Imagining communities with “intelligent” machines
Speaker: Katja Valaskivi, Associate Professor, Religion and the Digital World, University of Helsinki
A recording of the talk can be found here:
Event is hybrid. Participants may attend in person (T6 A136, Computer Science Building, Aalto University) or online on Zoom.
It has been almost thirty years since the renowned anthropologist and scholar of nationalism, Benedict Anderson, introduced the concept of imagined communities. He referred to the historical processes of collective imagination that contributed to the development of nations and nationalism. Imagining communities is always mediated, and Anderson notes that journalism was instrumental in the development of nationalism. Taking seriously the famous “medium is the message” quip by Marshall McLuhan from in the late sixties, the question is: If newspapers were instrumental in imagining nations, how does our contemporary, complex and commodified media environment now condition our collective imagination? Epistemic institutions have been challenged, media production and consumption hybridized and content confusion is prevailing, just to mention a few of the often listed unintended consequences of contemporary communication technologies.
There is also a deeper transformation taking place for imagining communities. We are no longer just using our media technologies, but they are also using us by collecting our data and anticipating our action based on it. There are innumerable ways in which learning machines already have an impact on how we see the world and each other in it. The aim of the talk is to illustrate these complexities through empirical examples, and to inspire a discussion on the implications of the learning machines for imagining communities.
Associate Professor Katja Valaskivi heads the Helsinki Research Hub on Religion, Media and Social Change (Heremes) and is a director in the datafication research programme at Helsinki Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities (HSSH). She specializes in datafication and mediatization of religions, belief systems, worldwiews and ideologies and has developed multi-method approaches for the study of disruptive, hybrid media events such as terror attacks and natural disasters. Valaskivi is currently the PI in research projects on mediatized religious populism, politics of conspiracy theories as well as the circulation of extremism in the dark web and beyond. She co-chairs the Nordic Network on Religion, Media and Populism (Norempo) and is Advisory Board member in the International Society of Media, Religion and Culture (ISMRC). Valaskivi has recently been tenured and will start as the Professor on Religious Studies and Media Research at the University of Helsinki on Sept 1, 2022.