Machine learning and the politics of data with Ramon Amaro

2 Nov 2016

Event times

7.30-9 pm

Cost of entry


Banner Repeater

London, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • Buses: 56 and 30 stop outside, 106,38,55,242,243,176,48 stop 1 min round corner on Amhurst road
  • National Express from Liverpool street to Hackney Downs, Hackney Central is a quick 2 min walk round the corner

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Ramon Amaro will be talking through calculus as a key moment in our cultural understanding of data, leading to further discussion of ethics in the application of various mathematical models in our data driven society.


Ethically, the pervasiveness of data-driven devices and technologies aide in the delay of social and policy decisions about the usefulness of generated information, in favour of incomplete understandings of how learning and prediction methods can and do offer answers to social and political problems. These problems extend across a wide range of concerns, from accurate predictions of weapons targets and haptic responses to more mobile-friendly search engine results. Nonetheless, they are, by the very process of their design, fallible to social consequences that are most frequently articulated in forms of biases, segregations and other social restrictions. These concerns are particularly vulnerable if sufficient attentions are not given to ethical issues surrounding machine learning activities. That the answers to these concerns are found in profiling and prediction models, and often themselves initiate political, industry and social actions without specific aim, speaks to the continuation of an intensity to categorise social information and social agents into consistencies of performance-based assessments.  These logic are founded in partial ethical debates that necessitate further considerations of the social, technical and political outcomes that inform the relationship between human and machines, where the most prevalent context in which we find ourselves in engagement with the machine is perhaps also the most taken for granted.

Ramon Amaro is Associate Lecturer in Digital Media: Critical Theory and Media Philosophy and a PhD researcher at the Digital Culture Unit at the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London. Ramon has an advanced degree in Sociological Research and a BSe in Mechanical Engineering with a background in Technology and Engineering Programs, Engineering Quality Design, and Sociological Research. Ramon has also been an Assistant Editor for Big Data & Society, a SAGE journal. His research interests are in machine learning, racialisations and difference in social modelling, logics and mathematical reason, and the philosophy of maths. 

A throw of the dice will never abolish chance.
Exhibition 30th Sept - 27th Nov:

From the romantic origins of Stéphane Mallarmé’s text “Un coup de dès jamais n’abolira le hasard” -
a throw of the dice will never abolish chance - we consider new ways of thinking through the centuries old puzzle of code, numbers and language.  Mallarmé’s famous typographic layout of words on the page, hover for some as a precursor to the concrete poetry of performative code, that from a modernist perspective proved ideological in its refutation of ideology, as well as metaphysics. Mallarmé’s text also resonates through Roland Barthes interpretation, and the advent of the reader, whilst a more recent study by the philosopher Quentin Meillassoux, draws out matters of contingency and chance, through an indeterminate code.
Acting as a moving configuration that materialises in several forms throughout the exhibition period, an online work hovers as a ‘holding page’ projected into the project space as a site of speculation for further works to develop. The work draws on the late Elaine Sturtevant’s early practice of making works of other artists works through Haring Tag and Elie Ayache’s writing on contingency in his book The Blank Swan - with a copy of the publication Elaine Sturtevant: Author of the Quixote also on display.  Embedded within the online work in the project space a video hints at the mythologies and rumour that fuel the story of the blockchain, through glimpses of a local home-grown bitcoin mining rig.  These works wait, expectantly, for further development through two discursive workshops experimenting with publishing through the blockchain, and how these ideas might bring about new ways of working, and instituting - with invited contributors: Tom Clark, Ruth Catlow, Alessandro Ludovico, Karen Di Franco, and Ben Vickers.

The very first block of data in Bitcoin; the Genesis block, contained a “secret” message inscribed within it of The Times (UK) headline commenting on the fallibility of the current banking system: 'The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks'.  A recent news headline reports on the UK Government trials of blockchain technology in the Welfare Payments system, partnering with Barclays Bank. The workshops aim to discuss the several, and possibly contradictory claims made regarding the blockchain, whilst developing a digital puzzle of our findings, that will be inscribed, ascribed, and described through the block. 
Yuri Pattison configures Phillip Zimmerman’s Pretty Good Privacy book in two new custom server case works in the project space, following his Un-Publish commission earlier in the year, supported by the Goethe Institute for the Banner Repeater publishing as process event.  Pattison's work focus’s on an intriguing instance of publishing as a strategy to avoid censorship.  Zimmerman had produced a free software permitting anyone who used it to enjoy the same cryptographic security as governments and large corporations, and notably became of interest to the US government as a result.  He published the digital code as a book, and distributed it globally, correctly summising that it would be politically difficult for the Government to then prohibit a book that could be found in a public library or local bookstore. 

Yuri Pattison's Un-Publish 2.07 commission: postface; pretty good privacy is free to take away from the project space, during the exhibition period.

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Exhibiting artists

Ramon Amaro


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