Identity & Computing Lecture Series

Fostering Critical Race Computational Thinking in CS

September 26, -
Speaker(s): Dr. Tiera Tanksley

Event Description

This presentation will highlight the experiences of 3 cohorts (n=40) of Black high school students who participated in a 5-week course called “Race, Abolition and AI.” The goal of the course was to foster students’ ability to critically examine the ubiquity of anti-Black racism within socio-technical architectures (e.g., code, data, algorithms, etc.) of popular platforms and internet technologies. In addition to discussing material and discursive consequences of algorithmic anti-blackness, the course also examined ways Black communities transformatively resist - or “debug” - algorithmic anti-blackness through the design of abolitionist technologies. Consequently, the course culminated in a design project where Black youth worked collaboratively to dream up and design race-conscious and algorithmically-just technologies that could help - rather than harm - historically marginalized communities.

This presentation will center the voices, experiences, and abolitionist inventions of the youth, and take a closer look at how they used these technology projects to construct new tools and Black digital futures that center life, joy, and communal healing. It simultaneously examines Black life, joy, and joyous learning as an invaluable approach to CS education, and showcases how Black joy was not only physically enacted through the collaborative design process (i.e. students laughed, played, and “acted up” while designing) but also algorithmically encoded into the sociotechnical infrastructures of the final projects (i.e. content moderation algorithms that would flag and delete micro-aggressive content, but hyper circulate Black joy and wellness content).

Speaker Bio

Dr. Tanksley’s scholarship, which theorizes a critical race technology theory (CRTT) in education, extends conventional education research to include sociotechnical and techno-structural analyses of artificially intelligent (AI) technologies. Specifically, Dr. Tanksley’s research examines anti-Blackness as “the default setting” of AI and examines the socio-emotional, mental health, and consequences of algorithmic racism in the lives and schooling experiences of Black youth.  Her work simultaneously recognizes Black youth as digital activists and civic agitators and examines the complex ways they subvert, resist, and rewrite racially biased technologies to produce more just and joyous digital experiences for Communities of Color across the diaspora.

Dr. Tanksley’s scholarship has been awarded several competitive grants in computer science, robotics, and engineering. Most recently, she was awarded an Engineering and AI-Augmented Learning grant for her research on Abolitionist Approaches to AI, in which she collaborates with Black youth to design race-conscious and justice-oriented technologies. In 2022, Dr. Tanksley received the Emerging Leader in Critical Race Technology Studies Fellowship from UCLA.


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The Alliance for Identity-Inclusive Computing Education (AiiCE)