This week’s reading covers TikTok, surveillance capitalism, California farmworks, California prisoners as firefighters, and facial recognition in the schools. Settle in a pick these pieces up in the coming week.
TikTok and the Evolution of Digital Blackface by Jason Parham published in Wired
“Minstrelsy thrives on TikTok, but the phenomenon goes back a long way. The earliest American iterations emerged in the 1840s as a form of entertainment and endured for more than a century. White people would darken their skin with burnt cork, greasepaint, or shoe polish and perform in variety shows. The musical acts, comedy sketches, and dances relied on stock characters, like Sambo and Zip Coon, to parade Blackness as laughably uneducated or as a target of humiliation.”
How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism by Cory Doctorow published in OneZero
Totally worth the 109-minutes of reading! A great writer and skilled writer about technology, copyright, and civil liberties. A sample, “Facebook is heralded as the origin of all of our modern plagues, and it’s not hard to see why. Some tech companies want to lock their users in but make their money by monopolizing access to the market for apps for their devices and gouging them on prices rather than by spying on them (like Apple). Some companies don’t care about locking in users because they’ve figured out how to spy on them no matter where they are and what they’re doing and can turn that surveillance into money (Google). Facebook alone among the Western tech giants has built a business based on locking in its users and spying on them all the time.”
An extraordinary summer of crises for California’s farmworkers by Alejandra Borunda published in National Geographic
“On the first day of the smoke, Villegas got a headache after a day working without an N95—with just her cloth mask and a cotton face covering she’d sewed from an old embroidered pillowcase, its bright flowers encircling her brow. On the second, her boss showed up with a box of N95s for the crew but said a single mask would have to last for four days. “Take it home and wash it,” Villegas recalls being advised. Everyone had laughed, knowing the masks wouldn’t hold up to water.”
Cameras in the Classroom: Facial Recognition Technology in Schools by Claire Galligan, Hannah Rosenfeld, Molly Kleinman, and Shobita Parthasarathy published by George R. Ford School of Public Policy at University of Michigan
This is a very long report (115-pages), so if you only have a little time then Executive Summary is only 6-pages. They write, “On the basis of this analysis, we strongly recommend that use of FR be banned in schools. However, we have offered some recommendations for its development, deployment, and regulation if schools proceed to use the technology.”
Can California’s Prison Firefighter Program Be Reformed from Rattling the Bars. California’s Conservation Camps put prisoners to work fighting climate change-fueled fires for pennies on the dollar.