. Here’s How to Fix It.”

André Brock is an Associate Professor of Media Studies at Georgia Tech. He writes on Western technoculture, Black technoculture, and digital media. His scholarship examines Black and white representations in social media, video games, weblogs, and other digital media. He has also published influential research on digital research methods. His first book, titled Distributed Blackness: African American Cybercultures, was published with NYU Press in 2020 and theorizes Black everyday lives mediated by networked technologies.

This event will be a hybrid event with both a physical meeting space and an online meeting space.

Accommodations: We want to make our events accessible to all participants. CART services will be provided. If you anticipate needing accommodations to participate, please email Giselle Mills at Please note that some accommodations must be arranged in advance and we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible.

Session Is Over
Haven Hall (4701 Conference Room)
Beth Coleman in Conversation with Lisa Nakamura and André Brock
For questions or contact information click here