Postdoc position

Seeking a postdoc to manage a year long project on Algorithmic Opacity and Fairness working with Professor Jenna Burrell and Professor Deirdre Mulligan at the School of Information, UC-Berkeley.

Artificial intelligence is raising new concerns around topics of longstanding interest to sociologists, law, and media scholars including social equality, civil rights, labor and automation, and the evolution of the news media. Complex, non-linear algorithms, and particularly machine learning algorithms, are increasingly being used in domains of socially consequential classification. The development of approaches or solutions to address these challenges are still nascent.

At UC-Berkeley we are bringing together faculty and students from sociology, law, computer science and other relevant disciplines to explore and develop ideas and new research directions on this topic. There will be opportunities to dialogue about this topic and its many dimensions with researchers employed in the Bay Area’s tech industry. The project is funded by a grant from Google research.

The postdoc hired for this position will provide intellectual leadership and will handle the logistics of managing an on-campus working group of faculty and students as well as organizing a speaker series for the 2017-2018 academic year (likely to be extended into fall 2018).

You will dedicate 50% of your time to this effort and will have the freedom to pursue your own research the rest of the time.

Qualifications:

  • Ideal candidates will have completed a PhD in an interdisciplinary program (perhaps from an Information School or an STS program) or have training in more than one discipline (i.e. an undergraduate degree in CS or another engineering field and a graduate degree in a social science).
  • Candidates are able to grasp technical aspects of machine learning and artificial intelligence and are also trained in and comfortable with interpretivist / non-positivist research methods or philosophies.
  • Candidates may have expertise in a particular domain where machine learning or artificial intelligence tools and techniques are becoming influential (i.e. education, labor and employment, journalism and media).
  • Candidates will have a strong research record (ideally in this area) and will also be passionate about finding ways to communicate ideas across disciplinary boundaries and to audiences beyond the Academy.

Please submit:

  • a brief cover letter describing how you are qualified and prepared for this position
  • a CV
  • writing sample #1: an example of one of your published research articles or dissertation chapter or other finished, but unpublished piece that is of greatest relevance to this topic
  • writing sample #2 (optional): an example of something you’ve published that communicates research or ideas to a broader audience (i.e. a blog post, op-ed, etc.)

Send application packet to Professor Jenna Burrell ( jburrell@berkeley.edu )

Applicants will be considered on a rolling basis with the position filled as soon as possible, ideally the start of the semester (August 23rd, 2017).

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A new post on the Berkeley blog

What environmentalists get wrong about e-waste in West Africa.

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The Importance of Secondhand Computers and the Dilemma of Electronic Waste

Media coverage of e-waste seems to be resurging with a recent photo spread (rehashing what all the other media outlets did 4 years ago) in Wired Magazine Online.

For the record, here is my research on what’s been happening in Ghana, specifically in the area known as Agbogbloshie which is a scrap metal recycling area. This is based on 7 weeks of fieldwork back in 2010 including visits to the port at Tema, at the Customs, Excise and Preventative Service of the Government of Ghana, at shops that refurbish and sell computers, at streetside collection points, and at scrap metal collection sites including Agbogbloshie and another one on the outskirts of Accra.

Citation: Chapter 7. in Burrell, Jenna (2012) Invisible Users: Youth in the Internet Cafes of Urban Ghana. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

UPDATE (1/13/16):
Highlighting QAMP the makerspace in Agbogbloshie led by DK Osseo-Asare – The burning truth behind an e-waste dump in Africa: ending the toxic smoke rising from an iconic dump in Ghana will take more than curbing Wastern waste (Smithsonian magazine)

UPDATE (10/12/15):
Great short video on the recyclers, refurbishers, and makers of Ghana’s Agbogbloshie scrap metal yard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rhGoAzDDaE

UPDATE (7/27/15):
More accurate coverage of the e-waste issue is out there (but you won’t find in the NY Times, the Guardian or other outlets who seem to have bought into an extremely skewed, Eurocentric narrative), please read:

E-waste Republic (Aljazeera) – by Jacopo Ottaviani

An Infamous E-waste Slum Needed Us. It Got Razed Instead. – by Kyle Wiens

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CRS ICT4D conference

Just back from the ICT4D conference hosted by Catholic Relief Services. This conference is aimed at practitioners although there was a decent showing from academics. I presented on work from our NSF grant.

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ICTD 2015 Singapore May 15-19th

Fulfilling the last of my duties as ICTD program committee co-chair this week. Pleased to present 22 amazing papers. See you in Singapore! http://ictd2015.org/

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On the Importance and Implications of Studying Tech Non-Use

A new co-authored piece (led by Eric Baumer) just published in ACM Interactions following from our CHI 2014 workshop.

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Upcoming Talks – Fall 2014

23 Oct 14 – CSTMS Colloquium – “On the Importance of Price Information to Fishers and to Economists

November 4 – Center for Work, Technology & Organization, Stanford University

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Upcoming Talks – Spring 2014

April 9th – Santa Clara University, Management Department Seminar Series.

April 28th & 29th – “The Materiality of Rumors,” University of Toronto, Culture and Technology Lecture Series.

May 22nd – UCLA, Information Studies Colloquium Series.

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Revisiting the Fishers of Kerala, India at ICTD 2013 in Cape Town

A paper titled ‘Revisiting the Fishers of Kerala, India’ co-authored by Janaki Srinivasan and myself was accepted at the upcoming ICTD 2013 conference in Cape Town, South Africa.  This paper reported on our ethnographic case study of mobile phone use in the Keralan fishing industry. Interviews and observations were carried out by Janaki in beach landing sites and markets in both north and south Kerala.

The paper is intentionally written to be in dialogue with Economist Robert Jensen’s canonical paper which is widely known in the ICTD field titled “The Digital Provide: Information (Technology), Market Performance, and Welfare in the South Indian Fisheries Sector.” In particular we explored the political economic context of the fishing industry, credit and investment practices in the industry, the possibilities of generalizing from Jensen’s study, and the broader range of mobile phone uses (beyond checking market prices) by those in the fish supply chain.

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Podcast from the SfAA

I’m participating in a book project lead by Roger Sanjek, a sequel to his original edited book, “Fieldnotes: The Making of Anthropology.” The forthcoming book on “eFieldnotes” will consider the alteration to fieldwork practices following from the use of various digital technologies by ethnographers.  A small number of contributors to the volume had the chance to meet and present papers at the Society for Applied Anthropology conference in Denver, CO on March 23rd.

Our panel was selected to be podcast.  The podcast audio is available here.

My contribution to the book will be titled, “Through a Screen, Darkly: On Remote, Collaborative Fieldwork in the Digital Age.”

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