Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is a shaping force of the 21st century. It has the potential to address some of our biggest challenges and unlock new forms of creativity. But A.I. can also exacerbate humanity’s worst traits, like bias and violence. BIPOC youth, girls, and first-generation college-goers are among the most under-represented in tech and A.I. specifically, yet they have the most to lose when design fails to lead with racial, gender and economic equity. As of 2018, Black and Latinx workers respectively made up only 9% and 7% of the STEM workforce.
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YR Media’s “Erase Your Face” project spotlights biases in facial recognition tools and empowers BIPOC youth to drive vital conversations about tech’s role in culture (Graphic: Business Wire)
To address potential bias and inaccuracies across A.I., a group of teens and young adults has invented a creative way to experiment with dodging facial recognition and sidestepping surveillance. YR Media, a national network of diverse emerging journalists and artists from underrepresented communities, teamed up with the K12 Lab of Stanford University’s d.school to tell a fresh story about facial recognition software, an increasingly common A.I. application in our everyday lives.
YR Media’s Interactive department approached this project with an important question: “What happens when the algorithms behind facial recognition show evidence of bias?” The young people at YR Media decided to take hold of the narrative and created a playful interactive “explainer” for their peers to address dead-serious implications. Test out “Erase Your Face” HERE.
“Erase Your Face is interactive, informative and sets out some quite innovative ways for its users to not only learn how facial recognition technology works and where it is being used, but importantly, it allows users to explore how to question the technology itself,” said Dr. Simone Browne, professor at University of Texas, Austin and author of Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness.
“The whole time I was writing the code for Erase Your Face, I kept thinking about the best way for our design to convey the message — that we’re giving away our data to Big Tech all the time, and we better understand what they’re doing with it,” said Devin Glover, a Fellow with YR Media’s Interactive team.
“It was important to include Simone Browne’s interview because her perspective helps our audience form new ideas and expand on what they know about facial recognition,” said Ifalola Amin-McCoy, who joined the project through Stanford’s d.school program matching graduate students to high schoolers in Oakland and other cities.
“The initial concept was: how do you beat the facial recognition system and what can you do to keep from being identified by a camera? The YR youth team came up with this drawing tool so users can physically test what it takes to go undetected,” said YR Interactive instructor Marjerrie Masicat.
“Just as our organization champions underrepresented voices in the media and music industries, this interactive effort allows our young storytellers to question, and potentially course-correct, the direction of a technology that is increasingly ubiquitous,” said Kyra Kyles, CEO of YR Media. “A.I. holds great promise, but that potential is squandered if we don’t examine how it replicates or deepens systemic inequities.”
The “Erase Your Face” project was made possible with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
About YR Media
YR Media, formerly Youth Radio, is an award-winning national network of diverse young journalists and artists from underrepresented communities who create content for this generation. Headquartered in downtown Oakland, California, our non-profit has spent 25 years helping future generations build crucial skills in journalism, arts and media. We produce journalism, music, graphic design, podcasts and documentaries that disrupt and shape the mainstream narrative.
About Stanford d.school’s K-12 Lab
The K12 Lab is a catalyst for creative confidence in the elementary and secondary education sectors. Through workshops, resources or tools, we teach using immersive real-world projects where creative problem-solving matters most. We aim to obliterate opportunity gaps in K-12 education by experimenting with new models and sharing design approaches with stakeholders in the K-12 sector. Our experiences bias towards action and by jumping into new, invigorating ways of learning, educators have stretched beyond their comfort zone to develop new skills and mindsets.