New U-M exhibition explores bias, inequality within AI systems

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Algorithms are everywhere. They use personal information to offer suggestions for our entertainment experiences and filter our social media content.

They also are used for purposes we’re not always aware of — like predicting the likelihood of repeat offenders in the criminal justice system.

But have you ever wondered who creates the codes for these algorithms? Or how the biases of these creators might impact how they’re used?

Stephanie Dinkins is a renowned transmedia artist known for seeking answers to these questions through her work, often creating platforms for dialogue about artificial intelligence as it intersects race, gender, aging and our future histories.

A new exhibition, “Stephanie Dinkins: Love & Data” — the first comprehensive survey of her work — is now on view at the Stamps Gallery, 201 South Division St., until Oct. 23.

As part of the show, Dinkins also will open this year’s virtual Stamps Speaker Series Sept. 16 and is set to present a new projection work, “On Love & Data & Holding Space,” Sept. 24-25 in Detroit as part of DLECTRICITY, a nighttime outdoor festival of art, light and technology that showcases extraordinary art by emerging and established artists and creative design professionals.

Through her art production, exhibitions, community-based workshops and public speaking engagements, Dinkins has become a central figure nationally and internationally for her work exposing bias and inequity within artificial intelligence.

“My intention is to encourage action toward making artificial intelligence systems more inclusive, accessible and transparent,” said Dinkins, who will debut new and interactive installations and workshops at U-M this semester that build on her concept of “Afro-now-ism.”

In this video, Stephanie Dinkins talks about her exhibit, “Love & Data.”

In a her poetic manifesto-like text, “Afro-now-ism: The unencumbered black mind is the wellspring of possibility,” published online in the NOEMA journal in June 2020, Dinkins asks her audience, particularly those from communities of color, to not only confront the litany of violences that humans have wielded upon one another — based on the institutional and social constructions of race, caste, class and gender to maintain status quo and the current systems of power — but also to rise above it by taking action to start building the world that they desire.

​”The question is not only what injustices you are fighting, but what do you in your heart of hearts want to create in this world?” she wrote. “For Black people in particular, it means conceiving yourself in the space of free and expansive thought and acting from a critically integrated space, allowing for more community-sustaining work.”

Each of the 10 works in the exhibition, including a glowing, neon sculpture titled after her “Afro-now-ism” concept, offer dialogues and ways of making artificial intelligence systems more inclusive, accessible, representational and transparent.

Visitors can also experience “Secret Garden,” which debuted at Sundance in January 2020. In it, Dinkins creates an immersive installation and web experience where viewers are invited to step inside a garden and encounter oral histories spanning generations of African American women.

According to Srimoyee Mitra, Stamps Gallery director and exhibition curator, Dinkins develops a dialogue with the audience — through her installations and workshops — on the hierarchies embedded within machine learning and AI architecture and one’s individual agency in transforming the algorithms within it.

The exhibition is supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The Stamps Gallery is free and open to the public 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, and until 7 p.m. Thursday. COVID-19 safety policies apply.

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