Applications 11/20: Surya Mattu


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Last week we had the inspiring Surya Mattu come and talk to us. He walked us through some of his projects, and the larger ideas underneath. He also walked us through his trajectory from an electrical engineer working on medical devices to his time at ITP and falling into the path of investigative data research. He was a fellow at Data & Society  and currently a research scientist at MIT’s Center for Civic media.

Surya walked us through concepts of understanding how these technological systems work with power. The ethical question of “Who is responsible to make sure that the datasets are ethical sources?” citing the Amazon AI training tool that ended up being biased against women.  He reiterated the power and need for digital literacy, and walked us through some of his projects that explored just that ❤

He left us with the ideas that/of:

  • importance of digital literacy (encouraging it through worksshops like
  • technology is not neutral
  • adversarial research – not how it works, but understanding whom it harms
  • humans drive technology
  • shame should be a part of the conversation
  • it all comes down to design research as the solution, not the algorithm.


He recommended Virginia Eubanks’ “Automating Inequality” & writings coming from Princeton’s CITP program (The Center for Information Technology Policy)




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