The McGannon Center
The McGannon Center is dedicated to furthering understanding of the ethical and social justice dimensions of media and communication technologies, particularly how such technologies affect the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within society. The Center engages in, sponsors, and promotes interdisciplinary academic research that provides an empirical foundation for informed technological development, policy-making, and debate. We are committed to diverse participation and representing an array of perspectives throughout our activities.
Thank you to everyone who joined us for our Zoom Webinar on Seeing Tech Work Conversations with the authors of Ghost Work, the winner of the 2019 McGannon Book Prize on Thursday, July 9, 2020, from 12:30 - 2:30 p.m.
Last January, the McGannon Center announced that Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Mary L. Gray and Siddharth Suri had won our book prize for a manuscript published in 2019. As we explained then, Ghost Work offers an important nuance to common perceptions about the ways in which the most celebrated AI-driven consumer applications and products today (think Uber, Amazon's Echo, or Facebook's News Feed) significantly depend on underserved on-demand workers from around the world. Gray and Suri draw on extensive interviews and data analytics to show that this large, invisible, and mostly unsupported workforce is essential to such things as geolocation, online payment systems, and content moderation. This human labor, they illustrate, is essential to fixing glitches and gaps, but remains obscured by claims from Silicon Valley and their boosters about full automation and the power of AI.
The July 9 event will have three parts. First, Gary and Suri will talk about the key findings of the book, as well as more contemporary questions concerning, for example, Facebook employees' recent pushback against CEO Mark Zuckerberg's statements about the company's laissez-faire approach to misinformation and work stoppage efforts at Amazon across the country in light of concerns about COVID-19. In the second part, Sarah Roberts (UCLA) and Lilly Irani (UC San Diego), leading scholars of tech work, will set out their reactions to Ghost Work's main findings. In the third part of the July 9 event, we will pull away from Ghost Work's specific focus on tech work and turn to Kimani Paul-Emile (Fordham) and Sam Roberts (Columbia) who will draw on their research to discuss healthcare workers, another underserved workforce, and the problems they endure. They will focus especially on the ways in which people of color are, on the one hand, disproportionately represented among this workforce and, on the other hand, the likeliest in the general population to suffer from COVID-19.
Remembering Joel Reidenberg
Joel Reidenberg, a pioneer in information law, died recently after a heroic 2-year battle with leukemia. I, along with the Fordham family and information law scholars around the world, will miss him dearly.
Lex Informatica stands as one of his most enduring works. There, he showed that tech developers are as important to protecting legal norms as conventional legal tools. With Lawrence Lessig, he saw that system designs compete with and sometimes supplant government regulation. His writing helped to shape the way many of us think about the governance of information flows—a generative term that he used to explain the ways in which governments and private actors control access to data.
Joel was a thoughtful, resourceful, and generous man. I am just glad I told him often that I was indebted to him for my hire at Fordham, and for helping me discover my own scholarly passion.
Read Fordham Law School's statement about Professor Reidenberg's legacy. My heart is broken for his family, but especially Pascale who Joel adored and always praised. She was by his side at practically every stage of his heroic battle these past couple of years.