Quincy Thomas Stewart, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Northwestern University, “Race in the Machine”
It is widely recognized that an array of factors ignite and fuel the fire of racial inequality. And, to make matters worse, these factors change markedly over time. We do not know, however, exactly how this happens—how observed symbols become race, how race becomes inequality in social interaction, and how the ensuing wildfire of racial inequality grows to ravage a population for generations. This social science fiction book project pertains to the lived experience of a protagonist in a mechanical world, where individual pattern-recognition machines link up to create massive social machines that collectively mine the environment for resources. The story follows the protagonist as he investigates and builds a simple machine to understand the larger system of racial inequality in his mechanical world. On this journey, he encounters a world characterized by a complex, recursive network of racial inequities connected across countless temporal, social and spatial dimensions. These inequities, however, are much deeper than a nuanced set of outcomes in a statistical model. Rather, they emerge from a shared, zero-sum logic of distributing status that has infected every aspect of mechanical society, and demands a solution beyond a mere redistribution of goods in a few key dimensions. In this talk, Stewart will present a logical synopsis of his book project that imaginatively engages the unique challenges of scholars researching race, as well as those of policy makers and social groups who endeavor to undermine racial inequality.
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Meeting ID: 935 6997 3731