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Critical Machine Learning: An Online Resource

ITP student Achim Koh (MA in Liberal Studies) developed the following independent study project

Critical Machine Learning: An Online Resource

Machine learning algorithms are becoming increasingly important elements of the computational processes operating in the contemporary society. Their influence calls for discussions about the social implications, not only by technology experts but also by a broader range of people which are affected by the technological change. This in turn is helped by both accessible technical knowledge and critical thinking, which complement each other. There are a lot of openly available resources that treat either the technicalities of machine learning or more socio-humanistic critiques of the technology. Efforts to mediate the space in-between are also more and more present, but Achim feels that another such attempt couldn’t hurt—hence this list.

Critical Machine Learning (CML) is an online resource that targets researchers and educators of various backgrounds and attempts to bridge technical understanding and critical discussion surrounding machine learning. CML attempts to encourage interdisciplinary thinking that researchers and educators can apply in their respective disciplines. The non-technical user can use CML to familiarize oneself with fundamental machine learning terms and avoid misconceptions when applying them in one’s respective field; users already familiar with the technology can use the resource to explore diverse perspectives about the field, especially those that come from outside the mainstream industry. The website contains lists of selected material that covers topics such as introductory concepts of machine learning, the black box metaphor, and the potential bias inherent in both data and process; it also serves as a syllabus for pedagogical practices such as workshops. CML aims at providing a middle ground where the user can find resources for both technical understanding of and critical thinking about machine learning.

This online resource contains selected readings that can help understand basic concepts of machine learning/AI, as well as its characteristics as a technology situated within social contexts. It is accompanied by this account on Are.na (which is a service you should consider giving a try if you haven’t already). The two resources mostly overlap; the Are.na account is updated more frequently, whereas this website is intended to be more stable. Although this whole thing is intended to serve as a temporary meta-resource amidst a rapidly changing socio-technological environment, so may become obsolete very quickly. Achim hopes this is useful in the meantime.

This project was initially conducted as an independent study project for the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy certificate program at the Graduate Center, CUNY where Achim was advised by the super Maura Smale. Project write-up: link