Microsoft - Race and Technology: Women of Color and the digital labor of repair

When:  Sep 29, 2021 from 10:00 to 11:00 (PT)
From the Microsoft Lecture Series on Race & Technology:


Dr. Lisa Nakamura

Director of the Digital Studies Institute and the Gwendolyn Calvert Baker Collegiate Professor of American Culture at the University of Michigan

Women of color make our digital products. They assemble them in Asian factories and their cheap labor has made the tech industry’s innovation possible. This presentation focuses on their immaterial and knowledge work that contributes directly to the Internet’s usability. Women of color on social media and gaming platforms contribute unpaid labor to call out misogyny, violations of user agreements, and hateful behavior. They lead our most effective and important campaigns against racism from their keyboards. This is piecework in the classical sense, squeezed in between paid work and leisure, it is unpaid, but it is productive. It is unpaid not because it is not valuable, but because of the type of person who is doing it, a type of person who is not treated as a person. This labor of digital repair is exactly the kind of labor that can’t be automated or outsourced.

This presentation will analyze three examples of young women of color’s work as digital documentarians of public racism on TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram using a comparative critical race studies approach. Join Lisa Nakamura, founding Director of the Digital Studies Institute at the University of Michigan and P.I. of the DISCO: Digital Inquiry, Speculation, Collaboration, and Optimism Network, a 3-year Mellon-funded 4.8 million dollar collaborative higher education grant, to discuss anti-racist platform building, maintenance, and repair.

Together, you’ll explore:

            • The history of women’s, children’s, and transgender people’s labor as community leaders (CL’s) from America Online to Instagram how they model a high-touch mutual aid-informed digital culture of care.
            • Theoretical and speculative approaches to anti-racist platform alternatives
            • Racial and gendered solidarities and intimacies on visual digital social platforms