#SF5: The Politics of Probability Panel
The Politics of Probability and Uncertainty in the Digital Humanities and Society
1University of Michigan; 2University of California San Diego; 3Stevens Institute of Technology; 4University of Michigan
As computational, algorithmic and machine learning methods become increasingly used in the humanities and across society, these methods are bringing with them deep philosophical, epistemological and metaphysical claims about the relevance of probabilistic thinking to the world. While the use of statistical methods and probabilistic explorations of massive datasets have allowed the humanities and other fields to investigate structures and patterns at scales that would be otherwise inaccessible, the ways in which we deal with uncertainty, especially at scale, have massive political, social and economic implications. From historical commitments to eugenics by early statisticians such as Ronald Fisher to contemporary realizations that many algorithmic systems simply repackage extant social discrimination, these modes of thinking and processing data have never been neutral.
This panel will consist of four speakers, who will each provide short position statements/presentation on the history and implications of probability to the digital humanities, computation and society writ large, followed by a discussion amongst the panelists and attendees. We will encourage attendees to think through and share how the politics of uncertainty and probability intersects with their own work. The short presentations will focus on:
While the panelists backgrounds are largely in the study of science and technology; philosophy of technology; media studies; etc. our focus will be on how these historical and metaphysical developments underwrite the computational work that is being done in the digital humanities and larger systems of knowledge production--along with the ways in which work in the digital humanities can help reveal the larger political stakes of these changes, especially focusing on the sociopolitical implications of this shift.